During his daily commute after breakfast, Dan makes sure to stop by the convenience store to pick up a bag of his favorite snack, Dino Crunch. Dan is a loyal Dino Crunch customer and recommends Dino Crunch to all his friends. He purchases a bag at every opportunity.
Dan likes Dino Crunch for its taste, texture and price tag – but what Dan really adores is the Brand itself. In an increasingly competitive market in which consumers are more market-savvy and less loyal than ever before , the people behind Dino Crunch have managed nonetheless to convince Dan that they’re better than the rest. Their strategy is Brand Building.
How it’s done
The features of a product/service fall into categories of Points of Parity and Points of Difference.
Take Dino Crunch, for example. Dan and his fellow consumers know that Dino Crunch has all of the same fundamental attributes as the other snacks. It tastes good, it’s cheap, it’s comforting. These Points of Parity make it a viable purchase. But the branding of Dino Crunch doesn’t accent these points. Instead it focuses on the Points of Difference. This grants the product a Position in consumers’ minds – a unique value proposition in the market – and helps in creating an emotional connection between customer and brand.
Dino Crunch offers a chance to win a trip to the natural history museum with each purchase. The others don’t have that.
Dino Crunch has Dan’s friend Terrence the T-Rex on each bag. The others don’t have that.
A brand is effectively the ‘face’ of a product or service. You see the Toyota logo, you think of their cars. Naturally then, it’s the job of a Brand to characterize what’s being offered. But with so many different avenues of customer interaction being used – websites, social network channels, emails etc. – it’s important to nurture the brand image into a cohesive, organic whole, like fitting together the pieces of a jigsaw Mona Lisa.
When Dan visits the Dino Crunch site, he sees the same logo, color scheme and fonts that are used on Dino Crunch bags in the store. This same imagery is present on Dino Crunch’s store page and its style and language is even mirrored by their customer service representative, Jim. When Dan talks to Jim online or over the phone, he knows he has a friend he can trust. And that friend’s name is Dino Crunch.
But it takes more than just consistency to paint a personality onto what you’re selling. As we now know, good characterization makes for effective branding. But every good character has a story behind them.
Steve Jobs’ classic tale of soldering circuit boards together in the garage  before going on to found mega-corporation Apple is an example of Brand Storytelling. Through it we feel as though we understand Jobs’ motivations and plights as he worked his way up the food chain. The story lets us bond with Apple on an emotional level: it gives the company a face.
How it’s measured
High sales numbers are the most obvious sign of successful branding. But there could be any number of reasons why people are deciding to buy from you. Luckily, there are ways to measure the impact of a branding strategy without peeking at the bottom line. Consumer interaction with a brand can be broken down into lift, engagement and preference .
For Dan, Dino Crunch became known when they ran a viral ad campaign on YouTube dubbed Food for Dinosaurs. Food for Dinosaurs featured a scene of Terrence the T-Rex feasting on a bag of the new Stegosaurus Steak flavored Dino Crunch. Food for Dinosaurs had a measurable effect on public awareness of Dino Crunch. Search engine preference was the telltale sign of success, but online monitoring and surveys also told of an increase in Brand Lift.
But Lift wasn’t enough for the people making Dino Crunch. To measure Engagement, they looked at the number of repeat customers they were getting. They also used web metrics like bounce rate and time spent on site.
The ultimate goal of branding is, of course, Brand Preference. If people don’t choose you over the others, what’s the point? As well as adoption rates and repeat purchases, customer referrals can be an indicator of Preference in the market.
Achieving parity in an online space
It’s all fun and games looking at branding for crisp packets that sit on the shelf in your nearest convenience store. But the web is less touchy-feely. In a non-retail environment, how do you prove that your business is up to par? In consultancy for the capital markets there is a common set of buzz words, here’s some from a few well known sites:
- Different / Differently / We do things differently
- Client focussed
- High quality
- Deep knowledge
- Thought leadership
A selection of these will give the impression you are ‘at par’ with other competing firms – almost none of these consultancies find it easy to differentiate. And looking at their websites you wonder if a simpler approach would save money to be invested in other ways of generating business.
Make yourself different
The founders of any business need to think seriously about meaningful differences between their firm and their competition. With software firms the difference is often defined by the products themselves – specialised solutions which can be described and compared. With service firms most fall back on their track record – if you can show you’ve been successful in the past, and build a relationship with a prospect, you don’t need to be different, just good enough and trustworthy.
Whatever route you choose – use your competition as a reference point and avoid being a clone business – use all the brand building tools to make your mark.
Brand building tools
What exactly is a brand anyway? The foundation is built on words – a brand narrative or story which explains your business succinctly. This relates to your brand character and personality, which needs to be appropriate for the market you are in. Serious and expensive services might not use humour, but humour can be a sign of confidence and used wisely a differentiator.
Once the concept of the brand is established you can move into the visuals, such as a logo, type face, strap line, supporting imagery, colour palette and any related visual tools. These assets can become quite difficult to finalise as everyone has an instant opinion on visuals, the problem is agreeing on an objective assessment on whether they embody the brand character and personality in a reasonable way.
Finally you are ready to get yourself online – and nowadays that means a website but also relevant social media platforms to grow an audience. Think of a website as your 24 hour sales person whose job is to deliver sales or leads. Many sites seem to consider themselves a ‘suit of clothes’ to present the business, but in reality your site is an interactive kiosk intended to drive a visitor to take action and engage. Focus on the visitors needs – obvious navigation, simplicity, personalisation, dynamics and purpose.
Build a Better Brand Experience