Understanding Brand Strategy to Better Understand Customers
By: Mark Winter
My philosophy on brand strategy has always been simple: Listen to what your market wants, and then give it to them.
It sounds too easy to be true, but it is the most effective way to get your brand strategy back on track and working for you. Many companies spend a lot of time and money developing a product or a service, then try to shove it down the market’s throat, hoping to make people want what they are trying to sell. Turning that strategy around and actually understanding what is needed ahead of time, what the market defines as valuable and the best way to deliver that message increases the chance of success.
“But we know our market, we know what they want,” you may have just said in your head. “We have been doing this a long time, and our market is totally unique.”
First off, it’s not unique. It has the same issues and challenges as any company trying to provide a service or product for money since the start of time. Unless you have spent time and money to reach out to your market and really listen to them, I mean actively listen to what they are saying about you, then you are only guessing what they want or need.
Brand strategy is not about truth, it’s about perception — the perception others have of your company and the value you provide.
Here is a simple test to see if you are on track: Ask your senior management team to sit down and write a paragraph that describes the company overall. Collect those pages and compare them. Chances are, they sound nothing alike.
Now try that same exercise with your sales team, your customer service department and so on. Soon you will see how even those within the company’s walls can’t accurately describe the strength or value of the company. How do you think that message is being delivered outside the company?
Now try this exercise: Write down three words that explain why you are better than your closest three competitors. What sets you apart? Do that before reading further.
If you wrote down words like “better service,” “more experience,” “our people,” “better products,” or “quality,” you may have a brand voice issue. Most companies I have worked with will call out these same five things, convinced that the competitors could not possibly say the same things — until I check those competitors and we find that the same language, the same value position and the same claims are all being used.
To be able to position your company above those around you, try listening to what the competition is saying about themselves and see how much it sounds like you.
The Identity Brand Clarity Process looks at all of these situations: how customers view the brand, how the internal staff views and messages the brand, how the competition messages their brands and ultimately what the goal is for the company. Being able to actively listen and gather data from all of those sources allows your brand’s message to be refined and targeted and your marketing dollars to be spent more effectively.
Now, time to get to work on a brand strategy that best fits your customers’ needs and wants. You ready?