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Friday, 14 June 2013

A Quick Way To Establish Your Brand And Its Values

Branding is generally associated with external audiences e.g. customers, prospects, partners, investors and press. Everything your company does, communicates your brand to the waiting world. From website to letterhead, receptionist to location, it all helps potential customers to decide how to respond to your outreach.

Branding is just as important for your internal audience (existing and future staff), but more often than not, when I speak to a new client, there's a lack of agreement between employees, around who their company is and what it does for its customers.

If you find yourself struggling to reach consensus across your organisation, answering the following questions can really help.
  1. What words would you use to describe [insert company name] today?
  2. What words would you like to be using to describe [insert company name] 5 years from now?
  3. Who or what do you regard as your main competitors?
  4. Which words would you use to describe the competitors mentioned in question 3?
  5. Why do/would customers choose [insert company name] over the alternatives available?
  6. Which one attribute would you want [insert company name] to be known for?
  7. In your own words, what does [insert company name] do?
There are no right or wrong answers in this exercise.  Think of it as structured brain storming.  Ideally you should gather as many responses as possible - you can keep it to employees only or invite customer and distributor input too.  Look for patterns in the replies that you collect.  What sort of language is being used - descriptive, market jargon, active or passive voice?  Where are the gaps i.e. which questions did respondents struggle with most?

As a rough rule of thumb, your brand values, are the words which you'd use to describe yourself now and in the future, (the overlap in answers between questions 1 and 2). They are the essence of what your company stands for and should help potential customers to form expectations of service, quality, credibility etc.

Questions 3 and 4 help you define the market that you're in and let you compare the alternatives, just as your potential customers will, when making a purchase decision.  Make sure to include the internet and apathy alongside your named competitors, because todays endless choices often result in people making no decision at all.

Question 5 is designed to make you think about the benefits your product/service supplies, in the minds of your potential customers. Often companies present benefits in terms of product features rather than the actual value that customers gain from buying or using your product.  Think about how your product makes people feel, as well as what they actually get.  Knowing why people choose your brand makes messaging and content creation much easier.

Question 6 cuts to the core value.  What do you stand for?  If you say Volvo, people think of safety, and this trait has been stated in every marketing message that they produce, to convince us of its truth.  Brands need to  have a purpose.  None of us want to buy from faceless corporations.  What's at the heart of your organisation?

Question 7 tests whether you have a value proposition or not.  It's amazing how even people in the same department will paint a very different picture of their brand, when asked what their company does.  This is hardly surprising since we tend to define a company by our role in it, however, building your brand is about clearly and consistently sharing what you stand for, to position your offering in the hearts and minds of potential customers. If it seems like I've now looped back to the first paragraph in this post, then you can see how this all fits together.

In this age of social sharing, understanding your brand and its values, let's you define and reach your audience in ever more granularity.  Knowing who you appeal to and why, gives you the best chance of return on your marketing budget and there's no longer any excuse to mass market and hope something sticks.   As the saying goes, if you aim at nothing, you're bound to hit it.

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