What’s Your Why?
Most businesses -- be it Sony or Papa John’s Pizza -- start off with “what” — they know what they are selling.
Manufacturing a product or offering a service is the first part. It’s the Minimum Viable Product. Companies can’t be in business without it.
But then comes the question of competitive advantage: why your product, over all others? And, the answer to this requires companies to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and respond with their “why”.
Articulating a reason why someone should buy your product or service is the height of salesmanship where you’re not selling, you’re inviting someone to take part in a movement.
The “Why” is the clincher when it comes to understand why any customer would purchase from one company over all others.
After all, when they buy into the product pr choose that particular service, what they’re really doing is buying into the future of the brand.
Rinse & Repeat
Branding strategy done right takes elements of the business — graphics, fonts, colors, catchphrases, logos and standards — and applies them to content creation. These can be proliferated across various social channels.
For companies that want to build a presence on Instagram (because your team has determined that’s where your buyers are), this means always creating content with brand elements.
Also, a brand's marketing strategy should involve such granular details as how often content is posted, how many followers should be gained in a month and the variation in “types” of posts (“quotes versus photos”, for example)
Ground Control to Major Tom...
No matter what the specifics, it must all be done consistently and continuously if you hope to have some real data to work with.
Branding strategy is a feedback mechanism so without data and hard numbers, it’s difficult to justify changing elements of a company, pivoting, or building out new products.
Appeal to Emotion Before Logic
At its lowest point, Harley Davidson motorbikes were considered to be a total write-off. What staged their big brand comeback?
Appealing to emotion before logic.
The Power of American Nostalgia
The truth is that Harley Davidson was suffering immense market cap loss and the company was hemorrhaging dealerships.
But their motorbikes changed the face of American riding when the brand shifted focus: the company appealed to the brand’s connection to old American nostalgia.
They re-connected the brand to biker culture and transformed Harley Davidson not only into something functional as a bike but connected it to a previous era, a piece of American history.
There was nothing logical about the storytelling here. Harley Davidson’s powerhouse brand comes from the evocative connection bikers feel to a sense of implied, shared, cultural history and identity.
Go With The Flow
Businesses that are focused on building a powerhouse brand must also be prepared to be flexible and go with the flow.
Yes, certain elements of the brand have to be visually recognizable. But don’t be afraid to shake things up when running targeted campaigns.
One set of a key demographic may respond to different aspects of the brand. So harness that variation by segmenting your campaigns and keeping the brand fresh.
Companies can also promote customization, if that is something the product or service allows.
Apple, for example, capitalized on the early portable music device space by offering colors and the ability to add engraving to iPods and, later, iPhones.
McDonalds is another great example of testing marketing initiatives and branding through products. Their #CREATEYOURTASTE campaign introduced gourmet burgers at an upselling price point that took a significant departure from their “fast food” brand.
The result for consumers was a useful side-product that customers could opt for when they were feeling like “fancy” fast food.
The result for McDonalds was a foray into a new niche where they could “test” the concept of customization and use the data to refine their campaign and product.
The new “Signature Crafted Recipes” were burgers that were most common and sold the best, based on this test campaign.
By going with the flow and running test campaigns with customization, the brand was able to introduce a new product while still being able to “focus on doing what it does best: fast food and all-day breakfast”.
Who Moved My Cheese?
We’re not talking about the popular book by Spencer Johnson entirely because change is not at stake here.
Employee involvement is. Employees who feel invested in a company or small business are the ones that take pride in following the cheese, if you will.
When employees feel vested in the business, they begin to speak its language.
They exude the external culture by purchasing from the brand itself and the internal culture, which you can see in the way they behave and communicate with customers.
Because they genuinely believe in their business’s business, their interactions are a part of a brand's strategy and success.
A company that exemplifies this is Starbucks. The next time you walk in, notice how baristas and shift managers at Starbucks communicate with their clientele. There is a dedication to the guest that shows up in their willingness to re-make drinks to perfection.
When customers ask for suggestions on which beans might have a lemon taste versus a more chocolate taste, Starbucks employees are able to speak knowledgeably.
This is because they go through an intensive, 3-month coffee tasting and training. Employees or “partners”, as they’re know, sample each of the in-house beans, learn which regions of the world they are harvested in and what pastries go well with them based on the natural flavours.
Internal Brand Loyalty
That’s how the Starbucks brand builds trust and loyalty with their customer: by empowering their employees, known externally as “partners”, to be knowledgeable brand representatives of the product they sell -- coffee.
But Starbucks doesn’t stop there: partners can take this newfound knowledge along with the brand’s generous “partner” discounts to purchase half-price beans while working on shift, enjoy free drinks during shift and percentage discounts when ordering at any other Starbucks store across the country.
This means that Starbucks is not only able to win lifelong customers, it’s able to convert their own employees into Starbucks-coffee-believers.
These moves are all part of an overall Starbucks culture that extends not just to the customers from the brand but from the employees to the customers about the brand.
What Does It All Mean?
Loyalty is one of the key aspects to building a powerful branding strategy.
Businesses that can accurately convey all of the above on a consistent basis to their focused target market will eventually capture loyalty.
Why do filmmakers prefer a Red camera over a Canon, for example? Loyalty to Red’s merchandise is not only in the quality of the product because Canon sports a similar quality product.
Here, loyalty is all about making meaning.
Filmmakers who shoot on Red have an instant emotional connection with the art of filmmaking. To shoot on a Red means you are a filmmaker dedicated to his craft, not simply an amateur fiddling with fancy equipment.
Or so the brand is trying to convey through its marketing strategy.
Content is King…But Context Is God
Which leads to competitive edge. Small businesses must recognize that their size is one of their obvious strengths that are often taken for granted. They can fail often and fail fast with relatively little consequence.
Working these previous 7 aspects of branding strategy means businesses can maintain a competitive edge over their competitors in a similar niche.
Done right, they can move in and take over another business’s market share if they can articulate their message in a consistent manner.