UPDATED: Original Post on February 6, 2019
For every brand we have built over the past 20+ years, we start with a simple discovery process. It’s often been me who will start that process. I’ll sit down with the client to dig-in and really unearth what makes their brand unique. Through probing questions my team and I will do a deep dive to reveal the essence of their brand. To understand what is their key differentiator? The company persona? Their brand promise?
Too many times during that process I have heard a response to the tune of, “But yes, enough about us. What do the customers want?”
I’m just going to say it…and I say it to the client each and every time. You should never try to build a brand around “what the customers want.”
I know what you’re thinking now. “But businesses should be customer-centric. The customer is always right.” Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
You’re right, in terms of how you should build your business processes, craft a customer service philosophy and ensure perceived value for your customers.
But those are business processes and stem from how you deliver your product and/or services. Your brand is so much more.
There are three things you need to keep in mind when building or refreshing your company brand:
I totally understand that when you think of your target markets there are a variety of customers who utilize your brand and that you really don’t want to alienate anyone. That’s so often the fear of so many clients. “But we want everyone to like us!”
Don’t become so paralyzed that you might leave someone out that your marketing becomes watered down because you aren’t willing to stand out.
When you think of your ideal customer, why is it that THEY use your brand? Why are they loyal? What is it about you that makes them tell their friends or colleagues about you?
You truly need to pin your brand promise down to 1-2 core things that are real and authentic about you that your competition cannot claim. It needs to be innate. Something that is inherent to your culture and the essence of your success. It needs to be something that improves the lives of those willing to pay for it (or at least perceived improvement...that Starbucks coffee, iPhone or BMW may not truly be changing your life, but advocates for those brands certainly believe that they are).
Who are you really? What are your core values? What does your company stand for?
Be introspective. Go deep. Don’t be afraid to let people get acquainted with the inner voice of your organization. Sometimes companies are so afraid of offending someone that they are the opposite of real. They are manufactured.
Customers sense falseness in a company voice. If it seems too corporate. Or whimsical. Or if it is trying too hard to be funny…especially if your company really isn’t funny!
If it’s not who you really are, your customers and prospects will totally know. It won’t pass the sniff test.
Figure out who you really are and be yourself. Consistently. Consistency is key. For example, retailer REI has opted out of Black Friday since 2015 and instead marketed that they hoped their customers would #optoutside and enjoy the outdoors. A bold move when so many retailers rely on Black Friday shopping to catapult them into the holidays. But this move only made their customers all the more loyal.
So don’t be afraid to stand true to who you are and share those beliefs with the world. Don’t be surprised if like-minded consumers find you and follow suit.
Sometimes you have to step outside of your comfort zone in order to get people’s attention. Leverage your marketing and customer touchpoints to be different. If everyone in your industry “does it this way” that’s the exact reason why you shouldn’t. Trust me, people will take notice if you aren’t afraid to be different. Especially if you’re doing it for them. Show your true colors in a creative and authentic way.
You can build a powerful brand for your company. But the first step is always going to be to dig deep, figure out your core strengths and why it is that your best customers stay loyal to you. How are you improving their lives? Build your brand on that and then reel in more customers like them! In marketing, different is most often a really good thing. Especially if it’s 100% genuine.
Want to learn more about how to be more real in your marketing? Real Branding™ is what we do best.