Updating Your Brand in a Flat Economy Can Push You to Success

Updating Your Brand in a Flat Economy Can Push You to Success

Jim Lienhart, Branding

Looking for answers on how to succeed in this flat economy? You'll find them under your own roof. Business owners and managers must learn how to re-examine the truth about their own companies. They must face the fact that the velocity of life today and in the future demands that your brand should have the power and emotion of an original and clear point of difference. When this is achieved, the leverage of your company's symbol will give you great strength in the marketplace.

As soon as one can understand the four key branding steps, the path to a company's success will open wider. These steps are: 1. Core brand value 2. Brand message 3. Brand personality and 4. Brand identity.

Step 1. Core brand value

Why do you need to establish a core brand value? One of the most powerful analogies related to this endeavor is described in Mike Moser's book "United We Brand". In it he says:

"Let's start with a brand that's been around for more than two hundred years-the United States of America. Suppose our forefathers had started the United States without declaring, 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.'

What if the founders of the United States hadn't established these core values first? The Betsy Ross flag wouldn't have inspired anyone. It was the core values that the flag represented, that made all the different. It wasn't the design.

Successful companies must have this same commitment to a core value system that drives all their decisions. Then their symbols, as well as their companies, will gain strength in the market.

Step 2. Brand message

The key to communicating the essence of your brand is based on a clear definition and emotional expression (the brand message) of your core values. Our American culture is based on freedom and individuality--a spirit of seeking new information, new perspectives and new answers. It reflects a pioneer spirit that you might tap into in developing your own brand message. An example of the brand message for Bank One's Commercial banking is: "Bank One is more than a bank. It's my trusted source for financial services because it does things that are in my best interest. It's committed to delivering the best ideas and the best solutions that I can act on with confidence. It strives to make every experience I have easy and understandable.

A slogan or tagline can also be a mirror reflection of the brand message. Some examples of strong taglines are:

US Army: Be all that you can be
Nike: Just do it
Apple Computer: Think different
BMW: The ultimate driving machine.

Reflect the reality of your brand and why it exists. This is both internally and outside the company. Do you have a unique position in the marketplace? It may be a specific product or service that no one has. If this so it will be easier to develop a brand message. If not, it will be a little harder to craft the message.

Perception and reality exercise:

Develop a 2-column list with headings perception and reality. Under perception list the ways your company is perceived. Examples might be: impersonal, large, slow, shrewd, friendly, fast service, smart, etc. Now across from each perceived word write the reality word. This allows you to see if any issues exist between perception and reality, and to work on correcting them before finalizing your brand message.

Effective questions to ask yourselves--in an effort to describe your own brand--are:

  • Is your message simple and clear?
  • Does it differentiate you from your competition in the marketplace?
  • Is it true?
  • Is it consistent with your company's core values?

Keep in mind that people in the marketplace want to know: What's in it for me? They want to believe that a company's message speaks directly to them, and they want to know the benefit they will receive from buying your product or service

Step 3. Brand personality Many companies have no personality and the two most common reasons are:

  • Too many people are determining the personality
  • No one in the company is creating a personality.

In David Ogilvy's famous book "Confessions of an Advertising Man" he stated: "The manufacturer who dedicates his advertising to building the most defined personality for his brand will get the largest share of the market at the highest profit."

Think of your company as a person. All companies can have a personality. You're looking for traits that define your company and that communicate your core values. For example, a sales company may be aggressive, confident, competitive and hardworking. On the other hand, a bank may be honest, friendly, trustworthy and reliable.

Companies need to establish a connection on a personal level, allowing people to relate to you, to be partners in the relationship.

To help establish this human connection think about the four following questions:

  • Is your brand male, female?
  • Is your brand young, middle-aged, old or for all ages?
  • Is your brand upscale or blue collar?
  • Is your brand local, regional, national, or global?

Step 4. Brand identity

After you've established your core values, brand message and brand personality, the final step is to reflect this unique company position in a sensory way-through your "brand identity".

Sensory brand identities:

  • Visual: Logo, product, packaging, corporate colors, typefaces, design formats, architecture and clothing.
  • Sound: Announcers' voice and music
  • Touch: Overall textures and temperature
  • Smell (if appropriate)
  • Taste (if it applies)

The most important aspect of your identity is the visual branding. The logo is a simplified symbol that represents the company, service or product, and can fit into one of the following categories:

  • Word Mark: Ford, Coca Cola, Canon
  • Letterform brand: IBM, KFC, ABC
  • Pictorial brand mark: Peacock (NBC), Bull (Merrill Lynch), Quaker man (Quaker Oats)
  • Abstract brand mark: Chase bank, Chrysler, Nike

The logo serves as a quick memory connection to your company. It separates you from your competition. It reflects your company's values and personality.

People remember shape first, color second and content third. We all have a built-in memory connection to the meaning of certain shapes and color. Skilled designers can develop an identity that reflects your company's values, message and personality. This is a critical part of your success.

Understanding and implementing a serious branding program will push your company to toward more profitability. It will develop a strong physiological brand of trust in your marketplace that will keep open the door to success.



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