“You have to know who you are before you can convince anyone of it.”
This advice comes from the Harvard Business Review Case Study, “Three Questions You Need to Ask About Your Brand,” by Kevin Lane Keller, Brian Sternthal, and Alice Tybout.
Do you know what your company stands for? Can you communicate the intrinsic value it offers to your customers? In other words, do you know your brand? If you don’t, chances are the disconnect translates into lost revenue and a weak brand.
Imagine building a house without a blueprint. Now imagine creating a sales brochure when you don’t understand what your company stands for or how its products differ from the competition. The result can be thousands of brochures that will never be used by your sales people. Your customers need to care about your brand and be able to quickly make informed buying decisions. If understanding your product becomes too difficult or time consuming, customers will go elsewhere.
Whenever a customer comes in contact with your brand (logo, website, brochure, advertising, etc.) he or she forms an opinion about your company and if you don’t define your brand, your customer will.
One of the leading misconceptions that companies have about their products is that what they care about is also what their customers will care about. This type of tunnel vision can lead to expensive marketing mistakes. Here is an example sited by the HBR case study; when drug companies first started promoting analgesics they spent a lot of money on marketing that focused on how long pain relief lasted. Turns out that what consumers really cared about was how quickly an aspirin got rid of the pain.
Do you know what your customers care about in your industry? Are you spending a lot of money on marketing that gets overlooked or misunderstood? Remember that everything your customers read, touch and experience can either strengthen or weaken your brand. Confusing messaging tells consumers that you don’t understand who you are and that can quickly translate into the loss of brand loyalty.
How do you convince a customer to buy your products or services when you don’t know what you’re selling? The answer is simple. You can’t.
Being the cheapest or the coolest is not a differentiator that lasts. It will only invite your competition to beat you at your own game.
According to Martin Neumeier, author of “The Brand Gap,” “only one competitor can be the cheapest. The others have to use branding. The stronger the brand, the greater the profit margin.” It takes time to define your brand but the results are worth it. Invest in your brand. Define your company’s vision, business goals and objectives, and competitive advantages and make your brand visible through a memorable identity. Build your brand’s equity so your customers know why they should pay more for your. That’s how you become a power brand.
David Aacker, a recognized authority on brands and the author of “Building Strong Brands,” describes the battle for the minds of consumers as a shelf that lives in the minds of those consumers. That shelf only has room for a handful of power brands and the competition is fierce. But here’s the upside: Once you’re there, it becomes nearly impossible to fall off. Brand loyalty is so ingrained in consumers’ minds that switching takes more money than most companies can afford to spend.
Before you spend more money on marketing, ask yourself if you’ve invested enough in your brand. The answer may surprise you.
This excerpt is from an article published in the Philadelphia Business Journal Tactics on January 25, 2008.