With over 20 years of marketing experience, 10 of which as Marketing Manager at IKEA, Mihaela Muresan has also worked in LG Electronics, Radio Contact, launched Media Galaxy in Romania, IKEA in Romania and Croatia, IKEA’s online store and many other projects.
Six years ago he launched Brand Essence, under which he offers marketing and branding consulting for companies that want to grow, strategy workshops, mentoring programs and specialized courses, culture and organizational transformation, digital marketing services, social media and integrated communication.
There is a lot of talk about this division in marketing today, but is there really a barrier between traditional and digital marketing?
No, if we think that it is about channels and that before them we need thinking, strategy. Today’s marketers, who are of course digital people in the first place, are very popular. They have a lot to do and deliver, everything is a race against the clock. “We work, we don’t think – it was once a word.” And that’s because there’s not enough time for strategy and planning. We do a lot of cardio, but we also need to build muscle for the long term, not just the short term. Here, too, comes the relationship with customers that needs to be built and maintained, and here comes the branding, which is also not separate from marketing, they are practically elements of the same whole.
But how does branding help a company?
The brand concept has undergone a continuous evolution. The brand itself is about the image that an entity / company / product or even a person (in the case of personal branding) generates in the minds of potential customers, but also about the relationship it has with them. The brand is NOT a logo, although many confuse it. The logo is a visual symbol. If the brand has a strong enough personality, at its sight, the logo will really generate in people’s minds the whole story of that brand, as a gateway through which we see its entire universe.
Branding is an elaborate process, which if we do well and generate positive perceptions, we create interest and preference for buying. A preferred brand is when a customer no longer makes comparisons between brands and clearly prefers a particular one, which means that preference generates sales. And that’s exactly what companies want, isn’t it?
How can we create a strong brand?
To be a strong brand you must first be known (to have notoriety, or “awareness”), and for that you need exposure, which involves financial strength. That would be the “quantitative” dimension. A strong brand is not only known but also loved (lovemark), favorite, and for that you need a connection with the public, an emotional relationship – this is the “qualitative” dimension. A strong brand will not be built in a month when we only do social media per kilogram. The main features of a branding process leading to it are consistency and clarity. And that’s why I often say that it’s okay for a brand manager to get bored, to repeat the same ideas, the same messages, the same forms of expression, because only when the brand manager starts to get bored, customers start to “learn” the brand. By contrast, too many changes, too many variations and zigzags will not create clarity or preference. And as a result, no sales.
But do we need branding in crisis, when everything changes so fast?
In unstable times, people need landmarks, anchors, reliable sources, be they people or brands. A customer in a state of uncertainty will go the safe way and choose the brands he trusts, and this is true for any crisis, of any kind. The construction of the pre-crisis relationship helped, and these constructions do not happen in a crazy short-term race, but through a structured and consistent process in the medium and long term.
Is the importance of branding in Romania understood?
Generalizations can be dangerous and I don’t follow them. However, we can say that in Romania, there are a fairly large number of companies, especially local entrepreneurs, which do not treat branding at its true value. I always smile when I hear the phrase “we don’t brand now because we don’t have the time or the budget.” In reality, we are always branding, leaving marks, leaving impressions and creating perceptions, through everything we do or communicate. The fact that those impressions are not strategically thought to resemble each other and shape a certain personality leads to an uncontrolled and random branding process. And every time we leave these things to chance, we actually lose the opportunity to build a clear and unified brand in people’s minds.
What mistakes have you encountered most often in the field of branding?
There are several, but one that comes to mind now is the cognitive dissonance that some brands create in the minds of customers. For example, I often encounter the situation of a business that wants to position itself premium, only that all its communication is with discounts. Of course, promotions are okay occasionally as a way to stimulate sales, but we must be very careful not to become a rule, if you as a brand propose a completely different positioning. If the discounts are very frequent, the customer will lose confidence that your initial price is the right one, and on the next occasion he will leave you and go where he will find an even bigger discount. Basically the brand becomes a discounter and will be associated with those discounts. It is important to support your position with actions. There must be an alignment between what is in the business model and what you communicate, product, sales people, stores and channels.
When do we rebrand?
Rebranding is not about logo and visual identity. It’s good to do when the business model changes, we add new product categories and / or new customers, the company expands, and the brand personality or positioning changes.