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Brand and customer management: the inextricable link (part one)

27th Mar 2007
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By Stuart Lauchlan, news and analysis editor

Are you a Coke person or a Pepsi person? Would you plump for Burger King and not McDonalds? Do you loathe Virgin Trains, but always try to fly Virgin Atlantic? The very fact that in all probability you can answer one or all of these questions is indicative of the power of the brand.

Brand management has long been a carefully honed black art practised by specialists. Indeed, what we now think of as brand management has been around in some form or another since the industrial revolution. But in the digital economy, brand manipulation – both positive and negative – is now something that can be exploited by the masses. In the world of Web 2.0, e-branding is a reality.

CRM has an important role to play in this new e-branded world. A critical element of CRM is ensuring that your brand and messages are consistent across the organisation. While we often think about brand as being synonymous with the corporate logo, in reality it’s about the relationship that exists between a company, product or service and its customer/user. It’s about delivering an experience. Both of those descriptions could just as easily be applied to a basic definition of CRM.

Just as your relationship with your customers is a valuable corporate asset and potentially a significant contributor to the bottom line, so too is your brand. According to research by Booz Allen Hamilton and Wolff Olins, around 80 percent of companies with a strong brand focus report operating profits almost twice as high as the sector average.

Compared to five years ago brand was nominated twice as frequently for contributing to corporate success with 90 percent of those companies surveyed are convinced that brand orientation is a key factor in their corporate success.

“However, only 18 percent of companies currently place brand management at the heart of their activities and have a clear understanding of the brand across the entire organisation,” warns Gregor Harter, vice president and partner of Booz Allen Hamilton leading the Customers, Channels and Marketing Management group in Europe. “Yet this small group of companies is proving to be exceptionally successful.”

Booz Allen Hamilton and Wolff Olins define three types of companies. 'Brand-agnostic' companies assume that brand makes only a modest contribution to corporate success and consequently places their focus on factors such as costs and optimising processes.

'Emerging-brand' companies recognise the growing importance of brand’s contribution to value and have already begun to embed it into their corporate strategy, but still have a way to go before they graduate to the third category of 'brand-guided' companies. These are already rigorously implementing brand to achieve corporate success.

For the second part click here.

Find out more about Stuart Lauchlan

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