Guest blogger – Bruce McKinnon – Brand Strategist
No matter what sector, product, service or geographical region, we often come up against clients with the same problem. Namely that whilst they’re very good at identifying their features and benefits; the different markets they operate in and the audiences they target, they all struggle corralling all of that into a single point. To be able to express their offer in a single-minded way that can be universally applied to every one of their services and any one of their customers is a challenge.
And that’s the role of a good brand strategy, to marshal every aspect of a business into a single direction that delivers clarity for both the customer and the business itself. Think of the brand as a wide open door to your business, allowing customers to easily see what’s on offer and so be more willing to step into it. If the brand isn’t defined, or is expressed badly, that door remains firmly shut.
So how to create a brand that can encourage your customers to take the step through your door? Well actually there’s 4 steps!
Step 1. Express you ambition – where exactly are you headed?
Defining the destination of your business is critical because if the brand is going to support and equip you to meet your ambition, it needs to know where you are going. If your ambition is to be the best known brand in the world, you will not develop your organisation in the same way as you would if you were creating a niche brand that serves a small number of customers. The brand needs to know!
Start small – define where you want to be in 12 months, it’s important to acknowledge what the immediate next steps are because it will shape where your time and resources are required. Once that’s done it’s easier to think a little longer term, still keeping an eye on resources but being able to say, assuming we meet our short-term goals what would success look like in say, 3 years?
And that allows you to think big! To capture a bold and exciting vision, not tied to transactional issues, that is motivating to your team, customers and investors. And whether you ever get there is actually not as important as committing to head towards it in the first place.
Step 2. Positioning – capturing what lies at the of the business
Your positioning is simply how the brand is positioned in the minds of the people charged with creating and delivering it – your team. To define for the team the core nature of the brand – what common theme all the products and services share.
In essence, it defines what the point of your business is, and points are useful as they’re sharp, tend to stick into things and there’s just one of them (think arrow!). Being singular means a single focus – only one thing to communicate – the oft told story still remains true today that its easier to catch one tennis ball than 20 – and it’s just the same with messages. (Just don’t try the exercise with arrows!)
Oh, yes, and you should be able to capture your positioning in one or two words only!
Step 3. Proposition – expressing the positioning to your audience
The proposition is the start of the narrative of the brand, the first few words in the story about to be told. Often used as a tagline placed on items like products, the web site and stationery it tees up the audience to expect certain things from the brand. So, it will help the sales person introduce the products, the new starter to get an immediate sense of the organisation, the customer to know what kind of a company it is.
It should be an expression of the positioning that is clear to all, no matter what their relationship to the organisation is. Its job is to capture in a half dozen words or so, just what makes your business relevant to its audiences and different from its competitors. Relevant means its audiences will want to engage because it’s going to meet their needs. Different because being relevant isn’t enough if all the organisations in the sector deliver the same service – what is it about this brand that is different from the rest?
Step 4. Values – the character traits that define your business
Just as you can sum up the character of a person, you should be able to sum up the character of your business. How your business behaves, the tone it uses in communications, how it presents itself to the world, how it treats its staff, the products or services that it produces etc etc.
So values need to be identified, embodied and embedded in the brand. This means a customer can access any part of the business and have a consistent experience – not an identical one, but one that demonstrates one or a number of its values.
Values have two other very useful functions. They can be used as a benchmark for the team responsible for the business – to help both reflect the current brand and help to shape new products and offerings. They are also a great start in building a set of messages about the most important aspects of the brand.
So there you have it, 4 steps to delivering a brand that can in turn deliver customers into your business.
Bruce McKinnon is our Brand Strategist and develops brand strategies for clients in Europe and the US across technology, healthcare and retail. To book a free brand audit to see how well you brand matches your business drop Robin a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org