You know what’s cool about branding? It can achieve its primary objective-which is to distinguish and unify all initiatives to market a company, product, service, issue (whether an ideology or the “storm of the century”), or person (because every celebrity, every politician, every professional athlete is a brand). Branding also can achieve a secondary objective (or perhaps byproduct is more apt): It can insinuate itself (and the brand) into the popular consciousness and culture. Witness Nike’s “Just do it” and countless other campaigns that have become part of our vernacular.
You know what sucks about branding? There is no absolute right or wrong answer. You can spend a lot of time and money on a branding campaign that fails to achieve your objectives…or, worse, creates a negative impression of your brand. So, whether you are marketing cheeseburgers or a pharmaceutical, cars or a medical device, hotels or a hospital, how can you overcome obstacles that arise when branding? Take four key steps:
Support your positioning
The biggest obstacle that arises when branding is the failure to strongly support the positioning of your brand. No matter how creative your branding may seem, if it isn’t consistently on message both visually and in text, it isn’t effective. The positioning of your brand is the foundation of branding and of all the marketing communications you plan to create.
Conduct market research
The best way to overcome obstacles is to prevent them from occurring, or to minimize the risk of them occurring, in the first place. The best way to do this is to conduct market research. Focus groups, one-on-one interviews, online surveys, and other methods can be used to test the brand positioning, branding concept, logo, tagline, and other branding elements.
Without market research, your branding choices are based purely on assumption. No doubt you know your market well. But nearly always, research produces surprising discoveries. Even “just” confirming assumptions can be of tremendous value in enabling you to implement your branding campaign with confidence (and with the confidence of your powers-that-be: your board of directors, shareholders, partners, and employees).
If possible, don’t make your initial branding initiatives an all-or-nothing proposition. Try out your campaign in a pilot program first, with a small sample of your total target audience or with a specific geographic region, for example. One of the biggest challenges in overcoming obstacles that arise when branding is lack of money. If you spend your entire budget launching your campaign, you have no funds left to take any corrective action. But if you start smaller and scale up, you can learn from your experience, build on what’s working, and fix what’s not before rolling out your campaign full-scale (and full-budget).
This is certainly not, however, an excuse to be timid. Branding, especially in the launch phase, needs to be assertive. But if you launch with a splash then suddenly discover that changes in the market are taking place and you don’t have the money to adjust your campaign accordingly, you face a potentially insurmountable obstacle.
The do-it-yourself ethic is an admirable, natural inclination for entrepreneurs. It can also be the downfall of branding. If you don’t settle for “good enough” with your product or service, don’t settle for “good enough” with your branding. Sure, you have an aesthetic flair, but are you really a designer who can create professional communications that are not only visually appealing but also support your positioning and sell your brand? Sure, you are articulate, but are you really a professional copywriter who can write text that enlightens, inspires, and motivates? Professionals who are trained and skilled at design and copy can elevate your branding from “good enough” to great! Let’s face it: amateur branding is for amateur brands.
Hire a professional branding, marketing communications, and advertising firm such as bryantBROWN.
Supporting your positioning… conducting market research… scaling up… and hiring professionals: these are the keys to overcoming obstacles that arise when branding.