In my line of work, I’m often asked: what’s the key to building a strong brand?
Branding is critical, especially in today’s cluttered marketplace where it can be difficult to get a marketing message to break through. Because of the challenges, too often I see companies skip the hard work of branding and instead move directly to marketing tactics like social media promotion and ad campaigns. But tactics aren’t a strategy, and building a brand is about more than “getting your name out there.”
A strong brand begins with a foundation built on core traits: a brand positioning strategy. In my experience, a great brand strategy is:
- Unique: Every marketing professional will tell you that the foundation of a strong brand is having something unique to offer. This is discussed in a variety of ways—“differentiation,” for example, or “unique value proposition”—but at its core, this is about having something that sets your brand apart from the competition. A strong brand positioning strategy begins here.
- Clearly Defined: There is a strong inverse relationship between a brand’s power and the breadth of its meaning: the broader your brand message, the weaker your brand. When looking to define your brand, keep it as narrow and as focused as you can. Don’t try to be everything to everyone.
- Desirable: Position your brand around something that people want. You can have a unique and clearly defined brand and still struggle if your firm is differentiated around something that doesn’t seem attractive. From a marketing perspective, this isn’t about changing your product or service so much as positioning that offering to make it appeal to your target audience.
- Believable: A great brand must be believable. In other words, don’t oversell to the point of implausibility. For example, a ten-person accounting firm positioning itself as a full-service firm for multinationals is clearly off base, and in such situations a potential customer can’t help but doubt the brand’s trustworthiness.
- Aspirational: While a brand must be believable, it also needs to be a bit aspirational. Instead of aiming for the stars or only describing your firm exactly as it is today, aim to position your brand at the top end of where you want to be.
- Consistent: Consistency is critical to a strong brand. This means consistency in branding, messaging, and positioning. Your audience needs to identify your brand quickly and easily, and know what you offer.
- Honest: Above all, honesty is critical to brand success. A great brand must be built on an honest assessment of what you offer and its benefits. In turn, honesty and accuracy help build customer trust throughout the sales process and beyond.
If your company brand doesn’t yet demonstrate the above traits, you should step back and invest in building the foundation of your brand. Only once you have put in the effort to create and refine the brand positioning strategy should you turn your attention to the hard work of brand promotion, including communication, advertising, and living the brand. It’s a long road—but the payoff is worth it.