In part 1 of this 3-part series, Insights, the nuggets of information that help to focus a company on opportunities and issues that impact the growth of their business were discussed. If you haven’t read Part 1, Insights yet, click here. I believe that in an ideal situation, gathering insights (#1) to build your brand (#2) and develop your plans (#3), is critical to developing a successful strategic marketing plan.
Businesses and brands are not people, but people comprise and create them. How people within a business are thinking, feeling, and acting defines how the business behaves as a whole.
In fact, we often attribute human characteristics to a brand in order to understand and clarify how it affects the relationship with the end-user. However, a brand actually represents the perception of the collective characteristics of all of the people involved. A brand can be a natural extension of the values (and archetypes) of the creators of the business.
People are in relationships with brands. They come to know you by how you behave, not by how you say you behave. Brands are evaluated and understood by their actions, not necessarily by their intentions.
Developing and defining a brand, its message, and its strategies is a process. Understanding the current market dynamics including the competitive landscape, the desired position by you, and the team in the marketplace and establishing the fundamental platform to define the brand is essential.
When thinking about branding, many tend to think of it as those visual cues: layouts, logos, color palette, website, etc. Important stuff, but we need to think more strategically, first. Understanding aspects of the brand such as how its positioned in the market, customer perceptions, and how it is differentiated from your competitors can build the essential base to inform your creative. It should not be the other way around.
Above all, your brand must be meaningful and relevant to your audience. If it doesn’t motivate, persuade, or change behaviors and attitudes then . . . what’s the point?
Years ago, I worked on a biodegradable non-toxic cleaner. The client was in the automotive world and wanted to expand to grocery stores. We went out into the marketplace and conducted consumer research that was extremely focused on different product attributes and messaging that would help customers choose them over competitors. But strategically we missed something really important . . . price. We realized that they did indeed want that safer product, but they didn’t want to pay extra for it. I highlight this story because it illustrates how comprehensive and actionable your questions need to be in order to get the whole picture.
Keep the following five questions in mind when thinking about your brand, regardless if you are developing your positioning or repositioning your brand.
1. What perception do you want to own in the minds of your customers? The only way to find that out is to ask them. You have your perception, but maybe your customers/prospects don’t share it! If they don’t, then you need to figure out a way to change their perception. Part of this is about solidifying your brand’s reputation as well.
2. What are the core values that guide your brand’s behaviors? Most companies have identified those core values; however, if you haven’t, please put it on top of your to-do list. Stick to them, because if they start to shift externally, internally (remember that internal marketing–messaging to your own company– is crucial), or both, you will could cause confusion in the market-leading to issues down the road.
3. What are the unique differentiators that help you create and leverage your brand? I use a simple tool to help with this called VRIO, which stands for:
Most of the time when I begin this process with a client I hear “we have great people” as a differentiator. But guess what, other companies in your market have great people too! “We were founded 40 years ago!” Well, your competitor was founded 35 years ago and that sounds just as good to customers. You need to think about and identify what is truly valuable to your customers, is it unique to you (Rare) and difficult to Imitate. Only then do you have something you can use as leverage in your marketing for the long-term with a true competitive point of differentiation.
4. Do you have a strong point-of-view and clearly stand for something? Sometimes brands put so many different messages out there that they don’t stand for one particular thing. Ask yourself, what does your company really stand for? And, to start, ask yourself what business are you truly in? The CEO of Black and Decker once said, “People don’t go into a DIY store because they need one of our drills. They go because they need a hole in their wall.”
5. What is your brand promise? What does your brand promise to deliver and do you, in fact, deliver it? This is an area where brands can easily fall down. You need to make sure everyone in the company understands and can deliver on your promise each and every day.
There are many aspects to building your brand and this brief blog is meant to reinforce the importance of building a strong brand in the market. Your overarching brand can weather the ups and downs of market changes as you introduce new products, make shifts in your services, etc. Everything you do can impact your brand. Companies spend years building enduring brands, but with technology and the global marketplace, all your efforts can be impacted with a single tweet.
On my website, I have an ebook about storytelling and integrating your story into your brand that you can download by CLICKING HERE.
Look for Part 3 in this series, PLANNING, posting in the next few weeks.
Check out our NEW, APPLES Marketing Strategy Framework eBook, Workbook, and Workshop to help guide you in developing your plan.