BRANDING CULTURE IN EUROPEAN SMES

Thoughts from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) consulting experience.

Throughout 10+ years of consulting and coaching in the domain of marketing and digital, I have been fortunate to deal with companies of all sizes, from big to small: in this journey, I encountered very diverse mindsets and approaches regarding the topics of digital and branding, some, very open, curious and eager to learn, as well as, some very hostile and closed minded, revealing that, more than ever, powerful subjects and topics often have the effect of dividing and polarizing people’s attitude, the more relevant the topic gets, the more it is felt as a menace, as such. 

From my perspective opening interesting conversations and debates about the potential of the new media and what occurs to companies in order to empower their structure and deliver meaningful business results, is a priority.

I have always been interested in Small and Medium Enterprises and in their business stories: to me, they are the living proof of the power a dream can have, and the proof that the vision and endless energy of a brave entrepreneur can create something important enough to have an impact on the world.

Since 2015, thanks to my role as Business Coach at the SME instrument for EASME (European Commission’s Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) I have had the opportunity to work and meet some of the “Champions League teams” (as called within the program)- which are among the best Small and Medium organizations in Europe, from which I have learned a lot. The EASME program is focused on awarding and supporting the most talented organizations.

 

From my perspective, regarding the topics of marketing and branding which includes a mature and holistic market approach through digital, the differences that are found between granted and not granted companies are not meaningful, nor between Champions League teams and the ones playing just the national championship.

Regardless the size of the company or the investment readiness of the organization, I have found some common patterns that can be analyzed and described when it comes to market-centricity.

 

1.Marketing culture is often very basic. Company management profiling and budget choices are too often focused exclusively on supporting sales goals. This impacts the organization directly causing at least two major consequences: 

  • from one side it generatesa team of professionals and sometimes marketing experts that are basically executors, focused mainly on the production and the delivery of marketing and communication tools rather than on understanding the real market challenges and developing some market learning skills
  • on the other side, this situation often revealsa serious lack of knowledge regardingthe potential of marketing and branding which are skeptically seen as an expensive, vague and corporation-only practice, consequently missing many incredible opportunities for a genuine growth in all the major areas of business.

 

  1. Marketing decisions are too often taken with a short term perspective.Small and Medium Enterprises Brands are constantly tempted by the necessity to focus on managing urgencies and consequently have their problems to be solved “by yesterday”. 

This scenario is one of the major obstacles an SME needs to solve that impacts heavily every brand building activity as it pushes managers to make decisions without a proper plan or outside from the decided frame of actions. This is often the cause for several inefficiencies that impact marketing leverages at 360 degrees. The lack of a solid brand plan is in-fact the cause for major marketing effectiveness dispersion and the cause for some relevant mistakes that could be very expensive to fix. In my experience these can affect the most strategic core of the company and can be related to:

 

  • brand positioning, aka the way the company wants to be perceived in the market.
  • brand equity building, aka the real value of the company and the measure of its potential.
  • brand financing, aka defining the long and short term perspectives for sustaining the brand with the correct investments in media spending. 
  • brand control, determining which goals, messages and KPI to aim for.

 

  1. Digital is mainly seen as a more convenient option to traditional media investments. SMEs cannot ignore the power of digital media and its unparalleled potential in terms of target reach and content richness but the problem happens if new media are considered as a cheaper and alternative channel to deliver the message, as a sort of saving alternative the company could apply to deliver the same job as before (communicate) simply through a different environment. 

Once again, the enormous potential digital media has to build Brand Equity by increasing reach, relevancy and manage customer relations is too often misunderstood in depth and hence it happens that platforms building and digital productions are assigned to unprepared and young teams without any specific business and marketing skills causing a lack of vision, strategy and measurement discipline.

Brand building through digital is a serious topic that should be approached with the right match between expertise, attitude and budget to exploit the channel at its best.

Whatever your viewpoint is and no matter the path you are on, get in touch, we believe creativity will save the world. 

Article by Francesco Derchi

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