Many aspects of marketing are considered common to all organizations’ strategies to promote products or services offered by a commercial entity. These techniques are usually considered common to all industry segments with relatively little customization. Such common elements generally focus on the attributes and benefits of a brand’s product or service and how they measure against a competitor. The techniques and effectiveness are generally easy to identify, communicate, and quantify and therefore mostly recognized as the usual practice of marketing and promotion. But there is another form of marketing that has long been utilized to help grow a business by promoting aspects of an organization’s efforts that do not focus on offerings.
Once identified as “institutional marketing”, today the practice is more commonly referred to as promoting or elevating a brand image. The strategy is not focused on just strengthening the products or services offered by a marketer, but stresses the social and cultural values of the organization itself. Even in an era where consumers look to a company’s reputation and support of social issues as an important aspect in making a purchase, the effort is considered uncommon. The premise of institutional marketing efforts is that a brand is the total summation of a producer’s identity, persona, and values. Unlike common techniques of marketing, the message is not about the features and benefits of specific products and services, but rather about who the company is and what it does to support customers’ personal social issues. Establishing a positive brand image can begin with promoting the company’s products towards a social cause like identifying an offering as “green” or “sustainable” to an audience who finds an organization’s support of environmental issues as critical to making a buying decision.
Develop an effort to advance a brand’s image by first defining who the company is and what solutions it is achieving through honest, personalized content. Raise awareness among consumers by promoting the values, mission, and purpose through multiple communication channels and marketing collateral. Strive to create consistent and authentic messaging that matches the company’s actions to build trust and loyalty. Consumers are becoming smarter and better at evaluating the validity and authenticity of a brand’s messages. Don’t “fudge” the facts, walk the talk.
Forming partnerships with other businesses will demonstrate unity of purpose across industry segments and will help advance the reputation of a brand within a community. Participate in business events to remain up to date on popular news and trends that targeted consumers find important. Supporting and donating to community non-profit organizations’ events will demonstrate the brand’s commitment to delivering on a promise.
Discover new trends by monitoring social media platforms where the targeted prospect is listening. Post the brand’s position on important issues that are shared across the audience. Be careful not to alienate a segment of any audience by advancing an opinion or position that is offensive or widely unpopular to established values or cultural norms. Stay focused on the brand’s core competencies and purpose. Straying too far into the realm of radical trends can severely damage a brand’s image and negatively impact a company’s financial performance.
Actions that are often considered uncommon can and do pay dividends. Instituting techniques that are unique and unusual can help differentiate one brand from another. Loyalty programs and favorite consumer status programs will advance a brand’s loyalty. Sending personalized messages of appreciation to new and returning customers can set a brand ahead of a competitor who is unable or unwilling to make the simple, inexpensive but impactful effort.
Institutional marketing is all about telling the brand’s story and how it relates to consumer sentiments. Once considered uncommon, the strategy is becoming imperative in a marketplace that places increased emphasis on not only what a business does but who they are in a socially sensitive and sustainable environment. Perhaps it remains a bit uncommon in practice because the effort generally requires considerable attention to changing trends in the marketplace and the investment of time, money, and energy to realize longer-term results. Typically results can be subjective to measure and challenging to quantify but failing to advance a brand’s value and reputation may result in it becoming irrelevant in an ever-more competitive and enlightened marketplace.