10 Aug How to create a successful brand for your business
What is a strategic brand proposition?
There are two important elements you need to consider if you want to create a successful brand for your business – the strategic side of the equation, otherwise known as your strategic brand proposition, and the visual side of the equation, which we call the creative brand proposition.
Think about this in terms of who you are as a person. You may or may not realise it, but you are a brand. Just like Richard Branson and David Beckham. You may not be as well known, but that is irrelevant.
Each of us has an outside and an inside. The outside is what we show to the world – our skin or outer layer, what people see when they look at us. This is what we mean when we talk about a brand identity. It is the visual aspect of ourselves, which we spruce up with the brands we like to be associated with. We all have a brand identity, regardless of whether we are aware of it at a conscious level or not. So, the creative brand proposition is what we look like on the outside – in corporate branding terms, that means our logo, colour palette, fonts, style of imagery, graphics and so on – and that’s pretty much it.
Now think about our “inside” – I don’t mean your bones, flesh and organs, although these do come into it to some degree; think of your brain. It is where your thoughts arise and where choices are made. It is the place where self-beliefs reside, and where your opinions and attitudes manifest themselves. It is where you determine your views and ethics, your standards and principles, your pleasures and passions. It is where – if you choose – you decide who you are, who you want to become, and what you want to do with your life.
This is what we mean when we talk about brand strategy.
So, which one is the most important? It is without doubt the strategic side which is the most important. Why? Well, let’s think about brands in terms of people again. What we look like is the superficial side of attraction, but real relationships only flourish when there is a deeper connection between two people. That’s down to their characters and personalities and, in a meaningful interdependent partnership, that means that your brain matter much, much, much more than your body.
But we all know first impressions matter, so it would be foolish to ignore the visual side – so wouldn’t it be marvellous to marry up the two…? To have a great body and a great personality. Well, of course it would – and that is why a successful brand solution has to consider both elements. But, remember, it is always better to have a great strategy in place than a great design concept. What’s the point of a beautiful visual identity if it has no depth to it?
There’s another rather important financial reason why branding is rather important. When a business is valued, the difference between the book value and what someone is prepared to pay for it is called “goodwill” and goodwill is simply another word for the intrinsic value of your brand. It is what is left when everything else is stripped away. So, an investment in a robust and powerful corporate brand proposition is likely to be worth its weight in gold. In fact, many, many, many times its weight in gold…
So, assuming we are all pretty familiar with what we mean by the creative brand proposition, let’s take a closer look at some of the factors you need to consider when putting together a strategic brand proposition. We have created a document which explains the framework we use in more detail – fill in our contact form or email us if you would like us to send you a digital copy.
“Manage the top line: your strategy, your people and your products, and the bottom line will follow.”
At its heart, branding is not about creating attraction, but about sustaining trust – this means that a brand needs to deliver on any promises it makes. The best and most successful brands are completely coherent in their philosophy. Every aspect of who they are, what they do and what they stand for reinforces everything else. Your brand resides within the hearts and minds of your stakeholders – staff, customers, suppliers, and so on. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions at every single touchpoint at any time.
The objectives that a good brand will deliver include:
- Establishing key messages in a clear and consistent voice
- Confirming your credibility and reliability
- Connecting with your stakeholders at an emotional and rational level
- Creating higher sales volumes and greater profit margins
- Engendering greater customer loyalty, ambassadorship and advocacy
- Empowering your people and increasing their confidence, pride and satisfaction
Create space for your brand in the marketplace
If you can think of one good reason why customers should choose you over the competition, you are already halfway there. Your brand is the tangible expression of your vision and mission. Whether you’ve written it down or not, you’ve probably got a decent idea of what you want to do, and how you want to achieve it. If not, then you really ought to do so. A life without purpose is meaningless. A brand strategy gives meaning to our lives.
You need to create your vision first. This is probably the most misunderstood element when it comes to branding. It should be emotional and empowering in nature. It should not really be about profit, turnover or market dominance. It should be a rallying call for excellence in your industry. Your vision statement should be your idea of what perfection looks like for your customers and employees, as well as all your other stakeholders. It is rather like am ideology – so think big and bold and make it game changing. Imagine yourself to be the government of your industry sector – what does utopia look like? That’s your vision.
Then you need a mission – again, something which seems to cause all sorts of confusion. The mission statement is simply a rational and logical conclusion of the plan you are going to put in place to achieve your visionary goal. Your mission statement should define the purpose of your brand and the effect you intend to have on the world around you. It should state what you do for others and the approach you follow to achieve the aspirations you’ve set for your brand. A good way to think about what your mission is to imagine yourself on the day of your retirement from the business. What do you want your legacy to be? Well, that’s your mission.
Values, views and vows
Values are often picked without a great deal of thought – again, they can sometimes be chosen to tick a box without forethought to how important they really are. We have created a list of about 250 inspiring values, so let us know if you want a copy and we will send the list to you. It is not intended to be definitive, but it will help to get the grey matter working. Values are not just single words. They need to be explained in the context of your business at corporate, product and stakeholder level. Values are often expressed as the views you have about your marketplace and the vows you wish to make to your stakeholders. Values are communal, timeless, central aspects of your brand that are likely to remain constant over the lifetime of your business (if chosen well).
A brand promise is an internal rallying call for excellence. There is no point making a promise if you cannot or will not move heaven and earth to keep it. A promise puts a company’s reputation on the line by pledging to its customers that the brand will live up to the high expectations it sets itself. It’s the expectation that you live up to every time people experience your brand. It’s what you assure those who come into contact with your business – as employees, suppliers, investors, associates and customers – that they can count on you to set the bar high, so your promise has to be admirable. But make sure it is achievable too, and that you have the mechanics in place to measure compliance.
Tone of voice
Tone of voice is another element that is often misunderstood. Your brand voice is the extension of your personality and it’s the foundation of everything you say. Your brand tone should remain constant across all touchpoints. The message may differ, but the way you say it and the language you use should stay true to your brand philosophy. It’s not just what we say that is important, it’s how we say it. And in face-to-face discussions, that means our body language too. If your people don’t believe in your brand proposition, your customers will intuitively sense it. A brand has to be authentic to be believed. That’s why tone of voice is the means by which confidence, passion and pride are often measured.
Insights are opinions informed by facts. It is important that we are able to distinguish an uniformed opinion from an informed one. An insight is defined as a meaningful truth that we unearth, that we can leverage and act upon to create a competitive advantage for your brand. Our strategic brand proposition process provides a research-led approach to insight generation, enabling us to develop credible conclusions and robust recommendations based on evidential proof, not subjective belief. But the most powerful insights are created by those with experience and knowledge, and this is how we marry up the concepts of induction and insight to deliver the most powerful outcomes. As well as consulting industry reports and desk research, we conduct a series of audits with various stakeholder groups to ensure we get a full spectrum of data from which to draw insights.
These are some of the areas we look for insights from:
This enables us to create three core groups of insights that ladder up to the core proposition.
At the heart of your brand strategy is your core proposition. Your core proposition can be both an internal strategy and a consumer-facing one too. Behind it should be a number of proof points. These proof points summarise all the dynamics of the brand within a number of applicable categories and rank them in order of relative importance.
Proof points are qualifying statements that ladder up to the core proposition. These can become either key messages or discrete pieces of communication, but also act as a checklist in promoting the brand through public relations activity to raise brand awareness and encourage trial. Each support why the core proposition is true. Building a brand requires the consistent repetition of sound bites across all channels. From here we can then develop a matrix to communicate key messages to relevant audience segments.
Although messaging is a direct output from your strategic brand proposition, it only has impact if it does so in a way that is relevant to the needs and wants of your target market. A message proposition needs to speak to suspects, prospects and customers at every stage in the sales pipeline process in order to maximise conversion and minimise churn ‘before the sale’, and then to increase customer lifetime value via word of mouth marketing to colleagues, friends and family ‘after the sale’. The message proposition needs to empathise with customer pain points to rationalise their decision-making processes. Almost all the decisions we make are based on a combination of emotional and rational factors, the former being much more important than we might care to admit. A message proposition needs to be based on a robust understanding of customer segments, demographics, and psychographics. Only by having complete clarity on hierarchies, profiles and personas can we map out an effective messaging platform.
Service charters can be internal or external in nature. They are a series of promises pledged by a brand aimed towards a specific stakeholder group. They need to be visible, supported and actionable. They need to be authentic, measurable and specific. Through the use of customer service charters and staff service charters, an organisation is able to apply its brand strategy in the real world to generate a series of guidelines that govern the desired behaviour of its people in their interactions with each other, your customers and all other stakeholders.
Brand steering wheel
The brand steering wheel model will result in the highest ROI and has been stress-tested by some of the world’s most successful brands. It works on the basis that a strong brand should directly build from the truths and inherent values of the company and the founders of that company, translating these insights into the way it makes its products and in turn into how it speaks to and presents itself to customers. At the centre sits the core proposition, from which all marketing communications, brand awareness and lead generation activities will emanate from.
The bottom line
So, that’s the strategic brand proposition. But what happens next? Well, the most important thing is to make sure that it does not sit on a shelf gathering dust. It should be used – ideally within the context of an overall strategic marketing plan (we have developed a framework for this too which we are willing to share if you want it) – to develop your creative brand proposition. And then to create your sales and marketing collateral (website, brochure, etc.). And then to create brand awareness and lead generation activities with your target markets.
An investment in our strategic brand proposition process is a robust and credible way to ensure that all your marketing activities are as effective and efficient as possible in supporting your company’s sales efforts and delivering the goals outlined in your business plan. Please contact our Client Services Director, Stephen Taylor Brown, at [email protected] to find out more about how our strategic brand proposition process can help you to achieve your marketing goals.