Avoid This Deadly Mistake When Defining Your Brand

The executive team of a Wisconsin-based manufacturer was exhausted and frustrated from being in a perpetual state of rebranding. The company recently completed three acquisitions and needed to bring clarity to its global brand. Everyone on the team had strong, yet conflicting opinions about what the brand should be, and what kind of marketing messages were needed to capture more business. After several unsuccessful attempts were made to define the brand internally, we were invited into their brand “rehabilitation” meeting to provide the necessary guidance for a successful rebrand.

We started the meeting with performing a post-mortem on their last two branding initiatives so that we could understand where things took a wrong turn. In both cases, we learned that the leading question by the CEO to the executive committee in the brand development process was, “What brand message do we need to generate more sales?” And although that may seem like a logical approach, both initiatives were doomed to fail from the beginning because of a common, deadly mistake – not asking the right question.

Instead of leading with, “What brand message do we need to generate more sales?,” the better question should have been, “What are the relevant, meaningful and distinct reasons customers should believe in our brand and buy from us instead of our top competitors?”

The first question does nothing more than encourage the group to offer reactionary and random thoughts about what they believe the brand message should be. Unfortunately, typical responses often include answers such as industry leader, most innovative, premium quality, best-in-class service, etc. The problem with these statements is that they are very common and generic, thereby offering no relevance in the minds of customers as they travel through their brand consideration process. However, the second question forces the group to dig much deeper into the well of the company’s tangible and intangible assets so that they may emerge with a meaningful and relevant value proposition that would influence a new customer relationship.

Common roadblocks

Oftentimes, companies end up “settling” for a brand that is either soft or not as strong as it could be for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. In the brand discovery process, the CEO or the group placed too much emphasis on the wrong area – designing a brand that would merely sound better and look better than the competition, and not enough consideration to its internal assets.
  1. The group’s inability to reach a consensus on what the brand should be, eventually succumbing to frustration and creative fatigue.
  1. People from different roles within the company were not invited to participate in the brand discovery or development process. Staff members from HR, accounting, product development, distribution, service, sales, marketing, and even from IT all bring valuable and much needed insights to the discussion.
  1. The CEO, the one who risked it all by starting the business does something that is perceived as “safe” – creating a brand that is only slightly different, but not too much different, than the competition. In other words, s/he created a brand that is not substantive enough to motivate someone to strongly consider or switch over from a competitor.

I challenge you to ask yourself, “What are the relevant, meaningful and distinct reasons customers should believe in our brand and buy from us instead of our top competitors?”

Next, ask yourself if you believe your answer is compelling and convincing enough to pull people away from your toughest competitor. If it’s not, let’s talk.