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April 12th, 2016

Want Your Brand To Work Harder? Start With This!

In late 2015 we did some interviews with Presidents and VPs of Marketing at mid-size US manufacturers. We asked them to evaluate their brand’s effect on market performance.

All seemed to have one nagging question:

“Could our brand be doing more? Could it be working harder?”

In our line of work we face this question over and over again. It makes sense. Who wouldn’t want to know?

No matter what products you’re manufacturing the answer is critical. If you rely on your brand to help identify and add value to your products in a competitive market, then it should be doing everything possible to be effective.

Warning: If you bring this up in your next general management meeting, you’re going to get everyone from sales to accounting to HR throwing their ideas into the ring—not what you need.

Instead, our advice is to start with this one task first:

Revisit your stated Brand Position and critically examine it for customer value.

Think of your Brand Position as the unique place of value you want to own in your customer’s mind.

If your brand position contains any phrases that resemble mediocrity, or cost-of-entry notions (such as “best quality”), time to roll up your sleeves. Break those phrases down to search for the specific value that makes up those ideas. For example, what elements of “best quality” are 1) most important to your customers, and 2) things you can deliver better than anyone else?

Be brutal with yourself in NOT settling for bland, over-used phrases that hold no real meaning. Be specific. If you don’t feel just a little uncomfortable, then you probably haven’t gone far enough!

Search for the distinct benefits you bring to your customers because of who you are, what you do, and how you do it. Dedicate ample time to this. When we lead clients through this exercise, it can take days of reflective thought and assessment.

And always consider validating what you think, with what your customers think. Customers are looking through a different lens and may have different ideas about what’s important and what’s not. In our experience, it’s often the priority of brand attributes that is out of line with customer needs, rather than just the benefits that derive from them.

Once you’ve squirmed a little and had a reality check from your customers, recommit yourself and your company to a powerful, redefined brand position.

And, with this in hand, take a close look at everything you do and ask yourself:

“Is our brand doing everything it can to own this position in our customer’s mind?”

Sit quietly with your notes—I guarantee a list will start to form.

This careful introspection into your brand’s position and any realignment will be the bedrock upon which you build the next phases that bring confidence to your future brand, i.e., Auditing the visual and verbal expressions of your brand; Benchmarking your brand against key competitors; and Creating and designing new marketing and brand experiences.

A final note of caution: This process requires objectivity and honesty. Not easy, but worth the results that provide insight into everything you need to make your brand work as hard as it can to help achieve your goals.

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