Top End Alignment™ By Dave Dolak

Build strategic vision and branding strategies in a measurable way

Align Your Vision, Brand, and Marketing Communications to Attain Business Leadership
A shared vision exists when every person in the organization understands the vision and is aligned with it. A shared vision helps guide the behavior of all employees and can lead to productivity and efficiency. A strong, shared vision can provide a sense of direction and purpose, build and strengthen loyalty through involvement, and set high standards of excellence that reflect high ideals and a sense of integrity. A strong vision also inspires people to align their energies in a common direction that reflects the company’ unique strengths. s The four steps to creating a strong sense of shared vision for your business are: 1) Identify the core values that exist in your business, 2) Define the core purpose and envisioned future, 3) Create an effective Vision Statement or “Strategic Principle” through clear articulation, and 4) Communicate the vision over time at every opportunity. Once you have defined your vision, drive it deep and wide into and throughout your organization. Think, “brand” It is in your best interest to actively manage your brands. Every business has at least one brand— whether you think you’ branded your business and its products or not. Your ve primary brand, of course, is the name of your company. At its essence, a brand is an identifiable entity that makes specific promises of value. It is critical that you understand what your customers and prospects think your brand promises to them— whether it is your company brand or product brands. Great brands can demand premium prices, thrive even in economic downturns, attract great employees, and are not easily copied by competitors. Therefore, it is highly desirable that you build great brands for your business. Examine your brands as they are today Start by articulating or creating a powerful and inspiring shared vision Identifying and communicating a clear vision is one of the most important functions a business leader can perform. A vision is an idealized picture of the future of the business. The vision defines who and what the business is, why it exists, and where it is going in the grand scheme of things. In order to understand or identify your organization’ vision, s you must define: 1) Your business’ fundamental reason for s existence beyond just making money, 2) The timeless, unchanging core values of the business, and 3) The “big picture” aspirations for the future of the business.
Copyright 2003, Dave Dolak. All rights reserved.

A shared vision within an organization and strong brand communication are key factors in achieving optimum business results. A strong vision can help you identify your business’ direction and purpose, s build loyalty and involvement, and inspire enthusiasm and commitment. Effective brand management can influence purchase and ownership experiences, create emotional attachments to your products and services, make purchasing decisions easier for your customers, and allow you to command a premium price. A marketing Top End Alignment will infuse your brand with inspiration from your vision, communicate your unique position, and improve business performance.

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ompanies and organizations everywhere invest enormous resources in marketing and selling their products and services. Many of these organizations have a strong sense of who they are and why people should want to conduct business with them and they do a good job communicating that to the market in a way that adds to and sometimes even transcends the financial statements. Sadly, however, many organizations fail to have a strong sense of their own guiding principles and cannot clearly articulate their vision or communicate unique aspects of their brands in a way that compels customers and prospects to develop emotional attachments and buy their products and services. No matter how well you are currently communicating your vision and brand values, you may be able to strengthen your business by conducting a marketing Top End Alignment.

Start by conducting a brand audit. A brand audit is a comprehensive examination of a brand that will assess the health of the brand while uncovering its sources of equity. During a brand audit you will construct a snapshot of where your brand stands today and you will also discover possible new sources of equity to build upon in the future. There are three steps in a brand audit. The Brand Inventory is a review that provides a complete profile of how all the products and services sold by your company are marketed and branded. The Brand Exploratory is next and it is a

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market research activity that often employs qualitative market research techniques designed to identity possible sources of brand equity and provide detailed information about how consumers think and feel about your brand. This can be a very complex process as it attempts to map or inventory all the associations and perceptions your brand commands in peoples’ minds. Once these brand associations are exhaustively mapped, then you are ready to move on to the last step of the brand audit. Define desired brand position and create effective messaging strategy The last step in a brand audit, Analysis & Brand Positioning, reviews the knowledge gained in the first two steps of the audit to ultimately determine the desired brand awareness, brand equity, and brand positioning. Brand positioning is the place your brand holds in the minds of your prospects. The best positioning for your brand is determined within the context of its position relative to competing brands. This “position” held within the minds of consumers is defined by your brand’ unique selling s proposition and sustainable competitive advantage, as well as your brand’ points of parity with other brands in the s category. Create brand messages and communication strategy linked to vision Once your brand has been inventoried and positioned, it is essential to devise an effective brand communication strategy. A strong brand position is not easily copied and is best summed-up in a memorable word or short phrase. The wise business leader will further ensure that appropriate elements of the company vision and core values are also incorporated into the brand communication strategy. In true alignment, the brand message will reflect all or a portion of your vision and advance its principles. This is what builds great companies and great brands. Communicate the message with consistency and clarity across all customer touch points Carefully crafted messages about your brand communicated in the right way to the right people will tap emotion, fenceoff your brand from the competition, and help you shape the image of your brand. Messages about the brand must be communicated clearly and consistently and integrated into all marketing communications consistently over time and at every touch point at which your markets come in contact with your brand. Monitor and Measure Successful Top End Alignment also involves constantly monitoring and measuring brand equity to ensure everything remains in alignment. Measurement can be made using a variety of qualitative and quantitative market research activities such as free association, projective techniques, awareness, and image studies. Brand equity can and should be tracked and actively

managed on a continuing basis. Peoples’perceptions about your brand will change over time and you will need to help your brand evolve to stay relevant. This is accomplished by articulating brand statements that describe exactly what the brand is and what it is not in terms that continue to resonate with your market. This can only be achieved through periodic measurement and evaluation. The main promises of value your brand makes should remain constant over time yet may have to be communicated in new ways. A word of warning: be very wary about trying to completely reposition a brand. Although brand communication can be refined, it is very difficult or impossible to change the essence of what a brand stands for once it has been established in the minds of consumers. If conventional wisdom in your business is that your brand needs to be totally “repositioned”, consider launching a new brand instead which is, again, tied to your core values and vision. Stay true and keep your brand promises The best way to stay true to your vision and keep your brand promises is to live them everyday. Use every opportunity to share your vision and act in a consistent manner supporting it. Deliver on every promise your brand makes to your market. Your brand is nothing more and nothing less than the promises made to your market and you must consistently keep those promises. Once everyone in your business is acting in accordance with your vision and brand promises, your top end will be aligned and you will be sending a powerful message to the outside world each and every time a person comes in contact with your business. When that happens, you will enjoy all the success that comes with owning a powerful brand.

About the author: Dave Dolak is an author, speaker, and consultant on marketing, branding, and business development issues. His works have been cited and published by many sources including: Brandweek, Ernst & Young, and Marketing News. Dave’ unique approach to marketing, s including his Top End Alignment process, promises measurable results. The Top End Alignment process can be further explored in an expanded, in-depth manner as an electronic seminar at his Website, www. DaveDolak.com. Dave is a Professional Certified Marketer who holds an MBA in Marketing from the University of Northern Virginia and offers free, no commitment marketing consultations at his Website in order to explore possible consulting opportunities. For more information contact Dave Dolak at +1 (434) 962-7885, dave@davedolak.com, or visit his Website at www.DaveDolak.com.