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Tips & Bits #46: So You Want To Create a Brand

Do you know exactly what makes your company, business, product, or service interesting, compelling and different?

Unless you’ve made the effort to define your position in the market and to communicate it using engaging language, your brand is condemned to be an also-ran, if it’s lucky enough to survive at all.

Here are Six Steps to giving birth to that elusive “beast” known as a BRAND.

What you aren’t helps define you.
It’s an obvious requirement to define what you are. It’s equally important to define what you are not. When you try to stand for everything, the end result is precisely the same as standing for nothing.

As humans, we want to be universally liked. We want everyone to find us appealing and attractive. But the essence of positioning is sacrifice. The goal of defining a strong brand isn’t to appeal to the largest number of consumers, but smaller more clearly identified target.

Would you rather take your Italian Sports Car to a mechanic that specializes in Japanese, German, Italian and British automobiles – or the mechanic who services only Italian cars like your Alfa Romeo?

The difference between awareness and equity.
Just because a large number of people may have heard of your company doesn’t mean you have built a brand. Name awareness and brand equity are merely tangentially related. We all know dozens of brand names without having a clue as to what they stand for.

That’s an example of name awareness but no brand equity.

To progress from awareness to equity, these questions must be answered:

  • Who is this company?
  • What do they make?
  • Why are they better than “the other guy?”
  • When did they start doing this?
  • Where do they make it and sell it?
  • How is their company, product, or service better than the competition?

People like to buy specific brands, not generic products.

Discovery leads to definition.
You don’t really define your brand. It’s more of a discovery process. The qualities that make your brand what it is and can be are already there, deep inside, in the form of strengths and competencies. As a starting point, consider what has made your business successful thus far.

Can you answer these questions about your own company and/or product and/or service:

  • What kind of customer(s) does your product/service appeal to?
  • In what area(s) does your company/product/service provide superior results?
  • What are the strength(s) of your company/product/service?
  • What distribution channel(s) are you utilizing?
  • What approach or philosophy is your company/product/service known for?

Making the connection to your target.
If you can come up with a good answer for each of these three questions, you’re on your way:

  • What value do we provide to our customers?
  • Who are the customers we deliver the value to?
  • How do we deliver value?

At the crossroads of the answers to these questions you’ll find your differentiating position:
“We offer (your service) for (your market) by (your method).”

This process is challenging because it requires sacrifice. You’ll probably have to give something up. In branding your firm, the goal is to be exclusive. Appeal to somebody, not everybody.

The acid test of the position.
There are three essential conditions that lead to a strong positioning:
Authentic. The position is an honest reflection of what the business or product does, or is capable of. It comes directly out of the company’s strengths.
Exclusive. The position excludes as many prospects as it includes. It’s focused on what the business or product does best. It’s the result of making a sacrifice. It recognizes that a company can’t be known for everything, it must be known for something.
Definitive. The position is designed to appeal only to a limited group of prospects. Some will be attracted and others won’t. Some will be interested and some won’t. It may even inspire controversy.

Do your actions align with your words?
Now we come to a really tough assignment: making sure your practices are in alignment with your position. It’s easy to talk the talk – can your company walk the walk? It’s like the old saying that actions speak louder than words – the practices that your company follows brings the brand to life.

A positioning points the way to a destination. But practices are how you get there.
Continually question the direction the company is moving in: “What must change in order to bring our brand to life in everything we do?” It’s not just a new letterhead, a new brochure and a slick website. Branding begins on the inside and works its way out.

It’s reflected in five Ps every business:
Place (of business)

To be successful, practices must be united with positioning. All this goes into that quixotic entity we call a brand. It’s why in the annual reports of every company you’ll see a number that is labeled: intangible assets including goodwill.

Brands bring extra value to the companies that nurture and protect their names and identities.

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