August 17, 2015

How Long Does It Take to Establish a Brand that Works?

Brands don't happen over night. image credit: Latimre Appleby

Brands don’t happen over night.
image credit: Latimre Appleby

In my career I have built, enhanced and even created numerous brands for multiple organizations in healthcare, higher education, and other industries. And people always ask me, “How long does it take to establish a brand?”

My answer: five years.

In the first phase, you’ll develop your brand. This requires qualitative and quantitative marketplace, stakeholder and competitor research; positioning and brand platform formation; and creative execution, messaging, and brand guideline and internal collateral development. You’ll need careful planning and patience—and about 18 months.

In the second phase, the internal marketing rollout, you’ll inform, educate and excite your most important stakeholders—the people who represent your brand in their actions every day. This phase takes six months.

That’s two years. Then you need another three years to show and tell your brand in multiple media, multiple times for it to stick with your target audiences.

Here’s a step-by-step recipe for establishing a powerful brand that works:

  1. Listen to your audiences by truly valuing market research. You don’t own your brand—your customers do. Their perception of your brand is your brand.
  2. Define your brand strategy and positioning first, based on market research. Choose your tactics based on your brand strategy and positioning.
  3. Make sure your brand strategy aligns with your organization’s mission, vision, values and strategy.
  4. Make sure your messaging is concise, authentic and differentiated. Use stories to explain your brand and engage your audiences.
  5. Start internally, then move externally. Create brand ambassadors by selling the brand to the people who work for your organization before you promote it to external stakeholders. If your brand ambassadors are engaged and excited, they will live your brand and sell your brand.
  6. Ensure that your brand message is consistent across all media and all communications, but customize it to each target audience.
  7. Stay true to your brand. Start with your message, and keep it consistent across all media channels. Do not let new technologies or marketing tools dictate your core brand strategy, positioning and messaging.
  8. Make your brand stand out from the crowd. The creative execution of your brand must relate to your strategy and positioning and be aspirational and motivating.
  9. Embed measures of brand effectiveness in your brand development phase. Start with a baseline measure of brand awareness and budget for periodic, regular measures of brand awareness, usage, referral and loyalty among target audiences. Share these results with your senior executives and internal stakeholders.

Creating a brand is a huge undertaking. You have to devote plenty of time and resources. But without a strong, consistent brand, your organization won’t stand out in a crowded marketplace. That is why you have to devote adequate time and resources. Do it right—or don’t do it at all.

Can your marcom office manage all these aspects of a strategic branding process? We can help. AB&C has worked with clients in a variety of industries to create and enhance brands that work!