Consumers today make hundreds of split-second decisions. What detergent to buy. What coffee to order. What restaurant to visit. These repetitive purchase decisions can determine profits for businesses that are able to convey the best offerings. Through brand, namely a symbol, representation, and schema of a company, consumers can be swayed to choose your product over competitors’. Although it is often associated with logos and typography, branding really encompasses something deeper than just the visual representation of an organization. This is known as positioning your brand.
The first step in developing a strong and authentic brand is to understand the deeper purpose, impact, and meaning of your company. To know what your organization does, and why it does this, dictates how to resemble that to consumers. More importantly, knowing how consumers perceive you is essential when developing your brand strategy. Everyone knows that Apple has one of the greatest brands. Let’s take a look at why. As one of the largest companies in the world, Apple was able to create and offer products that emulated Steve Jobs’ initial purpose of the organization: to create a personal device for the everyday man, in bringing together intuitive design, simplicity, and technological intelligence. This was a feat never to be achieved before. And yet, Apple was able to build one of the strongest examples of consumer loyalty thanks to innovative branding. Not only did the iPhone resemble physical simplicity, but Apple designed its entire company image around the beauty of ease-of-use in technology. They didn’t stop at that. Their website, marketing, and packaging has a consistent look and feel that aligns with their brand. Company recognition through consistency of brand is key to the success. As Forbes journalist Ekaterina Walter says, “Core values don’t have to be all things to all people, rather they must be specific and authentic to who you are. They need to demonstrate who you are, not who you want to be” (Walter, Thoughtful Branding: Where the Company Begins and Ends).
TIP: Customer insights should drive your brand strategy. Take time to research the emotional drivers that impact your customer’s behavior. Understanding the why, not just the what, will lead to successful brand performance.
Once you understand the values and culture of your brand, we move to step two: conduct internal and external analysis in order to understand your industry, competitors, and direct rivals. Unless you can truly understand the competition in your industry, based on who you are competing with and how, you will not be able to shape an effective brand that brings you competitive advantage in the marketplace. There are a variety of effective frameworks that can be analyzed through internal and external analyses, like Porter’s Five Forces, but the main purpose of this type of research is to gain an understanding of consumer habits and trends in your arena. If you can gain an insight on what is changing and what makes people buy your industry’s products, you will know how to translate your own purpose and mission into your brand.
TIP: When doing your competitive research, focus on similarities and differentiators. Understanding why choosing your business over a competitor is beneficial to the consumer.
The third and final step is to strategize how you will communicate your values and competitive advantage in the marketplace. When you know who you are, what you are pursuing, and you communicate your story crisply, it is easy to build relationships with consumers and tap into your TAM, or total available market for your product or service. There is no silver bullet for how to build a brand that effectively brings you profits and growth, but the main keys to success are authenticity and consistency. Whether it is through a logo, email, social media, store layout, packaging, pricing, (the list goes on), you must remain consistent and authentic to your mission and pursuit of competitive advantage in order to attract customers. And if you truly know who you are and where you stand in the industry, you will be able to translate that into your brand. Branding is a mentality, rather than a one-time analysis or marketing exercise. Branding, “gives a chance to your customers, your partners, your vendors, your employees to feel like they are part of a tribe, it gives them a much-needed sense of belonging, thus allowing you to build a movement around your purpose,” (Walter, Thoughtful Branding: Where the Company Begins and Ends). And if this movement stays true to who you are, your brand will become powerful enough to help you stand out from your competitors, creating value through purpose.
TIP: Communicating your brand position must be consistent through every touchpoint with the customer. Make sure you focus on internal training before pushing your external messaging. Conflicting experiences or setting expectations that are not met will have a lasting negative impact on your relationship with your customers.