Are you struggling to communicate your value? Connect with your audience? Cut through and get heard? Get the clients you deserve? Charge what your worth? Write content for your website? Chances are it’s because you don’t have a brand strategy. You might have a logo, pretty colour palette and some funky fonts but the truth is: Branding begins with strategy, not design. Before you even think about this stuff, you need to have a strategy. Here are my top 7 reasons why you need a brand strategy, like yesterday:
01 / FOREVER STUCK IN THE PRICE TRAP
If there’s only one thing you take away from this, it’s this: if you don’t have a brand, you have a commodity. What is a commodity? A commodity is a basic good like grain, precious metals, electricity, oil, wool, cotton, cocoa or sugar. What do all commodities have in common? There is little, or no differentiation among them so they all sell for the same price. And the lowest price always wins!
Branding matters because if you’re not a brand, you’re a commodity. Commodities compete on price and the lowest price always wins. If your not a brand you’ll always be forced to compete on price.
“If you are not a brand, you are a commodity. Then price is everything and the low-cost producer is the only winner.” — Philip Kotler
In the absence of any differentiating factors, price becomes the only differentiating factor standing between you and your competitors. Your customers have nothing else to compare. They’re not mind readers. They don’t understand what value you have to offer. So, it’s your job to make them understand. It’s your job to advocate for your brand. It’s your job to demonstrate that your products and services are as awesome as they actually are. Don’t put the burden on your customers to figure it out for themselves. It’s not your customers job to understand you, it’s your job to understand them.
If your hoping to win on price your boomed. Even if you succeed for a little while, you’ll always be scared. Because the reality is, someone else can always be cheaper. Cheap is for brands that can’t communicate their value. Cheap is for brands that have nothing else to offer. Cheap is a race to the bottom. As Seth Godin so wisely pointed out…
“The reason it seems that price is all your customers care about is that you haven’t given them anything else to care about.” — Seth Godin
Give your audience something else to care about. Craft a solid brand strategy and ensure you don’t end up competing on price.
02 / BRANDED PRODUCTS COMMAND HIGHER PRICES
When faced with choosing between two products – one generic, the other branded, potential customers often select the more expensive branded product as it has a higher perceived value based on the perceived value of the brand. The most obvious example of this is Nike vs a generic shoe. Because Nike has a high perceived value it can charge more for its products—and customers are happy to pay that high price.
A Nike shoe retails for USD$180 (and higher) compared to a generic shoe from Kmart at USD$25. An unbranded Black T-shirt retails for USD$10 at Target, compared to a Black T-shirt from Gucci at USD$480. A Women’s black Tote Bag retails for USD$20 at Kmart, compared to a Prada Tote Bag at USD$2,840 (please note: all prices are approximate).
High perceived value equals a high price. Not actual value. But perceived value.
Nike, Gucci, Prada and other brands are using the perceived-value pricing method. This is were a brand sets the price of a product by considering what product image a customer carries in their mind and how much they are willing to pay for it.
This is why having a brand strategy is so important. Brand perception is a huge driver of price. Branding is the process of communicating your value so more people can buy more of your product or service at a higher price. The idea is to communicate your value and influence your customers perceptions about your brand, so you can charge a price that reflects your value. Without a brand strategy you’ll always struggle to communicate your value and get paid what you’re really worth.
03 / SO YOU CAN MAKE AN IMPACT
Without a solid brand strategy not only will you be limiting your chances of success, but more importantly limiting the impact you can make in the world, through your business. Running a business without developing a clear brand strategy is signing up to a lifetime of under-earning, being taken advantage of, attracting the wrong clients and struggling to make sales. Think of it as the foundation of your house. Would you build a house without first laying the foundation? What type of house would you expect to build without a solid foundation?
Gordon B Hinckley said it best: “You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation.” Without a solid foundation, you’ll struggle to create anything of enduring value. A brand strategy gives you a solid foundation from which your brand can grow and achieve your goals.
Building a brand from the inside out that has meaning, values and personality forms the framework around which your brand can grow. Branding is about your reputation and making your audience feel safe in doing business with you. A business without a brand strategy lacks the framework of consistency from which trust and loyalty are built.
04 / CONNECT & RESONATE BETTER
The times they are a-changin’. Today customers expect more from their brands. Customers are becoming more conscious of where and how their products are being produced. People want to buy from and work for brands that share the same values as themselves. Customers today are smarter. In the words of Margaret Youngblood “They want to work for organisations they respect and which has the same values as they do. Consumers do not want to be marketed to or lied to now. They are demanding the facts and the truth. Consumers want to know what the company’s intent is. I think they want to know that now more than they ever have before. Brands can help us clearly communicate who we are. It’s become shorthand for who you are, what you’re like, and what you value” — Quote from Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits by Debbie Millman.
Authenticity, integrity, transparency, ethics—they’re not just buzzwords. Values matter. If a brand is seen to symbolise specific values, it will attract customers who believe these values. Having a solid brand strategy ensures you’ll connect with your audience on an emotional level and align your values with their values.
05 / WITH CLARITY COMES CONFIDENCE
Once you start to gain brand clarity, you’ll see what huge impact this can have. Having the knowledge and understanding of your brand will give you a huge boost in confidence. When you don’t have brand clarity you’ll always struggle with your messaging and communication. If you feel uncomfortable in situations where you need to talk about your brand, you know something needs to change. You should be proud of your brand and stand 100% behind it. Your audience instantly knows when this is not the case. If you’re not convinced, how can you convince them? When you’re crystal clear on who you are and what you offer, there’s clarity in your mind and in your customers mind. Once you have brand clarity, you’ll be able to talk about your brand with confidence and ease!
06 / CLEAR DIFFERENTIATION
The reality is we’re bombarded with advertising, information and choices everyday. The competition today is intense. In order for your message to cut through the clutter you need to be able to clearly differentiate yourself from your rivals. Otherwise you’ll just get lost in the crowd. You become invisible. You must be unique so people remember you.
If you look like your competitors, then guess what? You customer will shop around for the cheapest option. If they don’t see the difference, why would they choose you?
You need to stand out among your competitors in order to communicate your value. But how can you differentiate yourself from the crowd if you don’t really know who you are? This is why you need a brand strategy. You need to research your competitors and find your key points of difference and create clear differentiation in your market. You need to make it easier for you customers to make the right choice and choose you.
Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Do the work, find out who you really are and build on that.
07 / BECAUSE A LOGO IS NOT A BRAND
Let’s clear up the biggest misconception about branding. Your brand is not your logo. In fact, many companies do just fine without a logo. Think Marie Forleo. What does her logo look like? My guess is you can’t remember. The reality is that many entrepreneurs think their ‘logo’ is their ‘brand’. This gets reinforced by graphic designers who advertise ‘branding’ work, when in fact they are actually designing a logo and matching business cards. Let’s be clear: if it doesn’t involve strategy, messaging, emotional appeal and visual identity—then it’s not branding. Branding begins with strategy, not design.
If you trace the concept of branding back to its origins, you can see why so many people get confused. The act of branding originated from the prehistoric age, more than 4,000 years ago. The actual term ‘brand’ comes from the Middle Ages Nordic word brandr meaning to burn and refers to the practice of branding livestock. A distinctive symbol was burned into the animal’s skin to distinguish ownership of one person’s cattle from another’s in order to deter theft.
Just like a branded symbol burnt into animal skin helps identify the owner, a logo allows us to identify the brand. It’s purely a form of identification. It’s function is simply to identify a product or service, not explain or sell that product or service.
Meaning if you’ve only got a logo, you only have a form of identification. You don’t have a system to communicate your value. You don’t have a strategy to explain what you have to offer. You don’t have a strategy to sell your product or service. You don’t have a strategy to build a relationship with your audience. You don’t have a strategy to differentiate yourself in the marketplace. You don’t have a strategy to unite your audience.
SO IF BRANDING ISN’T MY LOGO, THEN WHAT IS IT?
Branding is the promise of consistent value, so your audience knows what to expect. It’s the combination of visual, verbal and emotional attributes that define your company and distinguish it from your rivals. These include the visual design, marketing, communications and messaging which make up every experience that people have with your business. And it should be consistent everywhere! Social media. Website. Advertisements. Stationery. Signage. Marketing. Packaging. Brochures. Business cards. Even down to how the receptionist answers the phone. Your brand permeates everything you do, everywhere.
If you purchase a Rolex watch you expect a certain level of quality and value. When you purchase a meal from McDonald’s you also expect a certain level of quality and value. McDonald’s promises reasonably priced meals, ready to go…not that nutritious—but still, you know what to expect.
If McDonald’s started building hotels tomorrow you’d also know what to expect. You can almost imagine them in your mind. They would be reasonably priced, clean, centrally located, family friendly and would be painted red and yellow. Same with Rolex. If Rolex opened a hotel tomorrow you’d also know what to expect. They would be expensive, luxurious and finely crafted with a 5 or 6 star rating. When Versace entered the hotel industry everyone knew what to expect—pure opulence. There were no surprises. That’s because they have a brand and they’ve carved out space in their customers’ minds. Their hotels are an extension of their brand – elegant, neoclassical and undeniably extravagant. If your business opened a hotel tomorrow would your customers know what to expect?
DEFINING YOUR BRAND STRATEGY
Defining your brand is a bit like a journey of brand self-discovery. It can be time-consuming and uncomfortable. But it’s so worth it in the end. In order to have a strategy you need to know the following:
Who are you? What problem do you solve? What is your big why? What is your mission? What is your vision? Who do you serve? Who are your competitors? What are your key points of difference? What niche do you own? What are your core values? How are you improving your customers lives? What is your brand personality? What is your brand promise? What is your tone of voice? What are you core brand messages?
When you started out on your entrepreneurial journey did you dream of low profit margins? Slashing prices just to make a sale? Being a low cost producer? Struggling to pay the rent? Being lost in a sea of sameies? It’s safe to assume that you started your business in the hope that it would be successful, as most do. However, few position themselves well enough to give their business the best chance of survival, establishment and then success.
This guide will give you every chance of brand success! At the end of this guide you’ll be able to answer all of these questions and have a written brand strategy. I’ve put together some one-of-kind exercises that you won’t find anywhere else. Let’s get started!
*This is an excerpt from Branding: Uncomplicated our step-by step Brand Strategy Guide + Workbook to help you craft a modern brand with personality, meaning, heart and soul. Click below to find out more.