This post is the fourth of a four part Spark Series on branding.
Developing your brand doesn’t stop at the brand positioning statement or the brand design. Developing and sustaining a brand require a long term strategy that should permeate every action your company takes.
The brand positioning statement is the backbone of this strategy, as it establishes how you are promising to deliver value to your consumer. Your company cannot be all things to all people, and it is important to establish a strategy that stays true to your positioning and strengthens your identity in the consumer’s mind.
Creating your brand’s strategy involves decisions that touch on product development, key messaging, brand tonality, advertising mediums, distribution points, pricing, promotions and more. One of the easiest guidelines for ensuring that you’re covering your bases is following the 4 Ps of marketing: product, price, place, and promotion.
Keeping some points in mind while developing your strategy will help you stay true to your positioning and prevent you from straying on interesting but distracting tangents.
Remember your consumer
Your consumer should be at the heart of everything you do. Companies that thrive are ones that work tirelessly to fulfill their consumers’ wants and needs. You need to speak their language and deliver on the promises that you make to them.
To return to the example of the fictional Breeze Blow Dry Lounge from part two, the target audience was busy, working women who wanted quick but quality services. The management could decide to add an array of lunchtime grooming offerings that guarantee completion within 30 minutes from start to finish. This would capitalize on the understanding that these women want to utilize all the spare time they have efficiently and cannot afford to dawdle.
Highlight and build your point of difference
The point of difference (POD) that we discussed in the part two of this series plays a vital role in your brand strategy. Consumers need to be reminded of the functional or emotional benefits that your brand promises. This POD should be something that the competition is not promising or cannot promise, which is why it is a differentiating factor for your business.
Continuing with the example of the Breeze Blow Dry Lounge, its brand strategy must focus on occupying the quick but quality niche so that there is no question in consumers’ minds where to head when they need to swift service.
Your POD may not set you apart for long. If competitors see something working well for your business, you can expect that they may emulate your strategy. Evolution and improvement of your POD is thus always necessary to ensure it remains a real differentiating factor.
Stick to key messages
In every industry, there are different types of consumers who want different things. It’s easy to get drawn in by the desire to appease all these needs. This leads companies to highlight a multitude of different features about their business to reel in all the various types of clients. While this may seem like it will increase business, it actually only confuses potential consumers and causes your business to appear to lack specialization. Customers rarely choose to buy from the jack of all trades.
Define your brand’s key messages and use only those messages in all of your communication. This will help solidify your positioning with the target market you have selected and avoid losing them due to mixed messages.
You can’t compete on all levels
Brands generally compete on three platforms: price, product, or comprehension*. For brands that choose the price path, their consumers are generally no-fuss and require minimum features for the lowest price possible. To achieve this, businesses must focus on operational excellence to offer low prices.
Some businesses will instead choose to be known to have the highest quality product on the market. This product will come with a higher price tag than the competition, and consumers expect that. In fact, price is used as a signal to indicate promised quality level. It is important for companies to live up to that.
A third approach is comprehension. These brands may not offer the cheapest prices or even the best product, but they do offer a quality product for a reasonable price and with stellar service. This can be seen as “the full package”. It is especially successful in crowded industries where many competitors have good products and consumers have difficulty differentiating and choosing between them.
All of these platforms have pros and cons, and all can work for various brands, but you cannot reasonably try to follow all three. Trying to go down all three paths will leave your brand standing in the exact same place with an unclear positioning.
Be a challenger
Competition drives innovation. While you may not be the market leader, you can always be a pioneering challenger. By monitoring your competition closely and understanding their positioning, you can best understand how to differentiate yourself and how to challenge them.
Even if you are the market leader, must continue to challenge yourself to stay ahead. Activities should not continue to be done simply because that’s the way they have always been done. Is this still the best way? Why are we doing this? Always challenge yourself with those questions.
Choose your mediums carefully
When you run a small business, small budgets are the reality you deal with every day. 360 degree campaigns are ideal, but they are not always achievable with the financial limitations SMEs face.
To best utilize your precious budget, choose mediums that have high impact with your target audience. Don’t pay for a full page ad in a traditional print newspaper if you’re targeting millennials!
Lack of consistency kills brands. Consumers should perceive your brand in the exact same way during every interaction with it. From above the line advertising all the way down to the appearance of your shelves in store, your brand needs to convey the same messages in order to maintain its identity.
Brand strategies guide your marketing activities and should constantly evolve to match market needs. Market leaders can quickly fall behind if they refuse to adjust. Don’t be afraid to question the strategy that you’ve set and make changes along the way. If you don’t, the market may move on without you.
What were your hurdles when developing your brand strategy? How did you overcome them?