—Sun Tzu, The Art of War
I’m sure you’ve heard the adage, “The best defense is a good offense.” I love college football, and watching a few games this past weekend reminded me how true this statement is for U.S. manufacturers trying to keep an edge. And how staying on top of your brand game is the best defense possible against your competitors.
The Strategic Offensive principle of war, is defined as being proactive in the attack, constantly maneuvering to hinder and prohibit your opponent from mounting their own offensive. This is true whether you’re waging war or playing a game. The same can be said with business and your brand. It’s vital to keep your brand strategy aligned with your business goals for a competitive advantage. Just like in football, games can’t be won in the first quarter, but they can be lost. It is about fundamentals and execution. Here are three keys to making sure your brand is ready now…and stays ready.
1. Know your competition
Make sure you’re constantly and consistently scouting the competition. Have your team take a proactive role in monitoring your competitor’s trade, social, and web presence. Perform secret shopper trips to observe what’s happening at retail. Buy their products and set up a war room so everyone in marketing and new product development have access. And do the formal research. Knowing your competition inside and out will allow you to anticipate and dictate what happens in the marketplace. And keep the other guys off balance.
2. Know your customer
Understanding the need state of your customer is paramount in winning the battle for mind and market share. What motivates them, excites them, and gives them value. Develop customer personas and customer journey maps to truly understand and empathize with your customers. Base these tools on objective research. Talk to them. Use the maps to refine your brand’s promise, and craft the experiences your brand provides to create meaning and value to your customer. To make it preferable to your competition.
3. Know yourself
Discover the truth about yourself and your brand. Use those compelling truths as the pillars that support your brand’s foundation. Build your purpose and promise from those endearing, lasting qualities of the foundation. Then make sure they are reflected in every single touchpoint. By knowing who you are and why you exist, you can develop a position that is unique, ownable, believable, desirable, defensible, and sustainable against your competition, keeping them off the field. Your brand is the one weapon that your competition can never have. Make it yours, and then live it.
Making sure you have clearly defined your brand with respect to the keys above will unlock the right strategy in a competitive situation. Once you’ve got your brand strategy aligned with your business goals, use that alignment to create brand experiences that influence the behavior and culture of your target audience. Then you’ll be playing in your competitor’s backyard all the time.