Much like a Method actor lives and breathes his or her character, so too should a business live and breathe its brand if it wants to convince customers. Creating a brand, like an individual personality, is based on a set of behaviours and characteristics – with the strength and consistency of these impacting on its effectiveness.To create a brand, a great brand is one of the most powerful ways a business can differentiate its products or services. Not only will it make customers sit up and take notice but it can compel them to stay loyal and allow a business to charge a premium over its competitors. What do great brands have in common and what do you need to create a brand?
1. A firm purpose and values which guide decisions
A great brand fulfils a desire or need within its market. This is its purpose. Its purpose and supporting values never change, just as a person’s fundamental personality and characteristics never change. Products and services and the way they are targeted may vary but the overarching core purpose must never be eroded, or so too will the customer’s faith in the company and ultimately their loyalty towards it.
Think of your company as a person when you make a decision concerning your strategy or tactics. Would this person (your company) and what they stand for, behave in this way? Does this particular move strengthen what your business stands for or does it confuse its purpose? Once you know your brand inside out you’ll even be able to evaluate considerations such as whether your customer communications reflect your brand appropriately.
2. The right customer
To create a brand that is successful requires you to understand the values of your target audience and focus your offering on these customers. Trying to be all things to all people will only dilute and confuse the strength and message of your brand.
3. Effective brand positioning and brand promise
The brand positioning is how the brand is perceived in the context of competitive alternatives. Brand positioning needs to remain consistent throughout all your marketing efforts or customers will become confused. The brand promise addresses customers’ expectations about a product or service. Examples of brand promises include Coke’s, “To inspire moments of optimism and uplift” and Google’s, “To provide access to the world’s information in one click”.
4. An ability to stay relevant
By managing to constantly stay relevant to a targeted set of customers, leading brands ensure they maintain ownership of clear points of difference compared with the competition. They stay credible by increasing customers’ trust and loyalty to them. Staying relevant involves really getting inside the minds of your audience, understanding how they think and what’s useful to them.
5. Create a brand message that is clear, compelling and consistent
Imagine you don’t know a thing about your company. Now tell yourself the key message you want customers to hear. Do you get a clear picture in your mind of the benefit to you as the customer? If not, why not? Have another look at your proposition and whittle it down to what really distinguishes you. Is it price? Quality? Innovation? Or something else.
Use the ‘so what?’ test to decide whether or not your USP is compelling. Read your USP to yourself. Does it warrant the response ‘so what?’ If so decide what you’re really trying to say about the benefit you deliver and repeat the ‘so what?’ test until you have a truly compelling USP.
Once you’ve nailed it, be consistent, both in communication and in practice. You don’t have to be the best, just the most consistent. Few would argue that a Mr. Whippy is the best ice-cream in the world for example. But we know what it is, how it will look and taste and we can see at a glance which ice-cream vans stock it – and it’s been the same as long as we can remember. And these are the factors that sometimes make us want one, even though it’s not necessarily our most favourite ice-cream in the world! Consistency helps build trust and loyalty which are invaluable to your brand.
6. Keeping your brand real
If you want people to buy into your brand, make it believable. Instead of claiming perfection, claim something more unique, justifiable and in keeping with your brand. Again, think of your company as a person. What kind of person goes around claiming perfection? More than likely someone you wouldn’t necessarily want to associate with or believe.