When people think of a “brand” the first thing that often comes to mind is a logo.
It is not surprising that someone would view a logo itself as the brand because it is the most identifiable visual element related to the product, service or company. However the logo is only a small part of a branding strategy. We think of the “swoosh” as the Nike brand yet the “swoosh” itself is the Nike logo and just a reminder of the brand, but what a reminder! In fact if you go to the Nike web site atwww.nike.com you will not even find the Nike name at the top of the site, you will find ONLY the little orange “swoosh!” The Nike brand conjures-up the desire to compete and win. It clearly communicates high attainment, no excuse environment – just do it! When we make a Nike brand selection we are stepping-up to a higher level performance and making a greater commitment to seriously compete. Consequently Nike products are more often perceived as being more valuable than the competition. They are positioned higher in the prospective customer’s mind. They are willing to make a greater investment and pay more for the product.
HeartshareA well executed brand takes-up residence in the hearts of customers, clients, and prospects. It is the culmination of their experiences and perceptions of the company, product and service. The brand ultimately constitutes the promise to the client. This promise must be packaged in such a way as to accomplish the following goals:
- Clearly communicate the company, product or service message
- Strengthen credibility
- Emotionally motivate the buyer
- Solidify client loyalty
- Create a memorable identity
- Ensure distinctive positioning
By addressing these elements we can build a branding strategy that is more effective to implement. This, far more than developing a cool looking logo, is the true essence of branding. This is similar to one of the rules of attraction that I often talk about in my seminars, books, CDs and classes; “Heartshare is more important than marketshare or even mindshare.” Heartshare is the emotional reason that your company product or service exists. Pre-requisites of BrandingPerhaps now you can see how branding extends far deeper than just a logo. Several aspects of the marketing mix must be addressed in order to develop a branding strategy. I have addressed these in a way that is different than most branding experts. However when implemented faithfully this strategy is extremely effective: 1) Target Audience – practicing “rejection”There are more competitors emerging every day in every industry and profession. Because of this we might find ourselves chasing ANY type of business that we can get. In a highly competitive environment there is a tremendous temptation to take “what ever comes along” until you can find some kind of niche. This strategy is no longer effective because while we are taking whatever comes along, so are the rest of our competitors. This process pushes down the market price of the products and services being offered and ultimately results in price erosion and even creates technology or price wars wherein the weakest players are eliminated. Realizing this, it’s not surprising that U.S. Department of Commerce states that 95% of all new businesses fail in their first year! Far more important than identifying your market niche and the kind of business you “want” is identifying the kind of business that you DO NOT want! This is counter intuitive and difficult to grasp but once implemented it is extraordinarily effective. In short, if we can reject the kind of business that we DON’T want, we will automatically become more attractive to those that we DO want. The first step however is to fully understand the marketplace in which we compete. 2) Competitive LandscapeBy fully understanding the competitive landscape and how our company, product or service integrates into it, we can identify the “GAP” in the marketplace. It is impossible to develop a powerful brand without identifying the GAP. The “GAP” is the area of product, service, quality, selection, application, delivery or price which is NOT being satisfied. When we understand the “GAP” in the market we can find the specialized need or needs which we can EXCLUSIVELY satisfy. If we develop our product to satisfy the “GAP” we have the ability to define a very tightly focused audience profile. This profile should become our exclusive focus. By doing so we will only accept business that matches the profile of the type of customer we want to deal with. In order to ensure that our product or service matches the specific unmet needs of the target market (or the GAP), it is critical that we invest time in fully understanding our competition. I have devised a very simple way to gather intelligence about the competition. It is completely ethical and devastatingly effective. The best way to understand your competition is to “become their customer,” at least for a bit. Few entrepreneurs or business professionals do this, yet it is probably the most effective way to understand what your competition is all about. Call or visit them and ask them plenty of questions. Do not tell them you are a competitor; your purpose for becoming their customer is to learn what makes them tick. I do this for all of my client’s noteworthy competitors. It works magnificently. In our consulting firm, one tool that we use to understand our client’s competitors is what I call the “Competitive Landscape Profile” or the CLP. The CLP allows us to plot the proficiency of each of our competitors on a chart that gives us a very clear picture of who they are, what they do, where they fit, and how they are different. When completed the CLP clearly tells us where the GAP is in the marketplace. This article is part 1 of 2. Read next week’s business update for the conclusion.