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Company Brand May Be Firm’s Most Valuable Asset

Brand management is a focused marketing effort for protecting and increasing positive awareness of a company’s brand, and ultimately improving brand equity (its value as an asset to the company). In many cases, brand equity is a company’s most valuable asset and should be treated as such. We are watching the disintegration of brands long thought invincible by many. Chrysler, General Motors, Merrill Lynch and Countrywide are just a few of the brands that until recently were worth billions of dollars. They have now either disappeared or had their brand equity sink so low as to be virtually worthless. For those who follow the marketing of politics, the current effort by Republicans to destroy their “grand old” brand is fascinating. For years, the Republican Party has been branded as the “conservative” party standing for low taxes, small government and a strong military. Whether you agreed or disagreed with their positions, you always knew where Republicans stood on key issues. The GOP has now split into two separate parties, with a very public and ugly fight unfolding in the media between the Cheney-Limbaugh conservatives and the Gingrich-Powell moderates. While both sides claim to be fighting to save the Republican Party, only two things are certain: Democrats are thrilled and the Republican brand equity is rapidly dropping to zero. Another once-great brand has also had a self-imposed reversal of fortune in recent years: the State of California. Only a generation ago, California stood for great schools, excellent infrastructure, a welcoming business environment and innovation. Our schools are now a joke, our infrastructure is crumbling, businesses cannot move away fast enough and our young people are leaving, too. Our elected officials are intractable and incompetent, we are on the verge of insolvency and a once-great brand is now a national joke. All of these stories should be a lesson for those of us who are charged with managing a brand, no matter how large or small. No brand is too big or too well-known to fail. Continued success is never guaranteed and a constant, focused effort is required now more than ever to build and maintain brand equity. Brand management is quite simple. It’s not easy, but it is simple. Let’s look at the three critical steps of brand management. First and foremost and frequently overlooked is defining your brand. What do you want people to think of when they think of your company? Be realistic in your evaluation. In 25 years in business I have yet to run into a company that actually has the best product, at the lowest cost, with the best service. What is it you do well, or should be doing well? Why do your customers buy from you and why do they buy from your competitors? Define what it is you want to stand for as a company and you will have a brand direction. Second, what do people currently think of your brand? If you don’t know, ask them. Quite often it’s different than what we believe it is and, more important, it’s different than what we want it to be. Talk to your customers, clients, prospects, employees and vendors. It’s quite possible, even probable, that the answers will surprise you. They might even encourage you to reevaluate your brand definition. Don’t let fear of the answers deter you from asking the questions. Third and finally, develop a plan to manage your brand. This means that everything you do must be consistent with your brand positioning. Does every employee in your company know what you stand for and is every one of them working toward that goal? Do your marketing efforts reflect the brand you are or want to be? Are you claiming to be the industry innovators, but not doing any social marketing? Do you claim to have the highest quality product, but sell based on price? If you’re selling based on customer service, when is the last time you did an internal audit to see how good it really is? It’s quite possible your brand is your most valuable asset. Treat it as such. Nurture your brand, protect your brand manage your brand. Deliver on your brand promise and I promise, you’ll be successful. Scott Harris is the owner of Mustang Marketing, a full-service marketing agency serving the San Fernando Valley for more than 20 years. You can reach Scott at Scott@MustangMktg.com or visit Mustang’s website at www.MustangMktg.com. Disney Online Closes Kaboose Deal Last week, Disney Online completed the purchase of key Internet assets from the Canadian company Kaboose, Inc., according to a press release. Some of those assets include kaboose.com, babyzone.com, amazingmoms.com and parentzone.com. In April, Disney said the purchase price of Kaboose would be approximately $18.4 million (based on approximate price of CAD $23.3 million), subject to certain adjustments. Disney has formed a new group of properties known as the Disney Online Mom and Family Portfolio. In addition to the above mentioned Web sites, disneyfamily.com, familyfun.com and iparenting.com will be under the umbrella group. Disney said the portfolio will reach nearly one in five moms online, which is more than the reach of any current family and parenting online destination. The company plans to maintain kaboose.com and babyzone.com URLs and distinct content. But some new content and promotions will be implemented across the portfolio.

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