Does your business have what it takes to succeed in today's increasingly competitive marketplace?
If you have a product or service that everyone needs and no one else offers, it's easy to be the best. Unfortunately, that's not a reality for most businesses today. To succeed in the real world, businesses need every advantage they can get. Many CEOs agree that the way to win is to build and manage their company's brand. Have you heard the saying, "Build it and they will come?" Well, it might not be that simple, but if you build a strong brand, then customers will be more likely to come!
A Logo is NOT a Brand
Your business has a name and logo and you advertise, but do you have a brand? Successful CEOs and business owners know that branding goes deeper than a name and logo. Logos, tag lines and advertising campaigns are traditional marketing tactics that merely scratch the surface. Brands connect with customers.
Do you Need a Brand?
Branding a product or service differentiates you from your competitors. It’s the key to turning prospective consumers into loyal customers. A brand is more than what your product does or what you communicate. Your brand identity is the total perception of your brand in the marketplace, including an implied promise to your customers that your product or service will consistently meet their expectations every time they interact with your brand. Brands evoke emotions, delight us, and feel familiar and reliable.
About now, you might be saying to yourself, "That's great for large corporations like Apple or Nike, but what can building a brand do for my business?" Defining your brand identity and implementing a well-thought-out brand strategy is probably one of the most important business objectives a company can have.
Marketing is about improving your odds of success — and branding your product or service is a powerful way of doing just that. Why? Think about it. In today's global, high tech world, product features and designs, manufacturing processes and services can be easily duplicated — often for less somewhere else. On the other hand, strongly held beliefs, associations, and attitudes in your customers' minds are not so easily copied.
A strong brand can give you the competitive edge you need.
Strong brands can:
- create greater customer loyalty
- make you less sensitive to competitive pricing
- increase trial of new products
- increase support from trade partners
- provide focus to marketing efforts
- allow you to attract the resources you need such as talent and capital
- are instrumental in developing strategic partnerships
- act as a powerful tool for guiding internal decision making.
Keeping this in mind, it becomes easy to see that a strong brand is a powerful tool for all businesses — large or small — whether you are selling a product or service, selling to consumers or to other businesses. And a well-defined brand strategy is especially critical for start-up companies or those looking to expand.
10 Questions You Need To Ask to Build Your Brand
So now, you know you need a strong brand. The real question is, "How do you build one?" Building a strong brand is about having a clear understanding of what your brand stands for, and then making sure everyone else understands it too. It is as simple — and as complicated — as that.
If you're serious about building a brand, don't start advertising just yet. Marketing tactics are the last step. Building or reenergizing your brand starts with answering some questions about your product or business:
- Who are my customers?
- What customers do I want to have?
- Who are my competitors?
- What is my competitors’ brand position?
- What problem does my company solve? Does anybody care?
- What is my value proposition? Is it distinctive? Is it relevant to my customers?
- When people think about my company or product, what are the feelings and associations I want them to have? Are they unique? Can we “own” them?
- What are the functional benefits that we deliver to our customers?
- What are the emotional benefits that only we deliver to our customers?
- What kind of personality will my brand have?
The last two questions are critical if you really want to build a valuable brand. In his Top 10 Brand Precepts, David Aaker talks about the importance of getting beyond functional benefits. Emotional benefits are a much stronger way to differentiate your brand. How does someone feel when they buy or use your brand? Volvo, Hallmark and Crayola are all brands that evoke strong emotional associations. Brand personality can set your brand apart from the competition.
When you answer these questions, you will have the basic building blocks of your brand strategy. Although it may seem like a lot of work, the benefits of defining your brand identity will be more than worth it. Developing your brand strategy is much more than a marketing tactic. It's a fundamental part of good business. Done right it becomes a powerful management and execution tool to help you develop stronger customer relationships, create effective, cost-efficient marketing campaigns and a more unified organization.
Sue Cyliax is a member of the Northeast Chief Outsiders team. Contact Sue at firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn.