Your Brand in 6 Simple Questions
The idea of branding goes back hundreds of years to at least the 1500s and, probably, even earlier. Originally, a brand was a simple mark to easily and quickly communicate ownership of property - think of a rancher branding his cattle. Over the centuries, a brand mark came to communicate the quality of a product to a consumer who was far removed from the manufacturer and helped the merchant stand out in increasingly crowded and competitive marketplaces.
Brand marks continue to grow in importance and recognition as valuable company assets - even enjoying legal protection through trademark registration. But in the same way that the purpose of a brand has evolved since its inception centuries ago, so has what we would consider a brand to be. No longer is a brand simply the visual mark of a company or product. Today, you can think of a brand as the total perception of your company or product that a person carries around with them. This perception is the result of the collective experiences she’s had with your product. In essence, your brand is that layer where your brand signals and a person’s experiences on their consumer journey intersect. In this context, you can think of branding as the alignment of your company, product, or service to your highest value customer's journey.
As you’re trying to figure out what your brand is and what it should be, here are 2 important considerations to keep in mind:
- You have a brand whether you want one or not. Customers and potential customers will have a perception of your company whether you make any effort to brand your company or not. Through word of mouth, personal interaction, driving by your store, etc., they will have an experience that will leave them with either a positive or negative impression of your company. Even if they never encounter your company, that absence of awareness in itself can be considered a brand.
- Brands are dynamic. If your brand is in alignment with your highest value customers today, don’t think that this will necessarily be the case tomorrow. Branding is a lifetime commitment to a process for your company.
Working with our clients, we’ve come up with 6 questions that help to move the brand conversation in the right direction for us. As you set out to figure out what your current brand is as well as what your ideal brand should be, you can use these as a starting point in your team discussion or personal brainstorming session.
In simplest terms, what product or service do you sell?
Who are you focused on helping with your product or service?
What are your customer’s primary pain points that you want to resolve with your product or service?
How will your product or service resolve their pain points?
How will your customers benefit from purchasing your product or service?
What impact do you want your business to have on the world?
Initially, your answers to these questions might feel imprecise and unfocused. As you work through your discussion, you should have a goal of simplicity for each question. Ultimately, you should be able to answer each question with one or two clear, efficient sentences.
Once you’ve gone through the exercise of answering these questions, you can use the answers to help formulate the 4 cornerstones of your brand: your vision, mission, position, and purpose. These terms can mean different things to different organizations. So to align our conversation, we’ve developed a focused definition for each:
Brand Vision: How we and the world should ideally view the company. This is the closest thing to your “elevator pitch”
Brand Mission: Your value proposition - in other words, how your customer’s life is better by becoming your customer
Brand Position: How you’re different than your competitors...your competitive advantage.
Brand Purpose: What we want the impact of our business to be on the world.
That last item, your Brand Purpose, might ultimately be the most important of your brand cornerstones. While the others answer what you do and how you do it, your Brand Purpose communicates why you do it. For non-commodity products and services, understanding your authentic commitment to a community is increasingly becoming a driving factor (and often the driving factor ) in how consumers choose to become customers. As you develop your marketing plan, having a clear sense of what your Brand Purpose is leads to powerful opportunities to create high impact content and develop richer relationships with your customers.