January 31, 2011 | last updated March 25, 2012 7:26 am

Knowhow: Brand Strategy | Using SWOT to tune up your marketing

A SWOT analysis is a useful framework for assessing the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats for an organization or a specific project. But have you ever considered using it to examine or refine your brand?

Think about your favorite brands. Then consider what it is that makes them your favorites — it might have to do with quality, customer service, reliability, or any number of core competencies. One of the implicit goals for every organization is to be a "favorite" brand because that leads to loyal customers, word-of-mouth referrals and ideally, profitability.

Now take a look at your own company and the reasons why your best customers choose you again and again. Are you parlaying that into your brand message?

Careful Consideration

The first step in brand assessment is to decide how you'd like your company to be seen. What message do you want to send to prospective customers? Does it match the message you're sending now, or do you need to revise the message? Brand consistency is important — everything from the marketing materials to customer interactions should reinforce the brand image.

Next, take a closer look at your company using the SWOT analysis tool to see where you stand vis--vis your established branding goals. This is beneficial for new companies, companies in the rebranding process and even existing companies who want to do a check-up on their existing brand. Below are some things to consider as you go through the SWOT process:

Strengths. Above all, your brand should emphasize the company's strengths. What separates you from your competitors? Why should customers choose your product or service? Identifying and then capitalizing on those strengths will allow you to project your brand message with confidence.

Weaknesses. There's always room for improvement, and you cannot be all things to all people. The more honest you are about this part of the assessment, the better. Figuring out how to overcome or balance out weaknesses is key to keeping your brand image at its best.

Opportunities. It's important to stay aware of trends and new possibilities. A brand can get stale if it doesn't keep up with the rest of the industry or misses out on an innovative shift in consumer preferences. Sometimes tweaking or redefining a brand is necessary — and if it involves a great opportunity to succeed, it's worth it.

Threats. Just as it's essential to be aware of new opportunities, it's also imperative to be alert concerning threats. Business decisions or company representatives that could dilute or negatively impact the brand should be avoided or minimized.

This framework serves as a branding reality check for large corporations as well as small businesses. If you are a small business owner, you are your brand. The rest of the organization breathes life into the brand as well. The behind-the-scenes employees of the company work to provide a service or create a product consistent with the brand image. Marketing professionals channel the brand into clear, consistent communications over a variety of media. Sales professionals are an extension of the company brand; they represent it and add the human touch.

So, analyzing your brand is as simple as this: Focus on strengths, balance out weaknesses, seize opportunities, and beware of threats. A confident brand leads to a confident company.

Jodie Lynn Boduch is a partner at Much Ado Marketing in Sturbridge. She can be reached at jodie@muchadomarketing.com.

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