On the first page of the report, we put measures related to the value of our brand, straight up and right alongside our financial results for the year.
The private sector is accustomed to measuring the financial value of companies. Revenue growth and profitability are the commonly used standards across industries for measuring the success of a company, just as market capitalisation is used to represent its future prospects. However, an aspect that is as important as any financial ratio – brand value – often gets overlooked in balance sheets and left off boardroom agendas.
Whether a company is part of the FTSE or a small enterprise, there are four main things businesses can do to shore up their brand’s value in today’s world:
1. Realise that the brand is increasingly digital
In the recently leaked innovation report of the New York Times, the company’s top strategic team’s 91-page assessment can be summed up with a single line: “We are winning at journalism, but we are losing our audience.” This phenomenon is not unique to the media sector; entire industries are seeing substantive change to their business models given that consumers are increasing living, socialising and buying more online. Most brands are being built or destroyed more through millions of conversations on social media than through any traditional advertising.
The brand has to be where the customers are. In the UK, an average Brit spends nine hours a day glued to a screen of some variety – be it a tablet, a laptop, a television or increasingly so, a smartphone – with a third of all online time spent on social media. If your brand does not have a clear digital strategy to tap these channels, it will lose out to more nimble competitors.
For smaller businesses, technology can be a great tool to level the playing field and build their brands through creative initiatives, often successfully competing with Goliaths who have millions to spend on advertising.
2. You can’t secure investment for what you can’t measure
In 2014, Brand Finance, one of the foremost authorities on brand valuation, valued our brand at £5bn, with a growth of 58 per cent, making it the IT Services industry’s fastest growing brand this year.
One of our regional executives asked me what our brand valuation meant. My answer was that if he and the board decide to sell our company name, but retain our employees and other assets, then the price he could get in the market for selling just the brand would be £5bn. The penny dropped and probably for the first time, the person saw the brand as a real financial asset, which we could invest in and not just an expense on the P&L.
It is much easier for businesses to make investments in their brand building if they can measure the impact over years through strategic tools such as these, which are more relevant to the boardroom.
3. Develop a more integrated approach to marketing
David Packard once said: “Marketing is too important to be left to just the marketing department”. In today’s hyperconnected age, this is truer than ever.
I recently spoke at a panel organised by the Holmes Report during the IN2Summit in London, focusing on the question of skills in the communications and marketing professions. One of the things we had consensus on was that the fields of branding, public relations, internal communications and digital marketing are coming together and need to work in tandem – ensuring that the company’s brand building efforts are harmonised across all channels.
4. Don’t neglect stakeholders
In the TCS ThinkYoung ‘Workplace of the Future’ report published in April, which polled young people across 28 countries in the European Union, 79 per cent of European youth saw external stakeholders as an opportunity for businesses rather than a threat.
Brands that engage better with external stakeholders like not-for-profit organisations, investors, governments, etc. are more likely to both reduce their business risks and be considered as more transparent companies. How you behave and engage with your local community has a determined impact on your brand and its value.
Assessment firms like BrandFinance routinely use governance, innovation and environmental ratings to assess the holistic value of a brand.
Abhinav Kumar is chief communications & marketing officer, Europe, at Tata Consultancy Services.
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