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Building Brand Equity

By Mandy de Waal and Janice Spark

The most valuable asset to any organisation is also its most intangible asset – the brand. This is because a brand is a unique combination of the name, symbols, slogans, meanings, awareness, customer base, proprietary resources and at times, the lore and legend that a company owns.

A lesson in sustainability for technology brands. These complex and unique dynamics merge to form what is known as brand equity or the ability of a business to achieve competitive advantage and thereby drive sales, profits and market share. In short, brand equity is what creates a sustainable competitive advantage. Branding creates a sustainable advantage through many efforts, which could include:

* Communicating with customers
* Creating market differentiators
* Shaping the internal and external culture of a company
* Leveraging the intellectual assets of a business and generating increased business performance.

Because branding is an intangible, often abstracted concept it is too often misunderstood. It is undermined by being viewed as a marketing device or tool, rather than as a business strategy. Further, in rapidly-changing economies, the seduction of short-term profits has seen companies take a naïve and short-sighted approach to their brands. This is particularly true of the technology markets that have had to deal with:

Because branding is an intangible, often abstracted concept it is too often misunderstood. It is undermined by being viewed as a marketing device or tool, rather than as a business strategy. Further, in rapidly-changing economies, the seduction of short-term profits has seen companies take a naïve and short-sighted approach to their brands. This is particularly true of the technology markets that have had to deal with:

a) Compacted and exaggerated growth cycles
b) Radical innovation and rapidly changing products
c)Unpredictable markets
d)An overwhelming technology focus.

Bluntly put, the consumer technology market has been primarily focused on driving adoption rather than building brands. A good case in point has been the neglect of Africa where grey brands have been given fertile ground to proliferate. Now that Africa is being recognised as a viable market for further growth outside first world markets, technology brands are being forced to battle with piracy, grey markets and inferior clone products.
Technology brands have through massive adoption, enjoyed huge growth and popularity. Brands like Microsoft, Intel and IBM have quickly squared up to centenarian brands in terms of brand value. However, they now have to stand the tests of time. Valuable learnings for technology brands:

* Understanding how brand management and the growth of brand equity are linked to sustainability
* The brand awareness is created by laying a foundation of awareness, but sustained by creating high levels of brand loyalty.
* Brand loyalty is sustained by marrying the brand promise with brand delivery.
* That the brand is the business.

Building brand equity is mostly about doing what you say you will. A tough challenge and one that can only consistently happen when the brand is the business. When the brand is the nerve, cells, heartbeat, blood and guts of an organisation and when the brand drives that organisation every day to deliver on its promise to customer each and every day.

Mandy de Waal and Janice Spark are founding partners of Idea Engineers, a strategic marketing company that develops brands and businesses, working with clients from strategy to execution.

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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