Four Keys to Building Your Brand

Brands are everywhere. We are inundated with brands on TV, on the Internet, on the highway, in the clothes we wear, and in the food we eat. So, how can branding be such a difficult task? After all, with branding in our face every day, shouldn’t we know the principles of good branding inside and out? Yes, we probably do have some intuitive insights into what makes a great brand great! But actually sitting down to do the hard work of branding is often where companies get stuck. Branding requires (re)visiting the company strategy, the vision/mission, the organizational goals—it requires difficult, time consuming thinking…and who has the time? Well, let this article be a break for you from the day-to-day grind. Take a few minutes right now to review your brand and assess what you are doing to build brand confidence with your customers today, tomorrow, and the days ahead.

A great brand taps into emotions. Emotions drive most, if not all, of our decisions. A brand reaches out with a powerful connecting experience. It's an emotional connecting point that transcends the product.

1. Listen to the Customer. In any communications you do, it’s always about the customer, the reader, the listener, etc. Good writers write for the reader (which is why I can always put down a book I find boring without feeling guilty). Good presenters think first about their audience. And good brand marketers always start with the customer. What are your customers’ needs and desires? Sometimes we in the consulting profession provide what we think are great services–but are they what your customers are asking for? You can build a brand on what you think is a great offering, but in the end, if the customer doesn’t need it, you won’t be successful in branding it or selling it. According to Alan Weiss, author of How to Establish a Unique Brand in the Consulting Profession, “brand elements should be examined in terms of what has attracted someone to you, not what attracts you to yourself.” Take a few minutes to examine the voice of the customer in your business–what are they telling you? Where does your passion and their needs intersect? How do your products and services add value to your customers?

2. Analyze the Competition. Once you’ve listened to your customers, it’s time to analyze your competition. Who is your competition? What products and services are they offering? Why are your products and services better? How can you differentiate yourself? Keep in mind that while it is good to differentiate yourself from the competition, make sure in doing so, you aren’t differentiating yourself into a market that customers aren’t buying.

3. Define Your Essence. It is critical to define what you are and what you are not. Defining both the former and latter are equally important. It is so easy to get caught in the trap of providing everything to everyone. This “spray and pray” approach does not a brand make! Brad VanAuken, author of Brand Aid, defines brand essence as “the heart and soul of a brand—a brand’s fundamental nature or quality.” Defining your brand essence is about defining the fundamental nature of your business. What is the value your customers expect from you? What experience do they expect and desire when doing business with you? As Howard Schultz of Starbucks said, “customers must recognize that you stand for something.” What do you stand for? What is your brand essence?

4. Consistently Communicate Your Brand. It is not enough to merely define your brand and create the associated marketing materials such as a logo, brochure, web site, etc. Develop a marketing plan to consistently communicate your brand in everything you do. While it is important to create marketing materials that support your brand, it is equally important that you look at other ways your brand is communicated every day. Your customers learn your brand through their interactions with you–every transaction, phone call, interaction, email, etc. builds the brand in the mind of your customer. How are you taking advantage of these opportunities to build your brand?

Ready to design peak performance on your project?