Brands that are memorable and enduring don't just happen. They take planning, thought, execution and maintenance. Brands that speak to customers rest on three legs–Create. Build. Protect. Each is separate, yet interrelated and equally important. Ignore one, and you’re left with a two-legged stool, wobbly to say the least.
What does it mean to “create” a brand?
To “create” is “to evolve from one's own thought or imagination” or “to cause to come into being, as something unique that would not naturally evolve.
Creating a strong brand begins with an imagined and perhaps idealized outcome in the marketplace for the product or service the brand will signify or represent. Every object that exists in physical world reality began with a thought, a concept or idea. Someone gave birth to a vision which did not exist in physical reality. Today's brands are no exception.
The Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal began with an idea. The idea for any structure must be transferred from the visualized ideal to create a blueprint from which to construct the building, a step-by-step road map to re-create that vision in physical world reality. The blueprint provides the building team with detailed plans, including exact measurements, materials, and instructions on how the parts assemble into the whole. Without a blue print, the resulting structure is not only left to fortune; the odds of achieving the imagined result are greatly diminished. When it comes to creating a brand, it is much the same.
Before building a brand, create a blueprint. A brand blueprint you ask? An business intent upon creating a memorable brand in the hearts and minds of its consumers also needs a blueprint. Yes, to the non expert, the branding process can seem mysteriously shrouded in vague concepts, which understood and properly applied make every difference. The brand blueprint can will help maximize the chances for a brand, which like the Taj Mahal, withstands the test of time.
What should you include in your brand blueprint?
1. “Position” Your Brand.
The first element of the brand blueprint is to create and carve out a credible and profitable place in the consumer’s minds. This happens in one of three ways:
- Being first in the niche or market
- Adopting a position relative to the competition
- Re-positioning the competition[i]
The positioning adopted for your brand “is as fundamental as a strong financial plan in creating long-term value for a business. It is the engine of sustainable brand value.[ii]”
2. Strong Brands Create a Position of Leadership
What is the unique promise of your brand, and how will this promise be delivered? Identifying the unique promise of your brand is just the beginning. The enduring brand is marked by a vision of leadership. Don’t just sell a product. Become a leader in your space.
The Brand Promise of a Leader. Develop a vision on what the promise of your brand is, how your brand will deliver that promise, and how you will meet need, satisfy and exceed the desires and expectations of customers you serve.
A Brand Driver that Sums Up. Communicate Your Brand position in a short sentence or clear image. This much more than a slogan or tag line.
What woman doesn’t want to feel beautiful? – Dove
To develop a brand driver, one must focus upon an inherent human need and desire. Find a core idea that connects with a desire that is relevant to your target audience over time. Take time to engage in a process in which one focuses upon and comes to understand the needs and desires of the customers. However, the brand driver is not just for the consumer. It also serves to inspire and motivate those charged with bringing the brand to life and connecting with consumers, like the analogy of the game of telephone you share. Every team member that has a touch point with the customer, and how they represent your brand is vital. Ever encounter a bad experience with a customer service person after waiting on hold for 45 minutes? How did that impact you impression of the brand?
3. Answer this question: “What makes my brand different in a way that people care about?”
In today’s cluttered and noisy world, it is not enough to be different. The key to identifying the core idea is relevant differentiation. Identify a point of difference that is meaningful to your customer, and develop an edge.
There is no brand that has become successful, or that remains successful, without identifying something that is relevantly different. – Allen Adamson
Relevance– To be relevant, a brand must meet a need in the market, and also tap into emotional needs and desires. Identify and supply what is missing from the market. That unmet need must also connect with how customers perceive things and idealize an experience.
Differentiation– Do you know what is or is not working in the marketplace? Pinpoint opportunities to become a leader by changing the category conversation, or create new categories.
Brand Driver: A simple sticky set of words that evokes imagery beyond the phrase itself and captures the brand essence of that the brand stands for. – Brand Digital | Allen Adamson
4. Strong Brands create and communicate personality
Allen Adamson identifies brands with “the edge” as those that convey a sense of momentum, and feel super charged. Secondly, brands with an edge have a personality. The Edge, 50 Tips from Brands that Lead
Successful brands are becoming like people. – The Edge | Allen Adamson
The Edge: 50 Brands That Lead
Younger people want the companies they keep to share their beliefs and values. Brands that are driven by an ideal a purpose beyond making money. There’s no better example in recent years that TOMS and its “One for One” brand promise. Buy a pair of shoes, and you’re donating a pair to a kid with no shoes at all. Buy a bag of coffee, and someone without water gets a bottle of water.
One for One – TOMS
Create a brand blueprint by identifying staking out your brand positioning in the market, ideally as a leader. Understand and communicate your brand's relevant differentiation to consumers and stakeholders. Create a brand driver that connects with emotional needs and feelings of the consumer. Develop a personalty for your brand. This process is the foundation upon which all brand building and protection efforts rest, grow, and sustained.
[i] Understanding Brands: By 10 People Who Do, Kogan Page, 1996 [ii] Brands and Branding, Clifton & Simmons (2004)
Originally published on May 6, 2014 [updated November 14, 2014, February 5, 2016]