Establish Your Brand As an Asset that Fuels Growth

What will it cost you and your company if you don’t consistently communicate your value and brand? How will this impact your ability to seize and recognize lucky opportunities? The concept of branding has been popular for a long time. With all the buzz, it’s important to understand exactly what branding means to you, your company and everybody your company “touches.” Many people associate a brand with a logo, tagline, colors, and web design. While that’s part of your brand image, it’s clearly not the whole story. A brand represents the impression that you leave with customers, prospects and business partners. It infiltrates every contact point and requires every employee who influences stakeholders’ perceptions to be fully engaged and committed to delivering on your brand promise.

Are you confident that you‘re communicating your value, and therefore your brand, effectively to your customers and prospects? Much of business failure can be traced to the way companies communicate – or fail to communicate – effectively with their stakeholders, including customers, prospects, partners, employees and anybody else who has an interest in your business. Whether you’re planning a new business, have just launched it, or have been running it for a while, it’s critical to avoid the most common pitfalls companies make communicating their value, brand and solution. In this article, I will discuss branding as a tool and provide tips for you on branding your company as well as yourself.

Consistency Counts: 
Every company and individual has a brand (this isn’t just for the 800-pound gorillas of the business world). Do you know your company’s brand? This is the message that you are communicating on a regular basis to customers and prospects. It’s the impression you leave with every customer and potential customer, even if it’s not the statement that you want to make. Your brand is communicated through every customer touch point – from phone to the Internet and via email, social media, direct mail, advertising, web engagement and every other opportunity you have to reach out to your target market(s).

Your brand is communicated by every employee in your firm from the CEO and sales team right down to your department directors and shop floor managers. Your brand is what sets you apart from others in your industry and makes you unique. A brand can only succeed and achieve its goal of supporting growth if it satisfies three key criteria. If any of these factors fail, you risk major malfunctions to your business and bottom line:

* Leaves a positive impression.
* Is aligned with your customers’ needs.
* Is delivered consistently, as promised

Why Do People Buy a “Brand” Anyway?
There are many reasons for buying a brand including the fact that the brand identity:

* Fulfills a short- or long-term need.
* Has an emotional connection.
* Has a perceived price/quality relationship.
* Is “hot” – meaning the brand is en vogue.
* Represents who you are or want to be aligned with.

Let’s look at some examples of how brands have succeeded in achieving these goals. FedEx is a world leader in package delivery. Their brand and philosophy are simple – when it absolutely has to get there overnight, FedEx will do it. Every employee knows and understands this. But beyond understanding this, they believe in the brand mission and understand their role in making this happen. Every employee, regardless of their position, knows the brand’s philosophy and works to deliver on its promise. This is the only way a company can live its brand.

The fashion world has many examples that we can learn from in terms of emotional or en vogue connections to brands. Some women will buy only designer pocketbooks such as Chanel or Gucci because it represents who they are or want to be. It sets them apart and makes a statement that they want to be affiliated with. There are also other types of emotional connections to a brand. For example, Volvo is world-renowned as a “safe” automobile. The emotion of safety and security has inspired many individuals to purchase a Volvo (including the author of this book).

Assess Your Brand Value: 
There are several questions you need to review with your team to ensure you’re delivering a brand value that will generate profit. Once you have answered these important questions, spend time considering the implications of your responses. If they don’t satisfy the definition of the unique value proposition that you want to or believe you are delivering, create a plan to make changes so your brand becomes an asset that will fuel growth at your company.

1. Determine Your Value Proposition
* What’s our current position in the market?
* What’s our ultimate direction?
* What makes us unique?
* What needs do we fulfill?

2. Align Customer Needs with Your Unique Value
* What is the true value we offer?
* Do we SOLVE problems or CREATE opportunities?
* Do we align our brand with the right customers and fire the rest?

3. Focus on Your Competitive Advantage
* What sets us apart from the competition?
* Are we just-as-good or better than the competition?
* Are we unique enough to command a premium?

4. Align Your Distribution & Price Strategy
* What sources do customers use to make purchasing decisions?
* Does our price reinforce our value or clash with it?
* Do our distribution channels match customer needs?

5. Communicate Your Value at Every Touch Point
* How do we communicate our brand value to others?
* Does everybody support THE message?
* Does our message reach all of our customers and prospects?

Remember, it important to use these responses to develop key actions that reinforce your message and create a strong and consistent brand image at every customer touch point.

Components of a Successful Brand
 Whether you’re an entrepreneur, work for somebody else in a large or small firm, or a business owner, you know that success is predicated on your ability to define or redefine how your message and value is experienced in such a way that makes you unique and relevant in today’s competitive marketplace. In the past, companies would develop a product and then promote it.

In a global economy, businesses continue to evolve and become more dynamic and competitive. Organizations must redefine their value and sometimes their business model in order to succeed. Oftentimes this redefining process leads to the creation or reinvention of your brand.