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Branding, marketing and communications are critical aspects of any business. These elements carry the message that a company hopes to send to its potential and existing clients. These three aspects of business are vital for successful relationships with clients.
The purpose of this paper is to examine the fundamentals of branding, marketing and communications in an effort to identify the challenges businesses face in their implementation. Based on this examination, the paper will investigate how Mercedes-Benz handles the associated challenges, and the lessons that other businesses can learn from Mercedes-Benz.
Fundamentals of Branding
Branding refers to the effort an organization puts towards differentiating itself and its products from its competitors. On the other hand, a brand is a specific product, organization, or item. Any misconception about these two concepts can lead to strategic blunders. Building a brand is not necessarily the same as branding, but it involves branding.
Effective branding requires the use of several elements. These elements include a logo, sounds, colors, and a slogan of a brand. Branding is about using these elements, alongside others to create a unique set of attributes for a product. Collectively, the brand elements can help a product to achieve brand personality.
One of the important issues to consider during the branding process is developing the brand definition. A brand definition is a succinct expression of what constitutes the brand. It is important to develop a brand definition early in the branding process because it helps the team dealing with the process to choose the elements they need to emphasize.
The final concept for consideration in the branding process is brand focus. Many branding efforts fail because of lack of focus. Brands with a high level of focus tend to have greater success in the market. Whenever organizations use a single brand to represent a wide range of products, the brand fails to form a lasting impression in the minds of consumers. In other words, it lacks focus.
The challenges associated with branding vary from business to business. In the context of the analysis presented above, these challenges fall into four categories. The first category of challenges relates to the challenge of distinguishing between brands and branding. Essentially, all products are brands.
However, not all products have undergone branding. In the first case, firms spend money on R&D and come up with a product that meets perceived consumer needs. All efforts that go into product development build the brand. However, branding requires the firm to take this message to the consumer.
The second challenge arises from the choice of brand elements needed to communicate the features of the brand. The choice of colors, logos, taglines, and sounds associated with a brand can mean the difference between successful branding and poor branding. Many firms fail to find ways of developing brand elements that stand out because of the failure to appreciate their impact on branding.
The third challenge that firms face when carrying our branding exercises is failure to define their brand. The basis for this failure is the inability or unwillingness to choose the most important aspects of the brand. Products can meet several needs, and the creators usually want consumers to understand all these capabilities. However, communicating all the features of the brand at once results in blurry communication.
The final challenge that firms face when carrying out branding exercises is lack of focus. Many firms believe that developing new brands from scratch is expensive. Therefore, they create new product lines under established brands. However, splitting the focus of a brand can lead to erosion of the value of the brand.
Mercedes-Benz handles its branding effectively. Anyone who hears of the name Mercedes-Benz thinks about a stylish high-end car that will cause heads to turn. The branding success of Mercedes-Benz can help other firms make branding decisions. Mercedes-Benz is a respected brand because of its long history. The company has a very strong brand reputation based on superior performance, and stylish designs.
The choice of brand elements for the Mercedes-Benz reflects the clarity of thinking in the branding process. The company decided to use the three-pointed star as its logo early in the twentieth century, and still uses it to date. In addition, the company’s tagline, “the best, or nothing” clearly shows it is intentionally positioning itself as a top-of-the-range product.
From the onset, the makers of the Mercedes-Benz were keen to have a clear definition of their product. Mercedes-Benz did not start as a low-end model. From inception, its makers were targeting the high-end market even when the motor industry was nascent. This means that the brand definition for the Mercedes-Benz automobiles has not changed since its inception.
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Fundamentals of Communication
Communication in business is a sensitive component of service delivery. With the advent of the internet, the number of communication channels has increased. In addition, the traditional channels have also become more efficient at delivering large quantities of information. For instance, television channels nowadays have news anchors reading the news as ribbons run at the bottom of the same screen.
In many instances, the item the anchor reads is usually not the same as the items on the ribbons. The amount of noise in communication channels is also on the increase. TV commercials are too many. Advertisements on billboards compete with those in newspapers and magazines, as well as those on branded accessories. The bombardment of commercial messages is so high that people have adapted by filtering adverts out of their minds.
The internet on the other hand has created new communication channels within the last two decades. Social media is the most popular form of communication today. Email is still used by many businesses to communicate with clients, and for marketing. In addition, the internet has made it possible for people to communicate using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) through services such as Skype. Instant communication is also available via both text and video chat. All these options are available to small and large firms.
The challenges that many firms are facing include getting through to potential customers, public relations (PR), and choosing an effective mix of communication channels. The challenge of getting through to potential clients arises from information overload. The ease of communication facilitated by technology is overwhelming people with information.
An analysis of the information sources that people deal with on any day shows that a typical consumer must distinguish from thousands of messages on a daily basis. Consumers have developed defense mechanisms that enable them to switch off messages that do not stand out. The impact of this on advertising is that if a communication medium fails to capture the attention of customers, it is a total waste.
The second challenge that firms face is PR management. PR is an important component of business communication. The increasing influence of social media platforms and the increasing ease of online publishing have complicated the work of PR managers. A firm’s reputation may suffer irreparable damage if it fails to monitor the issues clients raise in the social media.
This is even more challenging for small firms because they cannot afford to retain full time PR professionals to monitor their online reputation. Bigger firms either hire the services from PR firms or employ people to manage their social media activities.
The third challenge associated with communication that many firms must deal with is determining an effective mix of communication channels. There is a multiplicity of channels, and the level of effectiveness of each channel varies.
The lessons that other firms can learn from Mercedes-Benz when it comes to communication include the following. First, Mercedes-Benz advertises its vehicles in niche markets. This reduces the wastage associated with untargeted advertisements. The company advertises its cars through its website, in car magazines, and on high-end television channels. The communication channels chosen by Mercedes-Benz are based on the brand positioning of the vehicles.
Secondly, the company manages its PR activities internally because it can afford to hire PR professionals. The lesson here is that even if a firm cannot hire PR professionals, it can outsource online monitoring to PR firms. Thirdly, Mercedes-Benz uses an optimized list of communication channels.
Mercedes-Benz has a strong social media presence, with YouTube channels, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts. In addition, Mercedes-Benz publishes information in conventional media such as car magazines, business magazines, and television. The lesson here is that every firm must strive to find the best mix of communication channels in order to communicate effectively with all its clients.
Fundamentals of Marketing
Marketing is making the consumer aware of the presence of a product, with the aim of making a sale. Making sales is not the immediate concern of a marketing effort. However, the marketing cycle ends with the successful conversion of prospective customers, to paying customers. Marketing approaches vary depending on the products on offer.
The two main choices in terms of overall strategy are whether a company should use mass marketing or niche marketing strategies. Mass marketing usually applies to fast moving consumer goods. Niche marketing on the other hand concentrates on specific market segments.
The role of marketing is to inform consumers about the availability of products that can meet a need in their lives. This is the informational attribute of marketing. However, marketing also aims at turning uninformed consumers into potential customers. The work of a marketer is to ensure that when the consumer needs the product, he will turn to the brand that the marketer introduced.
The development of marketing strategies usually depends on the four Ps. The four Ps are product, price, placement, and promotion. The Product is the brand sold to consumers. Price is the cost a consumer will pay to acquire the product. Setting a price is a process that involves an evaluation of the value customers attach to the product, against the cost that it takes to produce the product. Pricing is an experimental process aimed at making the most, without scaring off customers.
Placement is the location customers find a product. Mass marketing usually goes hand in hand with mass availability of a product. Niche marketing on the other hand goes hand in hand with niche placement. Promotion refers to the element of marketing that encourages consumers to make a purchase.
Marketing is very challenging because of the limited data available to marketing professionals at the beginning of marketing campaigns, especially when introducing new products. The projections developed by marketers depend on past trends. Fundamental shifts in the market can erode the value of reasonable projections. Many firms also face challenges associated with how to position their products.
At time is it unclear which strategy will yield the best results. If a firm is capable of reducing manufacturing costs to a minimum, then it can survive as a low cost producer with a mass-market orientation. This position has risks associated with competition because competitors can copy the business model.
On the other hand developing a product that consumers will be willing to pay a premium requires more resources for R&D, and very strong branding. Firms that try to get into premium markets without a strong financial base run the risk of making huge losses.
Many firms also struggle when it comes to placing their products. Product distribution is very challenging especially for startups. It is expensive to set up distribution points and it is very difficult to get shelf space in existing retail avenues without a product that has a proven record of accomplishment. The challenge of promotion relates to making the appropriate choices in regards to promotion tactics. Often, a good strategy needs time and money to develop.
The lessons that firms can learn from Mercedes-Benz are as follows. First, focusing on developing a strong brand can be costly in the short term but is a very good strategy for generating long-term growth. Secondly, marketing needs to be aligned with the overall strategy of the business. Mercedes-Benz vehicles have always been developed for the high-end market and the marketing strategies used reflect this choice.
Priority Areas for Action
In the context of the above discussions and the lessons derived from the business practices of Mercedes-Benz, the following are the priority areas that all firms need to prioritize. On branding, any firm that does not have a branding strategy needs to think about it. In this regard, there is need to define the attributes of the brand.
This requires making a deliberate choice when picking the brand element such as logos and taglines to ensure that they reflect the central message the company want to send to consumers.
On communication, the challenges that firms must deal with have increased in tandem with the growth of the IT sector. The first communication priority area for firms is defining the central message of the brand. Secondly, firms must choose the right mix of communication channels to handle communication. PR management is also a priority area because of the high impact of bad press on a company.
In the area of marketing, the priority areas are as follows. First, every firm must define its marketing target, and the best pricing. Novel items work well in the high-end market, while daily use items work well in the mass-market, where price may be a key factor for consumers.
The second area of interest for firms in marketing should be the application of the four Ps of marketing. These four Ps will help every firm to determine the specific issues needed to make the marketing effort a success. The firms must realize that the best long-term approach to marketing is the development of a strong brand.
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