As a marketing professional, my family and friends will often ask me for advice on how they can increase their sales. Getting pulled into these conversations, I chuckle at how many people still believe there is a “magic marketing bullet” that will instantly skyrocket their sales to Apple-like success.
About a year ago, a relative of mine, the president of a small software company, invited me out for drinks to discuss the marketing challenges his company was facing. He had seen the growth of his company’s sales pipeline and sales abruptly slow down. Convinced that the company’s outdated website and marketing activities were the root of these declines, he and his marketing manager started to plan a brand overhaul. Here was a company that was about to invest a significant amount of time and resources on a full marketg campaign – updating their logo, website and collateral – because they felt their brand was “outdated.”
It became apparent during our conversation that they had never actually created a formal marketing plan in the first place. They had a well-organized website, some pretty PDFs, and a number of cool and complicated graphics and diagrams that were probably very expensive to create, but there was no established branding or underlying message connecting it all. I quickly proposed he delay investing in rebranding until the company could clearly declare a vision and purpose.
Knowing the Brand
To completely understand this company’s predicament, it’s important to first understand the core differences between the terms brand and branding.
A brand is the image, idea and set of emotions people associate with a specific product. A brand is simply the sum of the perceptions your market holds about your company. You can’t touch nor hear a brand, as it’s a direct result of a user’s experience with a product.
Branding is the collection of activities used to construct, support or alter those perceptions or feelings of a brand. Branding is conveyed through product names, logos, colors, brand placement and tag lines. Corporations utilize branding activities to construct or support their brand.
After reading through their website, it became clear that the company had not defined a clear purpose, set of values or brand guidelines. The company wasn’t producing a consistent brand message over the various communication mediums they were using. How can you expect a customer to understand your business values or product differentiators if they are not defined?
Define the Brand
Over the next week we collaborated, and all stakeholders agreed they shouldn’t view this as just a new marketing campaign; instead, they would view this as a chance to fully develop a brand that represents their contract software company. They needed to address the gaps between their products and services, values and messaging. It was time to define their “Dominant Selling Idea.”
Our kick-off began with a conversation defining their audience and what they believe the audience would want to achieve with their products or services. They knew what problems their products would solve, but were unsure how to weave the messages into the foundation of the brand.
Position the Brand
Is the product providing anything special to the user when compared to the competition? What is the company’s goal? How does it help anyone? What makes your company number one?
A “Dominant Selling Idea” is your “motivating difference” – the difference that attracts customers to choose you over all other competitors at the moment of purchase following the consideration phase of the buying cycle. Define what your product provides that others don’t.
In the 2005 book “Why Johnny Can’t Brand,” author Bill Schley states:
“The one thing that guarantees you a motivating difference is to be considered #1 in a desirable specialty…We call it a #1 specialty because it’s:
Superlative…Means you’re #1 at something, the best in class.
Important…Means that something really matters.
Believable…Means there’s a logical reason why.
Memorable…Means there’s an emotional hook that penetrates and is remembered until purchase time. It makes it the difference we not only need, we want.
Tangible…It’s real: we trust it because we’ve experienced it and it performed as promised.”
During our meeting, I recommended the company consider their messaging strategically and choose a Dominant Selling Idea that conveyed their company as being number one at something. Whether a company produces the safest car, a golf ball that can be hit the furthest, or offers the best slide rule (Everyone knows what a slide rule is, right?) a consumer’s recognition of a brand increases when the company is number one at something.
By taking the time to establish their vision and a Dominant Selling Idea, the development of the narrower messaging and tags for a website become easier to develop. Fastest, longest and safest are superlative, important, believable, memorable and tangible attributes, so we applied what appropriately fit with their products and services.
If you're not number one in your specialty, create another specialty where you can be number one.
Connect and Visualize the Brand
Next, we wanted to develop an image they wanted to portray. Our goal was to create sincerity by discovering a way to own and convey the idea or brand in a credible way. Now that the company understood what made them so valuable, our focus was to bring that idea to life with new visuals and messaging.
Case in Point
Tropicana’s orange juice is a great example of a product that has messaging and key visuals that mimic the Dominant Selling Idea. Tropicana’s tagline, “Tropicana. Straight from the fruit,”partnered with a clever visual displaying a straw stuck directly into an orange forms a perfect synergy between a Dominant Selling Idea, messaging and key visuals. Tropicana’s Dominant Selling Idea and messaging provide important attributes including believability, tangibility and memorability – while also being original.
Consistent messaging throughout the different medians will reinforce your Dominant Selling Idea. Key visuals allow you to illustrate your Dominant Selling Idea – and seeing is believing.
Customers Buy Your Brand
Customers are buying your brand or image when they are purchasing your products. Whether it is a conscious decision or not, customers are willing to spend more money on a certain brand even if competitors offer something similar at a lower price. The customer may actually prefer one brand over another due to perceived higher value the preferred company represents through its brand.
Remember, “your brand is whatever your customers say it is...” It's why people seek to buy from you – because it's your focus, and they believe you do it best.
Your Brand is an Asset
Regardless of what it is you might be branding, the return on investment good branding provides is undeniable, and once all the stakeholders really gets this, it shouldn’t be difficult devoting the appropriate resources to do it right. Focus on refining your brand to make it the best it can be by understanding your Dominant Selling Idea; use your Dominant Selling Idea as the main focus of all your key visuals and messaging to ensure consistency. Branding a product can be the simplest, most profound exercise in all of marketing; it’s “the difference that makes me want to buy from you.”