Every once and a while I get something that is just too good not to share. Dean is a fellow Master’s Program Graduate and is the CEO of one of the finest Ad agencies I’ve ever been exposed to. I received this article last week from him and thought it dovetailed into the branding series I wrapped up this last week. I hope you enjoy Dean as much as I do -
If you have a desire to improve your brand identity in the marketplace, step one is to accept that times have changed.
Fifty years ago, you could advertise your brand on a game show and six months later, Presto! – a 30% increase in market share. Those days are long gone. Today, in our over-communicated world, your target market mindset is busy, distracted, and on to the next thing. In essence, your audience’s minds are like dripping sponges – leaving little or no room for another “average” brand message. Feel familiar?
For starters, what is your brand? Aside from the foundation of your business net worth, your brand is the real estate you own in the mind of your prospects and clients. For example, when you think of tissues, does Kleenex come to mind? Golf – Tiger Woods? Car safety – Volvo? Regardless of your business size, your brand is somewhere between front of mind and nowhere to be found in the mindset of your current or potential clients. The goal is obviously for your audience to think of no other business but yours. It’s called dominating mindshare and it’s a discipline practiced by few.
In contrast to yesteryear, where branding was the color of your package, the consistency of your graphics and the face of your product, branding is now the comprehensive experience one has with your company. Today’s branding is a combined effort of how you are selling and servicing your markets. Your brand is comprised of how you promote and persuade, how you care for your customers, and what you stand for within your target market(s). How you sell and service must be audited, stratified, planned, and integrated to ensure repeatable positive experiences. And for your brand to stay intact, the experiences must stay perpetual with every prospect, every client, every business partner, every investor, and every employee. It’s a bold philosophy that will position you as the leader in your category with a brand that has staying power – if you have a commitment to brand.
Selling, as it relates to brand development, is simply how you get the word out. Either through advertising, direct selling, channel selling, direct mail, public relations, etc. The key to effective selling is to first find out what is relevant in the mind of your consumer. Best guessing, by the way, is not a good method for finding the hot buttons. Research is. For example, one of our clients in the financial services business sells loans to brokers who, in turn, sell those loans to end-users. After some cursory research, we determined that speed of approval (most important), ease of process, and attention to detail were this client’s key points. We built our entire brand platform around simple, accurate loan approval in seconds vs. hours, even days. Every ad, every show, every sales rep, direct mail piece, every phone call, and every detail is built around this message. The brand is speed. The discipline lies in keeping the message consistent, not changing it after three months because the phones aren’t ringing off the hook. Adjustment is fine, but be consistent with your message, because branding is a process, not a singular event. You can see again why research of market relevancy is so critical up front. Branding is tricky business, and as a major investment, it’s vital to get it right from the starting line.
It’s a little known fact that the biggest brand opportunity lies in how you serve your clients, not just how you sell to them. Nordstrom’s service excellence has allowed them the luxury of spending less on advertising because their employees’ commitment to excellence has strengthened their brand to near perfection. Every phone call, return, consultation, and purchase is handled so well, that for some, the idea of shopping elsewhere is ridiculous. So while others are spending big to steal Nordstrom customers with advertising, Nordstrom spends more money on training and rewarding their employees to serve clients more effectively. The result? Customer loyalty is sterling and word-of-mouth accolades are perpetual and potent.
Remember, when it comes to branding, the discipline is in the details. Your sales calls, presentations, follow-ups, how you handle client conflict, marketing tools, your building, lobby, dress code, etc., etc., etc all make up your brand. So rest assured, a strong commitment to a comprehensive and strategic brand initiative is your assurance for success.