Watch out for the branding gurus. Beware of the branding police who focus only on images of brand. Fire the branding consultants who feel qualified to tell you what your brand should be. Ignore the branding zealots who proclaim “brand or die”.
Good, now that we have frightened off the undesirables let’s address some fundamental questions about branding and offer you some probing questions to consider. That first paragraph demonstrates the three rules of creative positioning as explained below.
Should you have a brand? Maybe. It depends on the goals of your business. You need to ask yourself some questions. Will the brand give you the return on your investment? Will you invest the resources to claim and sustain the brand?
What is a brand?
A brand is the emotional bond that your clients have with you. Ask your best clients how they would describe you to others. Look for the common message in what they say – especially the emotion. That might be your brand.
Brand is the feeling others experience when they think about you and your product. Brand can help them think of you first – or better yet – only you. Brand can justify higher prices – or even better – make price a non-issue.
Branding is not about creative logos, pretty fonts and pantone colors. Fire anyone who attempts to sell you that pabulum. Those things are only images. Have you noticed that the successful brands change these images every few years?
Branding is a marketing strategy. It is only one of many marketing strategies from which you might choose.
Is branding an accident or on purpose? Because branding is about creating emotional messages you are always branding. However, are you aware of your messages, are you consistent and are you effectively branding yourself?
You could create or claim your brand. Dominos Pizza created their brand – “Pizza in 30 minutes or its free”. They own that brand. It’s simple, memorable and unique. Some companies look for an opening and build their business to create that brand. Some companies discover their brand by accident. Feedback from clients, remarks from the media or a competitor’s comment reveals the brand that was hidden in plain sight. In that case it is up to you to claim the brand and run with it.
Avis claimed their brand by turning a disadvantage into their brand when they launched their marketing campaign with “Avis is only Number 2 in rent-a-cars, so why go with us? We try harder.” And with cheekiness they leverage further on their “disadvantage” by adding, “The lines at our counters are shorter.” That brand has been successful for over 40 years.
How do you create your brand? There are two ways. Like Coke, Nike and MacDonald you could throw gazillions of dollars at it. Or you could use creative positioning. Look for the holes in the marketplace. Go to where your competition is not and claim that position. Take a stand like Harley Davidson, Buckley’s Cough Mixture and Nova Scotian Crystal.
Each of these companies claimed positions in the market the competition was unwilling to take. Folks either love or hate Harley Davidson. Buckley’s proudly claimed that “it tastes awful but it works” along with a money back guarantee. Nova Scotian Crystal is proudly the only Canadian crystal manufacturer and they offer an incredible one year breakage warranty. Drop your whisky glass and they will replace it; no questions asked.
Each of these companies was willing to take a position that would drive some folks away while attracting a loyal crowd of fans.
The three principles of creative positioning are best explained by UK entrepreneur BJ Cunningham, who as CEO of The Enlightened Tobacco Company sold a cigarette called “Death Cigarettes”. It was presented in a black package emblazoned with a white skull-and-crossbones logo. Just imagine how this might appeal to the rebels. Everyone except the tobacco companies knew that cigarette smoking was bad for your health. BJ did what none of the other tobacco companies were willing to do. He took a stand.
Cunningham’s three principles of creative positioning: 1. Take a polarized position. 2. Make enemies. 3. Create tension.
Branding starts with market review and self-examination. Standing alone can be scary, exhilarating and hugely profitable. It you are going to claim a powerful brand take a position away from the crowd. Stand where no one else is standing.