Strong branding comes from strategic thought and introspection, honesty with yourself and your market. Once brand is established, advertising will maintain it.
Yes. Advertising comes AFTER brand. I can create a fabulous ad that sends a truckload of sales enquiries to your door, but if you cannot honour the promises the brand makes (which of course drives the advertising), we’ve achieved nothing more than a truckload of disenfranchised customers.
Advertising is used to maintain brand… not create it.
When a brand successfully makes a connection with its target market and communicates its distinct advantage, people will WANT to talk about it and word-of-mouth advertising will develop naturally. Once that differentiation is established, good advertising maintains and shapes the brand… but it will never create it.
So, where do we start? Firstly, accept that you already have a brand and the task at hand is to MANAGE it. If your brand is not effectively managed, you allow a perception (brand) to evolve that may not work for you. IT’S ALL ABOUT PERCEPTION.
Brand management is the recognition that your target market’s perception may differ from what you desire and so you attempt to shape those perceptions and adjust the branding strategy to ensure they become exactly what you want them to be. So… we need to get to know our brand. You need to know “who” you are, who you “want” to be and who you “can” be. Knowing who you “can” be is as important as who you “want” to be.
It may be that with the corporate culture you have in place, or the team that exists, your “want” and your “can” don’t match. At this point it is vital to note that failure to deliver on a brand promise is brand suicide. Everything you say from such a point on is tainted with the falsehood.
A STRONG BRAND IS BASED ON WHAT YOU ARE, OR SOMETHING THAT YOU CAN LEGITIMATELY ASPIRE TO BE… it’s about honesty.
Now that we’re managing our brand, we need to sort our strategy. We’ve got to get it out there and get the punters choosing our brand over our competitors. A good branding strategy addresses four key elements:
It is unique
In order to ascertain your brand’s point of difference, you must first understand your “points of parity”. These are the associations that are often shared by competing brands. Your target audience will view these associations as evidence of legitimacy within your category. If you create what you consider to be the ultimate point of difference yet fail to measure up to the “minimum product expectations” of your target audience, your point of difference will not be strong enough to sell your product or service. Your brand must therefore consider and address your category’s points of parity AND establish a point of difference… your USP—unique selling proposition.
It is believable
Today’s consumer is more knowledgeable and more skeptical than ever before. Therefore, you must not only give them a logical— let’s say left-brained—“reason why” to support your claims, your brand must give them “permission” to believe your claims. Even though many brand choice decisions have a strong emotional basis, you must make sure you offer enough logical rationale to justify them. Encourage that first buy-in.
The “permission” to believe your brand comes from your brand integrity, living up to your promise, testimonials, consistency in experience, professionalism of presentation, quality design, etc.
It is relevant
It is not enough to tell your target audience what you do; you must tell them how they will benefit by choosing your brand. From a marketing perspective, it is vital to ask yourself “Does my ‘brand promise’ really matter to my customers?” “Is this the most motivating way to present my brand?”
It is true
Remember, your brand is intrinsically a promise—a pledge. This is a double-edged sword. Making an unsupportable claim may get you a sale, but if you don’t live up to that claim, you will probably lose that customer—FOREVER! Plus all of the others they will tell about their bad experience. Studies show that, on average, people with a positive experience will tell three others… people with a bad experience, however, will tell eight. Imagine the impact of social media on that!
Whatever you do, remember this: Good brands—brands that thrive—reflect their core culture and unique character, solve relevant needs and provide a consistent experience for their customers.
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© Jo Starling 2013. All Rights Reserved.Please feel free to quote my articles, but please give credit accordingly and include a link back to this site (www.jostarling.com).
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