Brand building in the 21st century

How do your customers view your business? Do they think what you want them to think?

If they don’t, there could be disconnect in your branding strategy.

Speaking Tuesday at the Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network (CVSN) Aftermarket Distribution Summit, Ira Blumenthal, president of Co-Opportunities, Inc., says branding has become one of the most important global business changes over the last 20 years.

Every company, from one-stop distributors to global operations like GE or Coca-Cola, has a brand, and how it’s managed and conveyed to its customers will significantly impact how it evolves in the future.

And make no mistake, Blumenthal says industry is changing.

“What’s new today is not change; but the speed of change,” he says. “If you don’t adapt and adjust to change you will go from distinction to extinction.”

To cultivate your business to withstand change, Blumenthal notes several tenets that should be factored into your branding strategy.

He says great brands:

  • Represent clear value
  • Communicate clear messages
  • Differentiate their offerings
  • Make and keep promises
  • Constantly strive to innovate
  • Work to maintain their standards
  • Can transcend channels
  • Work to stay relevant
  • Work to maintain loyalty

And Blumenthal notes maintaining a great brand is a 365-day a year job.

“With great brands, you can either polish it or tarnish it,” he says. “You have to think of your brand as crystal, not rubber. If you drop rubber it bounces back; but if drop crystal it’s over.”

Blumenthal says one way to identify where your brand needs to improve is through a brand audit. Ask your customers to pick 10 attributes that define your brand, and then compare what they say to how you perceive your business.

If you find disconnect between the two lists, then you know where you need to turn your attention, Blumenthal says.

He also says it’s important to make sure your brand remains unique. Great brands are unique, and communicate their uniqueness clearly, consistently and effectively to their customer base.

“If you do everything else the way your competition doesn’t it, you can’t differentiate,” he says.

Together, Blumenthal says these factors can ensure your brand identity (how you perceive your business) meshes with your brand image (how customers see your operation).

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