Business Hurting? Maybe You Need a “Brand-Aid”

One of the projects I’m working on is helping a client “rebrand” his company. To assist in that process, I presented him with some guiding principles to consider. Some are intuitive, others less obvious, but I thought I’d share them here in case you are wondering if your brand is healthy or needs a “brand-aid”.

What IS a healthy “brand”? Simply put, a healthy brand is the <em>trustworthy, memorable (and referable) essence of your company’s values, people and products/services</em>. In other words, it’s an accurate summary that consumers can understand, remember and share with others. That’s a pretty tall order, and not easy to accomplish, but adopting a brand — and more importantly — <b>being</b> that brand is essential to the health of your business.

How do you build a healthy brand? Read on:

What are the core components of a brand? Obviously, your company’s name is a key part of your brand identity. Large companies with huge marketing budgets can create brand identification even if their name doesn’t embody the essence of their products or services. Think Nike, Sony, Cadillac, Georgia-Pacific, Apple (all with registered trademarks held by their respective owners, of course). A smaller company, however, might be better served by giving a hint as to its services within the company name. My company, Chenoweth Content & Design, provides — you guessed it — content (i.e., writing, editing, etc.) and graphic design services.

I must admit that I find it downright vexing why so many small, local businesses insist on using a name like Last Name and Associates, or XYZ Solutions, or Knick Knacks & More. (At least we know that KK & M deals in knick knacks, vague as that might be, but what on earth comprises “& More”?). Of course, your company name can’t list every service you provide or product you sell, but give us a clue and you’ll stand a better chance of creating a memorable brand.

Some people think that’s all there is to it: name = brand. But a successful brand goes far beyond this. Other obvious elements include your logo, your website, your marketing collateral, signage, etc. Because these visual elements are usually front and center, many people stop here in developing their brand, but let’s dig deeper:

Other brand essentials: Your brand should also reflect and include your positioning statement and marketing messages. From your unique selling proposition and tagline (you have these, don’t you?) to your talking points and supporting content, your marketing communications must reinforce your brand. If they don’t, you risk confusing consumers and causing them to look elsewhere.

Your day-to-day operations activities and how you serve your customers are also key to creating and bolstering your brand. This includes not only your products and services, but also the staff who deliver them, and HOW they deliver them. Customer service is indeed an essential part of your brand; for your current customers, it is probably the <em>most</em> important part.

For targets who are not yet your customers, however, the most important factor in your company’s brand is this: their perception of what your company does, what it stands for, and how it can serve their wants and needs. Ultimately, no matter how neat and tidy the other components are, if the consumer doesn’t perceive your brand as meeting their requirements — even if it truly does — your brand-building and brand expression need work.

What can a healthy brand do for your company? Your brand can be threatened by a failure in any single facet. Get all these facets working in sync, however, and your brand can consistently illuminate the benefits of doing business with your company AND will do so in a way that resonates with targets so that it is “top of mind” when their wants and needs must be met. A moving target to be sure, but a necessary lofty goal.

Essential questions/considerations: How can you begin to assess and fine tune your brand? The first step is to answer these key questions:

  • Who are your ideal customers (current clients and desired targets)?
  • What are their pain points, their wants and needs?
  • Who are your competitors (business rivals, do-it-yourselfers, etc. And don’t forget that, in most cases, doing nothing IS a choice for the consumer)?
  • What are your competitors’ promise points (how do they suggest that consumers will benefit from using their services)?
  • What are your own marketable products/services and expertise?
  • How do you deliver these products/services and how can you deliver them better?

Bottom Line:

Branding is an ongoing process of analysis and implementing lessons learned, but by answering these questions, you can more effectively determine the best brand for your company. What’s more, you can then position your business for strategic targeting, competitive differentiation, day-to-day marketing and operations, and overall success. If you’d like to discuss your brand challenges, contact me. You might discover that you need a radical brandectomy, but more likely, you’ll find that making a few simple changes can restore your brand, and your business, to better health.

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~ by Bob Chenoweth on 08/04/2011.

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