It is a tough time for businesses. And it is even tougher if your company does not have a recognizable brand and brand reputation.
So, in these tough times, I ask you, how important is brand marketing?
Before we answer that question, let’s make sure we are all on the same page and agree what brand marketing is – nailing down a definition is more difficult than one might think.
I googled “brand marketing” and here are a couple of definitions I found at the top of the search …
“Brand marketing is an approach to communications, sales, product, and service that grows the asset of brand equity.” (Source) For me, this does not say that much and it breaks a rule I learned in grade-school – that is using the same word within a definition … “Brand marketing is … brand equity.”
“Brand marketing promotes your products or services in a way that highlights your overall brand.” (Source) Once again, the grade-school rule is broken here. In this article, the definition continues to tell us what the goal of brand marketing is, but really does not define it …
“The goal of brand marketing is to link your identity, values, and personality with communications to your audience. Essentially, your brand is the bridge between your product and your customer. Brand marketing is not just about putting your logo and business name as many places as possible and expecting to generate sales. Many times, the importance of brand marketing gets overlooked, as it takes time. Many marketing departments are focused on short-term goals, rather than nurturing long-term goals that impact the entire business, like building a brand.”
Not a definition, but that’s pretty good in my opinion.
Brand is to company as personality is to person. So, try to look at your company as a personality. What are the TRUE characteristics of your company with regards to what you stand for as it relates to the audience you serve, the employees in your company, and the product and services you sell? As Simon Sinek often says, start with the “why” of your company as opposed to the “what.”
If you really want to invest in building a strong brand, I suggest the following steps:
1) Work hard on a positioning statement
Consider the following positioning template:
- For …………….………… [target customer]
- Who ……………….……. [key qualifier – form]
- Our product is a ….. [product category]
- That provides ………. [key benefit]
- Unlike ………………….. [main competitor]
- Our product ……….… [key point of differentiation]
The purpose of the positioning statement is 1) to know exactly who you are, 2) to do a gut check on your knowledge of your target customer and validation that you really deliver them value, and 3) to make sure you have distinct differentiation relative to your competition. The positioning statement is not something you specifically communicate. It validates that you have something truly compelling. The late Peter Drucker once stated, “In most American companies, marketing still means no more than systematic selling rather than its true meaning: Knowing what is VALUE for the customer!”
2) Answer the following: Why are you in business? What is the passion within the company? Besides selling your products or services, why was the business started? What is the story behind the why?
3) Look in the mirror. Is your company REALLY what you say it is? Is the company, it’s executives and employees truly practicing and living the value system you state?
4) Build content to continually reinforce your brand. Tell stories, don’t sell products. Yes, you can mention products and service, but execute performance marketing and selling products through other appropriate roles and responsibilities within the company.
5) Identify “influencers” who believe and communicate your same value system. Build relationships with them. Remember, real influencers are people who will advocate for your brand because they love what you do. (See more on influencers here and here.)
6) Work to build an emotional bond with your audience. This is done through content marketing, social marketing, customer service, customer engagement, and all other aspects and touch points of customers’ experiences.
Never has brand marketing been so important, especially in these hard economic times. The political, pandemic, and racial injustice environments that we live in today highlight that purchase decisions go way beyond the specific product or service conversion. People look to support brands they believe in and ones that carry their equivalent value system. Brand marketing sells the company. And when times are rough your company will be rewarded if you have worked on and portrayed a strong brand image via brand marketing.