If any of these scenarios seem familiar, perhaps it’s time to consider retooling your brand:
1. You can’t describe in one sentence what differentiates your brand from your competitors. When asked by your best customers what separates you from your main rivals (price aside), you can’t really think of anything besides the color.
2. When asked why you’re successful, you respond with a stock price. High stock prices are wonderful. They keep us all working hard and hopefully will win us bonuses. But what happens when the price drops? How will you withstand a devastating financial loss if you don’t have a strong brand to fall back on?
3. You can’t sum up your mission, vision and values in one sentence. Enough said.
4. No one can remember your logo. You fell in love with that “swoosh” design your brand consultants promised would turn you into the next Nike. Guess what? There’s only one great swoosh and it is Nike’s. Your brand needs something that is yours.
5. The value of your company is the sum of your tangible assets. Yes, this one is hard data. If your factories and buildings all burned down and your products vaporized, what would your company be worth?
6. People still talk about your founder, not your company. He retired 35 years ago and people still reverently look back at him as the genius who made the company what it is today. Well, what is it today? Your stakeholders should be looking toward your future, not your past.
(This piece was first published in Brandweek, prior to being taken over by Adweek in 2011.)
It’s important to look like you belong in your market. But, it’s more important to promote your own uniqueness. Remember, your brand and identity is about differentiation. It’s not about being like the others.
If your brand cannot adapt to change, you could end up burning cycles recovering what you lost instead of spending your time building on what you have. As Ben Franklin once put it, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Building a great brand is never once-and-done. It’s more than a name, logo and graphics. It’s a frame of mind — an experience — with a narrative that stays relevant and makes its audience part of the story.
The tagline is not about who you are or what you sell. It’s about them: your target audience. So, you better make sure it’s concise, direct and memorable, so they recall it the each time they hear your name.
The bankruptcy courts are full of great ideas that were undermined by ineffective branding and promotion. Build it and they will come? No, they won’t. Not unless you make them really want to. Or, better yet, need to.
If you’re looking to create a new brand identity or enhance your current one, expect to be deeply involved, regularly challenged and perhaps a bit frustrated. It surely won’t happen overnight. But your patience will certainly pay off.
As the year closes, ask yourself how your current challenges and objectives align with your overall vision. Have you lost your way, or are you sticking to your Brand Promise? Is it still meaningful to your customers and prospects? Have you allowed yourself the room to evolve with their needs, or have you boxed yourself in?
If your business is like ours, you don’t have a bottomless marketing budget to build awareness of a name that lacks clarity. We have to be more calculated and deliberate.
Business naming is the hardest part of what we do. Aside from the creative challenges, there are three major hurdles we have to leap. For every name we present, there are, literally, dozens of candidates that never make the cut. The client never sees any of those.
Even if you’re selling widgets, there’s something more that you offer that distinguishes your business in a positive way. It’s what your customers truly gain from you that they can’t get from anyone else. It’s this frame of mind that defines your business more than anything.