Discovering and Communicating your Brand
What is a brand, and why does branding matter? The “B” word is thrown around quite loosely, so it’s good to begin by knowing what it really means.
Brands are the marriage of facts (your capabilities, that is, what you make or do) combined with the special group of characteristics (or peak emotional attributes) that are particular to you, your company and your products. If you visualise a target, brand definition and peak attributes sit at the centre, and the ways in which you apply or communicate your brand radiate out from that centre. You want your logo, marketing, advertising, packaging, and line expansion to be governed by your brand’s peak emotional attributes, brand story and business strategy.
At Mercurylab, we always begin with emotional discovery and definition in order to get to your company’s essence, so that you are able to harness your real power and communicate it effectively in every way. Successful companies increase sales and use their resources wisely by working with this kind of methodology, combining authentic emotional insights with an analytical, strategic approach that is rooted in their brand attributes and business goals. Statistics show that brands with a clear identity and communications stand out from the competition, with a resulting increase in awareness and market share.
So, how do you begin the process? Our clients always start with “Discovery Sessions,” where we incisively dig down in order to bring to light your family background and how it influences you. We want to uncover aspects of you and your staff that you know – and don’t know — as sometimes the parts we aren’t consciously working with can be the real drivers for our businesses. We look at your business culture, goals and aspirations, and what works – and doesn’t—in the way you have been approaching your business or in presenting your offerings to the marketplace. This process is especially beneficial for mum-and-dad, family businesses and small to mid-size companies that are looking to go to the next level, but not sure how to expand or how to use their resources strategically.
If you are doing brand discovery on your own, without a transformational brand consultant, start by writing about “the make or do” for your company and products — that is, the facts. Then write about where you are now, where you would like to be, and what YOU believe your audiences think about you. Remember that brands are about perception, and sometimes that perception is a misperception, so try to write honestly about how you, your company and your products are perceived. Putting yourself into the shoes of your staff, competitors, and suppliers can be a real eye opening experience that will help you to calibrate your position in the market.
It’s also helpful to become a good, non-judgmental brand analyst. Observing the marketplace more analytically will help you to form a quick, accurate snapshot of other brands, which will then help you to understand how to concisely communicate your own brand. Daily brand definition is an exercise that all of our clients undertake, and it pays off in both marketing and self-awareness.
Overall, the answer to all of your communications questions always lies in utilising the marriage of your emotional attributes and capabilities to guide your activities, particularly as we’ve found that most companies tend to communicate their base, not very special attributes rather than their peak attributes. Remember that the peak attributes are where the magic lies. Base attributes (those that sit at the bottom of your brand pyramid) are traits and skills you must have just to get in the door of the food business, but that your competitors will likely share as well.
The next part may be the most complicated, as you start to knit together your discovery information with your market research to determine how to create or calibrate, a brand that will be credible, sustainable, and differentiated. It’s not enough to be farm fresh (that’s a make or do) or a family business (that’s a good one, but only works when it’s married with other attributes, since many food companies are family businesses). Once you have a clearer understanding of the marketplace, and you have spent some time thinking about your own brand, you will be in a better position to develop the tools that are specifically right for YOU, your company, and your products. There isn’t one unilateral set of tools that is right for every business. The best results are derived from a psychological understanding of your internal culture looked at through a deductive lens. You will see a tremendous benefit and shift once this analysis is married with strategy and clear emotional expression. It is a courageous and complex process that you can undertake on your own, or with the guidance of a trained and experienced transformational brand strategist who is committed to your success. This is how we help our clients to transform, build, and maintain successful brands, year after year.
Discover and define your brand first, then create a strategic marketing plan, then market and implement. As I always say to my clients and audiences, Go Forth!
By Beth Taubner
Mercurylab, New York & London
Transformational Brand Strategy