B: Branding | The ABC's of Marketing

What is a brand?

When most of us think of a brand, we think about the things we see: a logo, a website, maybe a color palette. But a brand is much more than that.

In the very traditional sense - and because I love agriculture - brands are used in agriculture to help ranchers distinguish their cattle from another ranchers cattle. Brands are a unique marking easily identifiable at a distance.

Today in business, a brand is really no different than that. Advertising tycoon, David Ogilvy described a brand as “the intangible sum of a product’s (or company’s) attributes.” A brand is what someone thinks of when they hear your brand’s name — it’s not objective and it exists in their mind.

You can shape the perception of your brand by focusing on the attributes you want to project and pulling them together into a cohesive strategy.

Analysis Worksheet: Brand Identity Matrix

For this part of the series, I’ve adapted a Brand Identity Matrix from the Harvard Business Review that will help you evaluate your brand on several levels.

Brand Core

There’s a reason why your business exists. At the core, your brand makes a promise to yourself, your employees, your partners and of course, to your customers. It can be difficult to pinpoint the essence of a company, but this matrix will help by guiding you along four trajectories.

Path 1: Competition

Why should your customers choose you over the competition? What makes you unique in the market place. In order to establish your niche, you need to identify:

  1. Your strengths. What are you really good at? Is it quality? Variety? Customer service? What’s unique about your strengths?

  2. Your relevancy. How are you relevant to your customers? Why do they need the products you sell — specifically the ones you produce over some they could buy anywhere else? How are you useful in your customer’s lives?

  3. Your position. Where do you fit in the marketplace? Are you the least expensive option or most convenient? Are you offering a premium, high value product and experience?

Path 2: Strategy

It’s important to be in the right places at the right time, especially when you’re a busy entrepreneur. Knowing who you’re trying to reach is really important because that will make sure that you’re implementing your strategy in an effective way. But how do you come up with a strategy in the first place? Well, you need to have a foundation. This piece includes:

  1. Your mission and vision statement. You don’t need to write the most clear mission statement or vision statement for this exercise, but you should be able to communicate your purpose and what impact you want to make.

  2. Your value proposition. The mission/vision statement is more of an internal compass for a company while the value proposition is a customer focused promise. What value do you add to your customer’s lives? How do you solve their problems and why are they better off supporting your business?

Path 3: Interaction

Brands are really about relationships. How you interact with people inside and outside of your company is a key component of a brand. Think about how you feel when you shop at Nordstrom compared to TJ Maxx. Some people love the aspect of discovery that comes with finding a good deal — but other times you want a hands-on experience and curated set of goods to shop from. When you evaluate your brand’s interaction, you’re thinking about:

  1. Feelings. How do you want people to feel when they interact with your brand? This includes real life, face-to-face interactions, but also the feeling they get when they interact with you virtually.

  2. Relationships. What kind of relationships do you want with your customers? How much time and energy do you want to invest in each relationship? And what do you expect in return?

  3. Loyalty. What do you want your customers to do after they’ve established a relationship with you?

Path 4: Communication

The last path is probably the one that we tend to focus on the most when we talk about brands and that’s because it’s the piece that we can usually see on display. Communication references the verbal and nonverbal aspects of the company’s style — it includes the interaction component and it pulls in the other pieces about strength and competition. Effective brand communication has:

  1. Style. A look, tone and expression. This is everything from the way you speak to the colors you use. All of it evokes emotions in your customers.

  2. Personality. Brands aren’t people, but there’s people behind brands. If your company was a person, what would its personality traits be?

  3. Differentiation. Thinking back on the cattle brand, it’s important that your brand be unique so people can tell it apart in a crowded marketplace.

Back to the core

After you’ve gone through the matrix, reflect on each path and your brand’s core. Each path should be in harmony. There may be a lot of cross over between each one. But from this exercise, you should be able to definitively say what your core values are and what your brand’s promise is.

Download the matrix here and please let me know if you find it useful!

Jamie Tiralla