These are unusual times. Whether you run a multi-billion-dollar corporation or a one-person company, there is no blueprint for how to move forward. One thing, however, has always been true in business. Whatever crisis arises, the strongest brands always come through. So amidst all this uncertainty it seems like the ideal time to check the fundamental assets of your brand. And make sure they are solid, timeless and powerful enough to withstand any storm.
In the past year, we’ve spoken to brilliant marketing leaders from various industries. Using their knowledge and our own, we’d like to share some nuggets that may help you strengthen your brand. Here are a few assets that every brand needs to take inventory of:
1. Your Brand’s Purpose
Purpose-led brands have been discussed a lot in recent years. That’s because consumers have more say than ever before, and they want to engage with brands that share their values.
Many of our podcast episodes cover purpose from various angles. Brad MacAfee, former CEO of Porter Novelli talks about the move to purpose led brands from an external and internal POV and why the movement started in the first place. Ed Farley, the former head of branding for global brands like Anheuser Busch and Humana, United Way and Edelman Financial talked about how to create a brand architecture. And David Lemley, Founder of Retail Voodoo, and is a pioneer in retail with a purpose who talked about his method of creating a strong purpose-led brand.
Here’s a quote from Leigh George, Founder of Freedom Marketing.
For the longest time, companies thought brands were about them. And that customers were there to help brands with their mission….I think the Internet and social media and a lot of other factors have completely changed that relationship and consumers are in control. We know more about a brand before we decide to buy something. We have the ability to talk back in a way we never had before. Brands have to realize that their brand needs to be helping customers with their mission and their purpose, not the other way around.
What is a company’s purpose?
Though many companies embrace the purpose-led brand movement, many don’t seem to understand what “purpose” actually means.
Is this Purpose? Depends.
Just because you donate to a nonprofit or clean up a local park doesn’t mean consumers will flock to your side. Telling everyone you’re a generous and kind member of the community often comes across as just that, a company trying to convince people it has a heart. Before a company goes out and tries to engage the community, it needs to answer this question:
Other than making money, why does your company exist?
What you sell must improve the lives of the people you serve. For example, if you sell a product for mothers of young children, your purpose might be, “to help moms discover ways to connect with their children.” If that’s your purpose, it might mean that in addition to providing your product or service, you support early education initiatives, help single moms in some way and look for opportunities to serve your audience and society within your area of expertise. Supporting the local 5K for Alzheimer’s may be nice, but it’s not connected to your purpose, so it dilutes your brand.
2. Your Brand Promise
This is the promise you make to the people you serve. If there were ever one statement I would recommend any organization put up on every wall it is the brand promise. This is your True North and the reason people trust you. Here are some examples of successful brands with clear brand promises:
Google: “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
The Coca-Cola Company “Refresh the world in mind, body, and spirit, and inspire moments of optimism; to create value and make a difference.”
Nike: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”
H&M: “More fashion choices that are good for people, the planet and your wallet.”
Starbucks: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
Amazon: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company”
If you deliver on your brand promise, people stand by you. Amazon has had negative coverage for putting other retailers out of business. That may be so, but do they stray from this promise? No. There is no easier way to buy anything than on Amazon. They don’t break that promise.
3. Brand Personality
Your brand story is going through a challenging chapter right now. One thing you need to understand is the personality of your protagonist in your story. Working with our clients we often discuss the personas below. Where does your brand fit?
Knowing the personality of your brand helps you better understand your brand voice when you communicate. It helps everyone understand where you’re coming from. Some brands fall clearly into one group or another. For example, Geico is a Jester, Home Depot an Everyman, Google is a Sage and Virgin Airlines an Outlaw. Some brands evolve over time. Apple was spot on a Creator, but now because if its expansion and reach has moved some into a Ruler role and straddles both.
The reason your brand personality is vital is that humans relate to other humans. You must not only know what your brand does and why it does it, but also who your brand is if you’re going to connect with your audience. We have a workshop we run to help our clients discover their personality and it’s always an enlightening experience for everyone because a brand personality isn’t created, it’s uncovered.
4. Positioning Statement
You have a positioning statement, I’m sure. But how does it fit in the current situation? The basic template for a positioning statement is:
For (define your audience), (Your brand name) offers/provides/delivers/ (brand attribute), which (benefit to audience). Unlike (competitors), (Brand Name) gives people (Point of difference)
But given the health crisis, can it be tweaked, so that rather than position against your competition, you position against an aspect of this crisis? Maybe it’s the fear of losing a job or staying at home or being sick. How can your brand position itself against the real threat right now?
5. Value Proposition
A value proposition is usually written by listing:
- Your product features
- What makes those features important
- What problems do these solve
After you have all of this information down, take it all in and answer this question: Your value proposition answers the question: What value does solving these problems bring to your customer’s lives?
But I would challenge you to revisit this and not only understand the nuts and bolts of your product or service, but also how you might help improve your customer’s lives in the midst of a pandemic.
Right now is the time to shore up your fundamentals. Then use your ability to pivot and be creative to address your customer and employees’ needs while staying true to your brand. The best way to do that is to go back to the foundation of who you are and stay true to that. If that part is solid, you can generate ideas that will not only help you navigate these times, but help your brand come out stronger on the other side of it.