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Best Practices In Brand Management

The best brands in the world don’t operate in a vacuum. The best brands have a firm pulse on the direction and momentum of each market segment. They know what their customers want and need. Successful brands position—and reposition—themselves in the minds of customers and prospective customers constantly based on market feedback. Most of these companies perpetually position themselves as problem-solvers in the market.

Brands that are struggling are often disconnected from their customers and their prospective customers.

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These companies produce what they want to produce and they sell what they want to sell. The market can take it or leave it. Some of these brands can survive bad management, but not forever. These companies have a production mentality and they are leaving the door wide open for the competition to steal market share with a superior product or service. One of the best examples is a classic disaster. In the 1980s, Coca-Cola ruled the cola market, but Pepsi was gaining market share. The Pepsi Challenge urged consumers to compare the taste of Coke and Pepsi. As more people took the challenge, many people preferred Pepsi over Coke, which chipped away at the Coca-Cola brand. In response, Coca-Cola introduced New Coke in 1985 to deliver the sweeter taste that many consumers preferred about Pepsi. Coca-Cola failed to conduct market research to understand its customers and prospective customers. It also failed to test the new product adequately among its own customers. The new product and the marketing campaign was meant to take momentum away from Pepsi. Instead, the product change generated a backlash among Coke’s loyal customers. Within three months, Coca-Cola put the original Coke back on shelves under the name Coca-Cola Classic. The company continued to dilute its brand with New Coke until 2002. The damage was done.

Where did Coca-Cola go wrong? In an attempt to maintain its dominance, Coca-Cola lost sight of its brand and its customers. The Coke brand represented the traditions of the older generations and symbolized friendship and unity. Pepsi, on the other hand, appealed to the younger generation and kept in movement with the fast-paced change youth encouraged. When Coca-Cola introduced New Coke, it hoped to take the younger generations away from Pepsi. Coca-Cola abandoned its loyal consumers and learned an expensive lesson in the process. While Coca-Cola compared its new product to Pepsi, they never compared it to the original Coke recipe. If consumers had an opportunity to compare the original Coke and the New Coke, the outcome may have been different. That feedback would have given Coca-Cola a clearer perspective of what their consumers thought and what they wanted.

Always keep your most loyal consumers at the center of brand management. If a company loses the hearts and minds of current supporters, it risks losing the foundation of its business. Customers are the ones who control the success of any product or service in a competitive market.

Market research pays for itself in numerous ways, which is why market research should be an ongoing process.

Listen to your clients, especially the ones who walk away. It can be painful, but it can help you identify problems, trends and success stories. It can help you preserve market share and it can help you gain market share. Advocacy organizations can use market research to build relationships, boost membership and increase financial support. Listening is a powerful tool for most organizations.

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Crossbow Communications is an award-winning and record-setting company that handles all aspects of brand management. We integrate marketing and public affairs for consistency, credibility and maximum impact.

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Author: Gary Chandler