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The Brand MOT

Published on 03/02/09 at 05:19pm

To have a car on the road once it's more than three years old requires an MOT - an annual test of the car's function and suitability that ensures it meets the safety and environmental standards required. Within the marketing environment, a Brand MOT would provide an opportunity to check the vital components of our brand are in working order and suitable for the channels we use to communicate with payers and physicians. However, we often overlook the need to check our brand is still fit for purpose each year.

A car can fail the MOT for the simplest of reasons, any of which undermine its ability to do the job safely, as can our brand. Subject your brand to its MOT and you can objectively assess its suitability for the changing healthcare market and competitive challenges.

The signals might not be immediately obvious, but we must recognise the first signs of our brand not being fit for purpose. If issues are uncovered early enough, addressing them will stop them developing into major problems.

Conducting a brand MOT enables you to challenge yourself on the critical questions:

* Does my brand still add value to the target customer?

* Is that value the value I intended?

Taking an objective look at your brand, and answering these questions honestly, will uncover potential weaknesses or problems so you can tackle them before they start damaging your competitive position.

Steering

Any brand MOT must start with a review of your 'steering' - i.e. the brand vision. Is it still relevant? Does it need to evolve? Is it going in the right direction?

Strong brands have a clear vision of what they want to be and where they're going. Your vision is the internal expression of the qualitative and quantitative brand goals and aspirations. It's no good just having an internal focus. In our highly competitive world we must 'shape' our markets to maximise brand values. Our aspirations must be realistic and relevant to our customers and insightful as to what is happening in their world.

The question is not only 'what do we want to be?' but also 'what can we be?' That means reviewing a number of inputs, including corporate expectations, customer needs, competitor brand visions and the drivers of prescribing choice.

Lights

Do your 'lights' work, giving you insight into the customer needs?

Can you see ahead with insight and understand how your brand and the messages trigger and exploit the drivers of prescribing and purchasing?

During your brand MOT, you need to confirm what different behaviours exist or are developing in the market, and what underpins those behaviours (intangibles such as beliefs and attitudes, motivations and constraints). The MOT will guide the use of creative and robust research techniques to develop a greater understanding and insights into the point-of-view about the world that defines the brand's opportunity.

Fuel System

Does your brand have the right fuel? Something that will drive it into the minds of your customers?

Too often, we measure the value we are offering in terms of the product's functional benefit. Perceived value for money, functional and emotional benefit all combine to produce the Brand Value Equation (BVE). The Brand MOT needs to ensure that all three are fuelling competitive advantage.

We need to ask, does our BVE allow us to fuel customer behaviour in the way we intend and connect with our customer's desired value, functional and emotional benefits?

Exhaust System

Do the messages that come out of our brand deliver what we require?

Many activities in the marketing mix are part of the 'traditional' approach to communicating the brand values to our customers. Often, insufficient thought is given to whether the activity or its execution adds to the brand value or even undermines it in some way.

Part of the Brand MOT must be a review of all communication activities ensuring they all work synergistically to build brand value.

Windscreen

Can your brand see clearly?

It's not just about making sure your communication reflects your brand positioning and core values; to be really effective it must hit those prescribing triggers and drivers only you can see. The MOT needs to involve everyone responsible for brand communications to ensure they have the insight into the prescribing drivers and that their activity is directed to satisfy them.

Vehicle Identification Number

Is your brand unique and identifiable?

A brand must appeal to a discrete group of customers. Different segments will have different needs against which your brand must align. They will also have different perceptions of your brand.

Your brand must be seen as unique or at least significantly differentiated in the minds of customers.

A strong insight into customer thinking is key to assessing the suitability of the brand and ensuring its benefits and value are meaningful, sustainable, credible, can be differentiated and are motivational!

Tyres and Wheels

The tyres and wheels are like brand positioning - they drive the brand and keep it on track.

Brand positioning is the marriage between four things: the balance of the target customer's feelings; the competitive set; the distinctiveness and benefit of the brand; and what you say about it to the target customer.

The MOT should review this against the five crucial tests of meaningfulness, credibility, differentiation, sustainability and motivation. If it meets these criteria, it will result in the target customer knowing, believing, acting upon and feeling the distinctive benefits of your brand versus the competition.

Vehicle Structure

Is the brand robust?

Every company has limited resources to put into the marketing mix. A thorough assessment of the brand's requirements will ensure that these resources are spent effectively. A brand MOT is about ensuring you get the maximum ROI.

Conducting a Brand MOT needs objectivity, time and insight. But it will always give a return on the investment, because the brand's structure is an asset that no company can afford to neglect. Is your MOT overdue?

Chris Marks is client services director at the MSI Consultancy and can be contacted at ; alternatively, visit The MSI Consultancy website at www.msi.co.uk

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