Building the brand
The 'science' of branding has been most fully developed in B2C (business-to-consumer) markets and revolves very heavily around advertising. Apple, the world's most valuable brand, is supported by annual global advertising of more than $2 billion. In professional services, branding is less well understood. Many agencies have attempted to apply their B2C branding experience in the sector, often with disastrous consequences because they do not fully understand how clients purchase services from and interact with their business advisers.
A professional services brand has three components:
Firms wishing to manage their brands effectively need to understand how these three elements work together. Unlike in B2C markets where 'image' plays an important part in promoting the 'brand promise', in professional services markets it is the least important of the three elements. Lack of recognition of this fact is often the reason why professional services firm rebrands fail to deliver the hoped-for benefits.
Positioning: An effective brand is one built around a clear, differentiated proposition. In professional services this equates to an identification of the types of clients that are going to be targeted, in which markets, with which services, and the ways in which these services are to be packaged, priced, promoted and delivered.
Behaviour: In the service sector, the brand experience is heavily dependent on the interactions between the organisation's employees and its customers. In professional services, these interactions are even more important, with the brand image that a firm builds in the market being the aggregated result of all the experiences that clients, targets and opinion formers have when they interact with the firm's staff, from partners at one end to receptionists at the other. Rude or arrogant behaviour and sloppy or negligent advice from just a few people can easily damage a firm's reputation and hence its brand.
So, a firm must think very carefully about the sorts of individuals that it wishes to employ and what behaviour traits it expects from these, as the resulting culture will either underpin or undermine the brand. For this reason, recruitment, training and career development are very important for a professional services firm and the success of its brand.
Image: The final element of the brand is the firm's visual identity which comprises its name, logo, strapline, and other components associated with its visual communications including fonts, colors, and graphic elements. It also includes the style and production values of its website, advertising and other promotional activities, as well as the design and feel of its offices and reception areas. In a professional services firm, all of these have to be aligned with the 'positioning' and 'behaviour' for the brand to work effectively.
In the past, many professional services firms have attempted to rebrand by just changing their image, usually by changing their logo and corporate design styles, and of course this does nothing to enhance the brand or the fortunes of the business, as fundamentally there is no change to the brand offering.
How we can help
At Wheeler Associates, we provide a range of services to help firms to define, build and monitor their brands, including:
- Helping firms to identify and articulate a brand proposition
- Advising firms how the behavioural changes needed to support their brand can be achieved
- Working with our strategic partners to implement a new visual identity for a firm
- Advising which relationship marketing tactics are the most cost effective for brand building in the professional services sector
- Helping firms to devise and implement Thought Leadership campaigns, the most powerful brand building tactic for PSFs
- Conducting brand awareness and brand tracking studies