Questions a CEO must ask when evaluating the company’s brand strategy

It starts with brutal honesty. You recognize that competitors are armed with new products, technologies or strategies that have moved them to the front of the market.

They are benchmark brands – and your organization is not performing on the same level.

Unleashing a flurry of marketing initiatives won’t fix this. Refining or re-engineering your brand is a business imperative, not a marketing exercise. It is an organizational initiative that should be embedded in the strategic business plan, championed by the CEO and activated operationally by the executive team.

Does your organization need to transform its brand? Begin by asking yourself the following questions:

Are we great at delivering the benefits customers truly desire?
See the big picture. Customers do not buy only on product features and functionality. They buy because of a collection of attributes that also include brand perception, service, the experience and other intangible factors.

Think Starbucks. None of us pay $5.75 for a salted caramel mocha just because it tastes great. Figure out “what else” will blow customers away – maybe it’s things they don’t even know they want.

Are we evolving ahead of the customer and the market?
Get ahead of the curve. Brand evolution is a full-time gig today. Identify your growth customer. Never stop studying them. And, embrace the challenge of anticipating and changing ahead of their needs. Zero in on product excitement and brand emotion. What products and functional value will excite your customers in the future? How must your organization’s brand experience evolve to keep customers engaged and make them say, “I love your company because … .”

Brand relevance? Staying ahead of the curve? Who knew we wanted to buy and listen to music on our phones? Apple did. Remember when their business was about quirky computers? Evolution = Staying relevant.

Does our pricing strategy connect with customers’ value expectations?
Price matters – even if you aspire to be the premium player. We can try to make the brand about all the other things – product attributes, service experience, etc. – but price must be in lock step with the brand position you want to own and the customers you want to win and keep.

No, we’re not all trying to be Walmart. Many organizations would prefer not to tell a one-dimensional story just about price. Value is the partner attribute to price, and value resonates with today’s customers. Both B-to-B and B-to-C. Consider Target. The retailer strategically integrates value into all facets of brand delivery. They have an army of loyal customers who light up social channels every day with stories of the great “value experiences” they had shopping at Target.

Are we strategically consistent and balanced?
There is a real finesse in advancing brand evolution while maintaining brand continuity. The starting point is to get the over-arching brand constructed so you have room to evolve while staying true to the things your customers and prospects value the most. Then, tell a consistent story, deliver a consistent product, provide a consistent experience – and do it every day. And, do not turn the world upside down every time a competitor tries something different. Impulse changes erode brand equity.

Is there any brand more consistent than Coca Cola? To me, having a Coke is the same today as it was 40 years ago. They have demonstrated incredible product consistency, and it hasn’t always been an easy journey. Coke learned some hard lessons over the years about caving in to competitive pressures and getting too far away from their proven formula for success.

If you answered “no” to these questions, it’s time to talk brand transformation with your executive colleagues. Senior leaders must acknowledge there are problems preventing brand success and then be grounded in the reality of what it will take to become a benchmark brand.

Learn about JPL’s brand methodology.