Most business entities seek to grow and prosper. But, growth in an ever-changing world is a challenge. Each day, we are confronted with new opportunities, trends, desires and constraints. Those that thrive discover new ways of doing things. They transform their processes, products and services to harvest previously untapped marketplace opportunities. Importantly, they don’t do this in a void. They never lose sight of their roots – the very essence of what it is that they stand for in the minds of their customers, employees and other stakeholders. They build and reinforce a strong brand identity which forms a stable foundation for all future growth and transformation.
You may think that branding is a large company concept – an investment that you simply can’t afford. Wrong. It’s an investment that you simply can’t ignore. The marketplace in which you do business is complex. Your customers have lots of choices for the services and products that they use. Just like you, they are apt to be overwhelmed each day with e-mails, junk mail, media ads and phone solicitations. We all seek ways to cope with information overload, and to simplify the choices that we make in managing our daily business activities.
Strong brands make it easier for us to make choices – they are promises that we can depend upon when trying to get a specific job done. We don’t have to worry; we know what to expect – so the choice of a supplier for a product or service becomes a quick decision. Strong brands stay top-of-mind, and help all of us to be efficient. During these more challenging economic times, strong brands become even more valuable. Resources are tighter. Decisions seem to be more pressing. Desired results are a mandatory.
A clearly defined brand strategy becomes as a guiding framework for making the best decisions regarding what steps to take next. It serves as a filter for resource allocation, internal policy formulation, organizational cultural refinements, new product/service development and all forms of communication with the external marketplace. Importantly, a brand identity is much more than just a logo or a clever tagline. It is a promise of what your business stands for – the unique and relevant value that you provide, day in and day out. Like all promises, it’s hollow if you don’t fulfill it consistently. You must communicate your core brand message in a simple manner. Tell your prospects and customers exactly why you’re the best. Your future success will depend upon them internalizing the value that you have to offer. They must embrace it, and want it.
It’s also critical to recognize that brands have both tangible and intangible associations. Your customers and prospects have clear needs that your products and services help satisfy. This is the tangible benefit that you provide. The relationships that you build, the way in which you go about your business and the internal culture that you create for your employees – these are some of the intangible expressions of your brand. These must also be carefully managed. It’s these intangible benefits, values and personality which oftentimes sets your brand apart from all the others. This is what makes customers want to associate with you, stay loyal and over time increase their base of business. And as we all know, it’s much less expensive to keep and grow an existing customer than it is to find new customers. A strong brand identity will help you do just that.
Brand is a holistic concept, and strong brands create experiences. Centuries ago, in agrarian based civilizations, economic value was primarily derived from extracting commodities for sale. With the advent of the industrial revolution, the model changed to making goods. In the “Information Age,” the delivery of services became king. To achieve the highest potential in today’s demanding marketplace, one must transform current paradigms – get their customers to operate differently, in a way that makes them crave the unique products and services that you have to offer. This is done by staging experiences.
That’s what companies with world-class brands do. For example, the Walt Disney Company understands that an amusement park is just a collection of rides, but a theme park provides a full immersion experience – in the case of Disneyland, a “happy place” that’s full of magic. Starbucks is another example. They understand the difference between a cup of coffee and the emotional benefits associated with the relaxing and social coffee house experience. Both of these companies have brands based on staging rich experiences for which their customers pay a significant premium.
So, what you can do to create a rich brand experience for your customers? Begin by articulating what you stand for. Identify what differentiates your product and service offering, and why this is relevant to your base of prospects. Reflect on the core purpose and values that form the foundation of your enterprise. In the popular business book, Built to Last, James Collins and Jerry Porras demonstrate that the most successful companies have developed and stayed true to a bold vision. They have articulated a core purpose that is much greater than the pursuit of sheer profits. They have set their sights on seemingly unattainable objectives based on their values, designed products and services to fulfill their core purpose and “kept the course” in a consistent way. These same principles hold true for you, and form the foundation for a strong brand.
Sound good, but where to start? Begin with a clear vision. F.R.E.E. yourself from the constraints of current thinking.
- Forget the boundaries, the how-we-got-heres and the way-we’ve-always-done-its.
- Recreate the marketplace structure based on your historical strengths and core competencies.
- Envision new ways that you can meet consumer wants – see the future through the eyes of your customers.
- Engage your target audiences in this new vision, both intellectually and emotionally.
Through this process, you will begin to articulate a unique and relevant brand platform which can become the basis for thriving in today’s ever-changing world.
© 2013 Synergistics Consulting. All rights reserved.
For more information, contact Steve Carples, Principal of Synergistics Consulting