Brand Management in smaller companies

Brand management need not be a full-time job in small organizations. Yet it is just as important to the on-going success of the business as it is in larger organizations with entire departments responsible for brand management.

Brand management a top staff function

The smaller the company, the higher up the corporate ladder responsibility for brand management should reside.

Brand management requires strategic perspective

That’s not only a matter of headcount, it’s a matter of vision. That’s because there’s so much more to branding than maintaining its exterior trappings. Almost every important decision involving employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders will have an effect on the brand, as will decisions concerning the business model, product development and corporate structure.

Every decision should be factored by this question: “How will this decision impact our corporate brand and our product brands?” The vision to answer this question comes only from the strategic perspective of the top executive.

So if you’re managing a business, I implore you to not delegate the corporate brand.

Corporate branding: not a marketing function

A common practice is to make the corporate brand a responsibility of the marketing department. In the old paradigm of product branding, brand managers were usually part of the marketing organization. And rightly so because their duties were to market the products they were assigned.

But a corporate brand is much larger and valuable than a product brand. It’s a long-range strategic asset that differentiates the company from its competitors by establishing and maintaining an attitude and personality to which stakeholders are drawn. It’s the corporate promise, its story, its demonstration of values and its consistency of action. These are not the elements by which marketing is usually judged.

One additional caveat: By no means allow a sale-driven marketing force – one in which a sales manager and a marketing manager report to a marketing VP – hold sway over the branding function, corporate or product. In my experience, sales people in this situation will out-shout their marketing counterparts and always opt for decisions of a short-sighted nature. I mean discounting, couponing and other tactics that might boost sales so they can meet this quarter’s goals.

Sacrificing the corporate brand is not worth it

This may seem to provide an additional responsibility to an already full agenda, but is there anything more important than building a reputation upon which your corporate growth will depend?

Remember, branding is a strategic process. It should be in the hands of the Chief Strategic Officer.

6 thoughts on “Brand Management in smaller companies

  1. Martin:
    In theory, I agree with you, but in real life, I don’t. It’s too expensive & far removed from a “small” company.

    In a smaller company they don’t have 4 or 5 people in these functions.

    Theres a top CEO, a sales/mkt person, an operations person and a finance person. Three VPs…

    If the company is a little bigger, depending upon the industry they are in, there might be 7-10 VP’s: R&D, Sales, Marketing, Operations, Finance, IT, Purchasing, HR, who report to the CEO.

    Still not CSO. Strategy comes from a 2 day off site meeting with a consultant. And tweeks from each of the VP’s who hammer it out vying for the attn of the CEO. Hopefully the firm selects a consultant who can facilitate the group to lead them to where they want to go with their strategy. Or the CEO is heavy handed and sets the iron fist down.

    But I don’t see a realistic Chief Strategy Officer who does this 365 days in a small company. It’s the CEO or the group or an outsider. Or better yet, the Marketing head. Marketing isn’t always about driving product. It’s about driving the company.

    You’d at least need a medium sized company to support that expensive of indirect labor on staff.

    Just my opinion.

  2. Chris: So how does this blog entry start? I say it’s not a full-time job in a small business. I also say that the smaller the company, the more likely the CEO is the chief strategist.

    My main point, and this is for any company no matter the size is that branding is strategic, not tactical at its inception, and should not be relegated to a marketing/sale VP looking for the short-term sale.

    That’s not theory, that’s real life experience of seeing what happens to small business brands in the hands of sales-oriented execs.

    I never said a small company should have a full-time branding exec, nor did I spout theory here. In small companies, the CEO should be the CBO and no one else.

  3. Brand management is a strategic function to be initiated by proffessionals and followed up by middle-management under supervision.

  4. I have to agree with Chris and say branding def needs a driving team behind it. Branding is also the root of marketing , without it you cannot begin to market your product –so I believe a good VP of marketing will have a lot of say in the branding process!

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