Building around your four competitive advantages.
For most companies today, there are only four sustainable competitive advantages.
- Having the best people on your team.
- Creating solid customer relationships.
- A well-known and well-liked brand.
- Effectively using the data you collect on your customers and market.
In this article, I’d like to address the importance of creating a powerful brand. Many people are surprised to learn that for some companies, the brand is more valuable than the hard assets of the business. Some examples are Ford, Google, Apple, Coca-Cola and Amazon, which all have brands worth tens of billions of dollars.
For your company, the numbers are likely not that large, but the impact of your brand is still significant to your business. So, let’s look at some of the key factors in creating a brand identity.
The first step in branding is determining what your target market is so you can develop a brand that is appealing to the people you want to do business with. If you are selling to general consumers, some of the demographic factors to consider include age, gender, marital status, education, income, location, family situation, what magazines they read and what television stations they watch.
If you are selling to businesses, you want to know things such as industry, locations, total revenues, number of employees, years in business and key competitors. You may not need to know all of these things, but the more you understand, the better you can target your brand.
Here are some questions to ask as you begin to build your brand.
What sort of an image does your logo portray? Is it bold or understated? Is it highly unique like Coca-Cola or Starbucks or simply a few letters that represent your organization, such as FedEx or IBM?
What are the colors of your brand? Are they bright and electrifying or more muted and soothing?
What sort of image are you trying to portray? Family-oriented, high tech, stable and time-honored, international, local?
What sort of photography or graphics do you use? What kind of message are you trying to send with them? Think of the difference between the photography used in advertising for a fine dining restaurant versus a local pizza place or McDonald’s.
How have you differentiated your brand in the marketplace against your direct competitors? Does your brand stand for something unique and compelling to your target market? Harley-Davidson has done a superb job in this area, and so has Apple.
What emotions would you like your brand to elicit when people see it? Probably the best example of this is the Christmas season ads from Budweiser; it is almost impossible not to cry or smile when you watch one of those.
What are your own words? What, precisely, would you like people to think of when they see your brand? BMW is the ultimate driving machine. Volvo = safety. Burger King is the home of the Whopper.
When you combine all of these elements, it is known as your “brand platform.” This is the guide you use when developing advertising and promotion of your brand across multiple platforms because brand consistency is essential.
Lastly, if you have already been in business for a while and have established a brand, but it is not as effective as you want it to be, that is a situation where you would consider “rebranding.” If you undertake a rebranding project, you should ask all of the same questions I’ve listed to ensure that the look and feel of your new brand imagery and own words will strongly resonate with your target audience.
Branding, when done correctly, can have a significant positive impact on the success of your business, as long as you take the time to do your homework and are thoughtful as you put together your brand platform.