This article is designed to help small to medium business develop a compelling brand strategy that attracts the rights customers and increases business value.
Great brands add economic value to business in several ways.
- A compelling brand increases target market consideration. Consideration means the brand makes it into the customer’s list of purchase choices. The more consideration, the greater likelihood of a sales outcome
- The next step up in brand power is preference. To be a preferred brand has two effects. Firstly, it can further increase sales conversion rates. More importantly, high levels of preference result in higher prices, which have a direct and positive impact on profit
- Brands are ultimately defined by the brand’s behaviour. So, the best brand strategies set the scene and create a guide book for all marketing and customer experience activity
- Great brands are also recruitment magnets that increase the quality of employee applicants, reduce the cost of recruitment and improve employee retention
Everyone and every brand needs a purpose
It is a fact of consumer psychology that people react to brands in very human ways. It’s part of our emotionally driven being. The major brand trend in recent times is the design of purpose driven brands. This all began more than a decade ago as a leadership approach. We all know that when we have a purpose and share that purpose with others around us, it is extremely motivating.
Then along came Simon Sinek, who in his excellent book, Start With Why. The book translated this thinking into the way businesses articulate themselves through their brand. The central premise of the book is: People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Therefore, the business goal when operating in a customer centric way is not to do business with anybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe. This thinking has had a profound impact on the way that the best brand strategies are developed. It is the secret sauce in reaching peak customer relevance.
The components of a great brand
Great brands are built on beliefs and purpose. They guide a brand’s behaviour and the customer experience. The primary objective within the strategy is to create synergy between the emotional and rational behaviour of customers, and the strengths of the brand that are relevant to the customer. This intersection of customer and brand beliefs and purpose is where brand value percolates from.
The first stage of development is customer understanding. Demographics matter of course, but most important is understanding of the target customer’s life, challenges, hopes and dreams. To understand their purpose and way of being. This involves both a big picture view of their lives, and in the ways most relevant to the customer’s relationship with the categories in which the brand competes. The aim is to establish a deep emotional and rational understanding.
From this understanding, the strategist develops a distilled insight that is a broad and relevant truth. It should be broad enough to cover the current and mid-term future of the brand. And narrow enough to be highly relevant to the customer and the business. Done well, an accurate insight will elicit a nodding head from those who read it. It is a truth, not a fantasy.
The next stage is to capture the core beliefs held within the brand or business. Sometimes these are already captured within business values. Either way, we are seeking to establish the inner drivers of the brand from within. These are truths without compromise.
Then comes strengths and differences. What are we really great at and how are we different from our competitors?
Small and medium businesses often have a strong sense of all these areas of input to the brand strategy. But there is always value in undertaking original research to uncover additional useful insights. The bottom line is, the better we understand the customer, the better the brand strategy will be.
The stage is now set. We have the information captured and now start work on the creative strategic thinking required. At Poignand Consulting, this is the way we build brand strategies.
- Target market and market segments
- Core customer insight
- Why we exist. This is our core purpose. It’s never to make money, or even to make a widget. It is a relevant and meaningful purpose that in some way makes the world a better place for our customers. The why is seeks to establish a common aim with current and future customers.
- How we do it. This describes the way we go about doing what we do. How are we different? How a customer can expect their experience to be?
- What we do is simply, what we do. Our product our service
- The brand tone is terms of the look, feel and way we speak
- The brand story. A short and inspiring story of why we exist and how behave.
Every time we develop a brand, (and I say this without any sense of self-congratulation) it is amazing the impact it has on the people in the business. It always results in increased confidence. Confidence comes from the clarity of purpose developed and the clear was in which the business can now articulate their brand. Simply, it does what it’s supposed to do – guide marketing and customer experience outcomes.
Have a think about your brand. If it’s not super clear to you, it unlikely to be to anyone.
Now there’s a challenge.
Stuart Poignand is the founder and director of Poignand Consulting, a strategically focussed marketing agency that helps business to unlock value from its brands, products, services and customer experiences.