Sunday, September 12, 2010

Innovative Leaders Develop Unique Brands

Developing a strong brand is a key factor for sustainable growth and allows organisations to innovate and diversify new products and services; and take them to market as an extension of their existing brand status. This is a powerful competitive advantage and significantly improves the chances of early market success for these new product or service offerings.

In 1982, with a revenue of $693 million, Nike only produced running, tennis and basketball shoes for male teenagers and adults in the US, this then grew over the next 25 years to a revenue of $18 billion, where Nike produces shoes, clothing and sports equipment for all sports, in countries all over the world. As Kevin Keller and Donald Lehmann (2009) highlight, “the ability of the Nike brand and its brand promise of ‘authentic athletic performance’ to be leveraged across many product categories, market segments and geographical markets has been extremely valuable to the firm” (p.7). It was the ‘Just Do It’ campaign that transformed Nike overnight into the leader in athletic apparel.

Branding has now developed beyond the organisation, its products and services; where today you’ll find political leaders seeking to develop branding concepts around countries and cities; and also where employers seek to develop their own superior brand compared to competitor organisations.

Employer branding, for example, has received specific attention from leaders and organisations over the last few years, as part of their talent acquisition and retention strategies. If you can create a brand image around your organisation you can attract the best talent, and ensure that you retain and motivate this talent pool. As Lara Moroko and Mark Uncles (2009) state, “when a firm undertakes employer branding as a strategic activity, the ‘product’ they are branding is the employment experience that the firm offers, and the ‘customers’ of this brand and product are the prospective and current staff” (p.183). Of course understanding your customer segmentation is just as important with organisational branding (as with product branding), as recent graduates, for example, are likely to have different requirements that will attract them to an organisational brand, compared to other employee segments.

In today’s global competitive marketplace it takes innovative and visionary leadership to build a unique brand and image, and to identify latent market opportunities. As Keller and Lehmann mention, “many brands have latent brand equity that is never realised because of the inability or unwillingness of a firm to consider what the brand could and should become in the broadest sense” (p.7).

Remember a successful brand is associated with an image that resonates a distinctive form of quality with its customer base; where they are attracted to the brand as it meets their needs, exceeds their expectations and gives the customer ‘a feel good factor’.

Growing a brand can relate to the latent brand value that exists to develop new products or services that appeal to new target markets and customers, in the present and the future (Keller and Lehmann, 2009, p.9). The ability to grow the brand is not a guaranteed success as it depends on having the resources, in respect of capital and skills, to transfer the opportunity into a market reality.

Finally Keller and Lehmann mention that, “a good brand vision and positioning strategy has both a foot in the present and a foot in the future. Brand vision needs to be inspirational so that the brand has room to grow and improve in the future. The trick in developing a brand vision is to strike the right balance between what the brand is and what it could become and to define the right series of steps to get it there” (p.8).

So take a moment to ask yourself if you have identified all the potential opportunities for your brand?


Keller, K.L. and Lehmann, D.R. (2009). Assessing long-term brand potential. Journal of Brand Management, Vol. 17, Issue 1, p.6-17.

Moroko, L. and Uncles, M.D. (2009). Employer branding and market segmentation. Journal of Brand Management, Vol. 17, Issue 3, p.181-196.

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