What is a brand? Seems like an easy question until you dig a little deeper into what it means to your business and how you effectively shout it from the roof tops. In essence, you need to peel back the layers and figure out what makes your organization tick. Your brand is more than just your logo, name or slogan — it’s the sum of the parts and depending upon whether you’ve done the math correctly, the answer to the equation can either be a positive or a negative one. Your brand is the entire experience your prospects and customers have with your company, product or service. Your brand strategy should ultimately define what you stand for, the promise you make, and the personality you convey. The ultimate goal is to influence the market and earn “mindshare”.
There are many components that will shape your brand. Just as with any stable structure, the foundation needs to be built with a solid foothold. Before you build the strategy, you need to do some ground work on building and defining your competitive position. Your competitive positioning is about defining how you’ll “differentiate” your product or service and create value in the marketplace. Let’s look at some segments that will help you influence your position.
- Market profile: Identify the size of your target market, similar competitors and stage of growth within your market. Where is it within its life cycle…immerging, maturing or declining?
- Customer segments: Identify prospects that have similar wants & needs. Uncovering true wants, needs and addressing pain points can help you stand above the competition.
- Competitive analysis: Do an internal audit on your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that can help you identify your current status and how you can improve. It can also be effective to audit the competition in the same fashion. As the saying goes, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”.
- Method for delivering value: Develop a game plan on how you will deliver the highest value to the market. Essentially there are 3 ways:
- Efficiency in operation which helps keep costs down.
- Having a unique product. Being a leader in innovation.
- Your level of expertise. Offering specialized solutions that address need. Offering the highest level of customer service.
Without clearly defining what differentiates your brand, it will take more time to engage your audience, deplete resources and ultimately force you to compete on price alone, which is tough to sustain in the long term and commoditizes your brand. Evaluate what you want to be known for and put your analysis, effort and hard work into the key differentiator.
BUILDING THE BRAND
1. Having a Sense of Purpose
According to Business Strategy Insider, purpose can be viewed in two ways:
Functional: This concept focuses on the evaluations of success in terms of immediate and commercial reasons — i.e. the purpose of the business is to make money.
Intentional: This concept focuses on success as it relates to the ability to make money and do good in the world.
Of course, the functional purpose of your brand is to make money. However, it’s not exactly how you would position your brand. It’s not every day you see a tagline that reads: “buy our products…we’re in it for the money!” The intentional purpose holds more merit and should be the reason you come to work and do what you do every day.
2. Defining the Personality Behind Your Brand and Keep the Message Consistent.
- Your brand should have a distinct personality as if it were a living breathing thing.
- Develop a positioning statement and consistent messaging about your brand. Commit them to memory and rehearse often so you can effectively communicate what your brand represents.
- Visual consistency is important. Develop a brand guideline that defines how your brand will look and feel. Everything from the colors you use, fonts, imagery and design aesthetic that brings your brand personality to life in the visual sense. Brand guidelines are essential in order to communicate with internal and external stake holders and to establish and maintain a highly recognizable, consistent presence within the marketplace.
3. Appealing to Emotion
Customers are not always rational. In most cases, their decisions are driven by emotion rather than reason. Being able to tap into that mindset can yield powerful results. How do you make your customers’ lives better? Do you offer them a sense of purpose or belonging to something greater than themselves? Clearly identify the emotional driving force behind your product or service and bring that aspect of your brand to the forefront.
4. Cultivate a Positive Culture Within
Educate your employees on your brand and what it represents. Develop a short elevator pitch so your employees can communicate effectively about who you are and what you do. Your employees are your brand ambassadors…arm them with the tools they need to tell your brand story and believe in it.
Develop an internal communication strategy to keep your employees in the know about changes and developments within your organization. Keeping them in the loop will allow them to communicate how your company is evolving to deliver value to the marketplace. It can be as simple as creating an internal branded email communication, a company newsletter or organize a monthly companywide meeting to bring everyone up to speed.
Creating a positive company culture increases productivity and morale, boosts creative and collaborative thinking and motivates your employees to go the extra mile to do right by the company and your clients. Give them a reason to have some “skin in the game” and they will reward you for it.
5. Be Flexible in Your Approach
Client demands are constantly evolving, and successful brands are receptive to adapt to change. Consistency in carrying out your brand strategy is important because it sets the standard for your brand. However, flexibility enables you to make adjustments that build interest and distinguishes your approach from that of your competitors. Consistency allows you to remain identifiable, but variation enables your brand to be fresh and relevant. If your approach has worked in the past, but your results are waning, it may be time to consider a new tactic and adjust your approach.
6. Reward Customer Loyalty
Your customers and clients are the reason for your existence. Without them, you are in a sense… “all dressed up and going nowhere”. They have stood by your side during the good and the bad and have promoted your brand religiously. Just like your dedicated employees, they are your brand ambassadors in the broader sense. They have promoted you, talked about you and sang your praises. They should be recognized for their dedication and loyalty.
Sometimes, just a simple thank you is all that’s needed. Other times, it’s better to go above and beyond. Write them a personalized letter. Sent them some special swag. Recognize them on social media or on your website.
7. Evaluate the Competitive Landscape
As I had mentioned earlier, it is a good practice to keep tabs on what the competition is doing. Are they successful in their brand execution or are they falling short in their efforts? Either way, use it to your advantage and make note of their successes and learn from their failures. The idea is not to mimic their every move, but to be on a parallel track and eventually head them off at the pass.
Your brand is your unique calling card and should differentiate you from your competitors. Cultivate new roads, invent the conversation and plot a new course to greener pastures. Remember, you don’t want to “be the competition” you want to “beat the competition”.
8. Measuring Success
OK…so you have outlined the strategy, developed the creative, fine-tuned your messaging and you are ready to hit the gas pedal. How do you determine what kind of gas mileage you are getting on your journey?
There are three basic metrics to help guide you in determining if your efforts are effective:
Interaction, Participation and Engagement.
Interaction is the first stop along the way. Measuring interaction is simple: Has a customer taken action based on your emotional-value offering? For example, did someone click the link? Did they walk through the doors? Did they watch the video? Did they open the email? Interaction does not necessarily equate to value. To truly discover value, you must dig deeper than clicks and likes and start uncovering the reasons behind these actions.
Engagement is about the quality of the interaction and how far someone is willing to go once they’ve interacted with your brand.
In order to measure engagement, track response to the things your business is asking of customers after they interact with you. Will a customer give you their email address? Did they sign up to pre-order? Did someone comment on your post? Did they share your content? When a customer chooses to engage with you, it usually means they are choosing you as a brand they most relate to.
However, engagement alone cannot sustain emotional-value in the long run. To do that, requires participation on your part. If the relationship stalls at the engagement level, it is most likely they will move on to another brand that is bombarding them with the same message.
Participation is the deepest level of emotional-value in the brand-customer relationship. When a customer is truly passionate about your brand and performs actions to exhibit that devotion, that’s participation. For example, does a customer brag about their purchase? Does someone consistently show up to your events? Do they recruit others to the cause? Are they excited to identify themselves as a customer?
Brand building is about authentic, consistent and purposeful relationship building. Consumers create allegiances and loyalty to brands they trust and care deeply about, what they buy and what that says about them. Just like any relationship, the process takes time and requires a deep understanding of the symbiotic brand-customer relationship.