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Editorial: Keeping Your Promise

With media clutter at an all-time high, the importance of strong branding has never been more crucial. At last week's CTAM conference in Denver, Paul Lavoie, chairman of Montreal-based advertising agency TAXI, gave a well-received talk on how smart brand management can help networks and distributors break through the clutter and engage their audiences. Following is an excerpt from that talk, featuring his four brand principles that the world's top brands have in common.

1. Clearly define your brand . Before you can build a brand, you must clearly define it. It starts with the owners or senior management of a company deciding on what their company and/or product stands for, and what it can promise the world and [how it can] fulfill a need. As cable networks, you have very inherently defined niches, so we already understand what you stand for.

2. Be consistent . The next characteristic of a great brand is that it is consistent with its storyline. [Companies] make a commitment to their brand promise over time, because it keeps the company focused and becomes a cost-efficient way to have impact in a saturated media landscape.

A brand can only become real and understood when you engage with your customers over time in a consistent manner. Forging brands takes time, and TV is a business that lives and dies on overnight ratings.

The TV business is notorious for changing its promise, [due to] numerous management changes or those rating fears—who knows? But if Nike had the same smart marketing wizards as ABC, they would have had 11 slogans in the last nine years.

3. Live the brand promise. A reputation is built not just on what you do or say, but also on how you behave and engage with your customers at every possible consumer touch point.

The best brands live the brand promise and all sing off the same song sheet. In the case of Apple, every touch point is an opportunity—from Steve Jobs' speeches to its product development, its billing statements, its product design, its call centers and its advertising. The best way to shepherd brands and brand reputations is to live your promise throughout your company and at every consumer touch point.

4. Tell great stories. Finally, tell great stories. Today's best stories are not the ones we simply retell at the water cooler the morning after. We engage with them. We parody them and share them with our friends and the world. A great story amplifies!

Great stories are the ones that are most likely to spread. The most successful and competitive brands commit to a clearly defined position in a consistent and compelling manner that engages their customers and turns them into evangelists.