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branding Archives - Haloway Consulting
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Follow These 4 Key Branding Principles

Key branding principles

Follow these 4 key branding principles when building your brand

Branding Principle No. 1.

brain with right arrow

Brand Share of Mind (Rational). These are logical, physical features or attributes that are rational and appeal to the mind:

  • Tangible
  • Functional
  • Features
  • Measurable
  • Analytic

Branding Principle No. 2.

2. Differentiation. Your brand essence must be unique, not replaceable. You must own a single idea. See the previous week’s blog post for how to figure out your brand’s core essence or attribute.

For example, you will never hear:

  • “I picked it because it was exactly like every other car I test-drove.
  • “We bought it because it was exactly like every other house on the street.
  • “I married him because he was exactly like every other guy I dated.

Most importantly, create a new value curve to make your brand stand out from everyone else. The Blue Ocean Strategy Canvas advises that you compete on attributes that your competitors have failed to serve. For years high growth companies have entered markets by first catering to an underserved niche market.

For instance, Netflix started by mailing cult classic films that you couldn’t get at Blockbuster, Vimeo focused on professional videographers unlike YouTube, and Tesla started making luxury vehicles instead of competing with electric low-end hybrids. This strategy of differentiation is key for disruptive start-ups and established companies.

Branding Principle No. 3.

Share of Heart (Feelings) These are the attributes that appeal to people’s feelings or emotions.

  • Intangible
  • Benefits
  • Experiences
  • Judgmental
  • Intuitive
Share of heart

Branding Principle No. 4.

Relevance. There is no point in identifying an essence that is irrelevant to your audience. Essences that don’t connect are the reason behind many failed brands. Research to make sure you nail this down.

In conclusion

Test your brand against these 4 branding principles to make sure that your brand has a solid, well-grounded foundation that will appeal to people and fend off the competition. If you have any gaps, identify what is missing in your brand essence. Use it by consistently incorporating it into your messaging.

In addition, you may want to ask your customers what they think and feel about your brand. Global companies with large market research budgets do this all the time to make sure that their branding resonates with their target audiences. Likewise, follow their example, even if it means something and inexpensive as simple as picking up the phone and talking to your customer!

Discover Your Brand Essence

Discover your brand essence

What is brand essence?

Every strong brand stands for something—one differentiating attribute.

Some call it brand essence. Others call it the brand. Or any of these…

  • SOUL
  • HEART
  • MANTRA
  • PROMISE
  • SIGNATURE STRENGTH
  • CORE STRENGTH
  • CORE ATTRIBUTE
  • DESCRIPTION
  • PERSONALITY
  • DIFFERENTIATOR
  • EXPERIENCE
  • CONNECTION
  • LIFE FORCE
  • UNIQUENESS
  • INDIVIDUALITY
  • MEANING
  • CENTRAL NATURE
  • VALUE PROPOSITION

Why is a core attribute important?

Your brand essence or core attribute gives your audience the primary reason to choose your brand over competitors’ brands. Your brand personality captures what your audience feels when they experience your brand.

Examples of well-known brands:

  • Apple – The Apple essence is innovation.
  • Volvo – The Volvo essence is safety. “Driving a Volvo makes me feel that my family is safe.”
  • Jeep – Their essence is adventurous.
  • Disney – The Disney essence is magic for everyone. “Experience the Magic Kingdom.”
  • Harley-Davidson – Their essence is liberating, freedom and independence – be a rebel.
  •  VISA – Their essence is reliability everywhere.

What is YOUR true brand essence?

 A strong car brand can create significant value in the automotive industry. The price consumers expect to pay for otherwise identical luxury vehicles can vary as much as $4,000, depending on the car’s brand. For mass-market cars, brand helps determine which products a consumer considers buying. Furthermore, superior brands extend their halo across every model of vehicle within the brand. It’s no surprise that most auto manufacturers make brand positioning and development a key item on their marketing agenda.

Volvo = Safety and reliability.

Tesla = Luxury and state-of-the art electric car technology.

Porsche = Sporty performance.

Lamborghini = Exotic luxury performance.

Ries & Ries

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

 A brand becomes stronger… when you narrow its focus.

The bottom line as you brand yourself and your business

Tap into what your audience feels.

Be single-minded. Stand for something and own it. One word to describe your essence is ideal. Maybe two. More than two words indicates that the brand has no focus.

Because a brand (by design) delivers a unique experience, having no focus makes for a weak brand.

Your brand essence must be authentic and credible, or your audience will not believe you. To find out what your audience believes about your brand, ask them. How did people react to your car brand description during the ice-breaker? Did they believe you? Or was it a stretch for them? How hard was it for you to zoom in on the words you chose to describe yourself?

(It’s okay for the brand essence to be aspirational, but only if your audience believes you can deliver on the promise.)

Haloway Consulting brand essence word cloud

Haloway Consulting brand essence word cloud

Build your brand essence

  1. Pick out 3-5 words that you think and feel best describe you and your business. Use a word cloud tool, word sheets or the resources below to collect words that describe your brand. Can you narrow it to one or two words that you can authentically own and defend?

Here are a few resource links to help:

Brand voice test: Do these words pass the sniff test? If people can't tell who's talking when your logo or trademark is covered, then your brand's voice is not distinctive enough.

How to Build a Bullet-proof Brand: Part 3

Information overload

Why bother with branding?

First, let’s talk about the bad news, and how to address the mess. Next week we will tackle the good news.  

1. Attention is the new value in our economy. It is a very scarce resource.

Research shows that humans are totally incapable of seeing what is right in front of them, if they are completely focused on something else. This phenomenon is called Inattentional blindness. It is the inability of the human mind to process anything that is not the specific and direct focus of attention at that moment. Magicians such as David Copperfield and Criss Angel use this to create their amazing magical feats.

This is also why we ignore banner ads, billboards, email subject lines and other advertising unless we are specifically interested in the subject. Once we have seen them and determined they are not of interest, they literally become invisible to us. In his book, The Buying Brain, A.K. Pradeep mentions that the brain is frustrated by clutter and messages that distract us or don't apply. It will ignore anything and everything it can, that is irrelevant to us.

Combat this phenomenon by making sure that you are speaking directly to your customer’s deepest wants, needs and fears. Craft your content and visuals to appeal directly to what they desire.

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

2. You are now competing in a global marketplace for attention.

Research shows that as of 2018, businesses send and receive 124.5 billion business emails each day, while consumers send and receive about 111.1 billion consumer emails each day. And that’s just emails flying around the world. People spend time watching almost 5 billion videos on Youtube every single day.

The cure: Provide value and interesting content. People are attracted to stories, visuals, videos and meaningful information. Use your content and branding to build meaningful, long-term relationships instead of gunning for the quick sale.

money jars and coins

3. You have limited resources and capacity.

If you’re a solopreneur or small business owner who does it all, "tag, you’re it." As in, you get to do everything, unless you have a fairy godmother on your side or an unlimited back account. We are all limited by our access to resources and capacity to get stuff done, regardless of the business size. We have only 24 hours in every day, and 365 days in a year.

This may feel contradictory, but this actually helps us. Limitations force us to prioritize our efforts and energy on what is most important. The old saying goes, “if you stand for everything, you stand for nothing.” The consequence of standing for everything is that you end up watering down your brand and wasting your efforts.

I tell my clients to focus on being the best possible version of you instead of attempting to be someone else or a generic everybody—what is it that only you can provide? Be laser-focused on delivering this brand promise to your ideal audience. Make sure that your brand reflects your specific uniqueness. Limitations also mean choosing our marketing tactics and communications carefully and purposefully, to ensure that we are getting the brand impact that we want.

large crowd of people

4. You often have multiple markets, audiences, products and services that require a complex, multi-dimensional message.

Most businesses have more than one group of customers or target audiences. Product-based companies can have multiple brands with hundreds of products. That being said, your business should have only one thing that your stand for. Otherwise you will confuse the heck out of everyone.

The world’s greatest brands have known this for generations, and standing for one thing is baked into their brand DNA. You may see campaigns or sub-branding that promote slightly different value propositions depending on the audience, market, product or service offerings, but they always link back to the main brand essence. A great brand flexes and bends when needed, but always stays strong at the core. The core never changes.

Marco Rangel, left, and his daughter Montserrat Rangel load up on cookware during Walmart's Black Friday events on November 27, 2014 in Bentonville, Ark. Walmart is offering deep discounts on items across multiple categories in stores and online though Cyber Monday. (Photo by Gunnar Rathbun/Invision for Walmart/AP Images)

THE BOTTOM LINE: You already have a brand.

Whether you like it or not, whether you are aware of it or not, you already have a brand. Your brand is the feeling, interactions, images and other intangible attributes that others associate with you and your business.

As an example, let’s pick on Wal-Mart. When I say, “Wal-Mart” to you, and if you are familiar with this brand, you will immediately have a mental and emotional response based on your perceptions of the Wal-Mart Brand.

Branding changes are not always better for the brand

In 2007, Wal-Mart dumped their old tagline “Always low prices” to “Save Money. Live Better" to combat the brand perception that they’re cheap, cheap, cheap. I get the business rationale behind wanting to change the tagline. If they wanted to shift to selling more upscale goods to compete with Costco and Target, the consequence is that they can’t always offer the lowest prices on everything. This strategy change ended up creating a huge consumer disconnect with their brand—they can’t be both the cheapest and the best at the same time.

As a result of the shift, the shiny new tagline and ad campaigns didn’t fix their brand image problem of being the cheapest on the block. The new warm and fuzzy advertising campaign created confusion with audiences who didn’t experience warm and fuzzy with their in-store experiences. It was same old-same old Wal-Mart. Nothing had changed except for a branding band-aid.

Brands should encourage customers to remain loyal, not push them away

Branding expert Rob Frankel said outright, "This campaign is a 100% guaranteed failure. It's not a brand strategy, it's a price claim. It doesn't do anything to encourage you to be loyal, and it's even insulting—people don't need to be told that it's a good idea to save money."

In fact, he said, emphasizing price adds to Wal-Mart's image problem. "To shop at Wal-Mart is almost the same as admitting you are poor. As soon as people can figure out a way not to shop at Wal-Mart, they do." As a result of their 19-year branding strategy, Wal-Mart is now finding itself locked into a brand perception of dirt-cheap, shoddy goods and service at the bottom of the barrel. Wal-Mart has a tough time competing with Target and Costco with that kind of brand baggage dragging it down. Especially if their new tagline loos suspiciously like the Target tagline which is “Expect more. Pay less.”

The irony is that Target once had a similar brand image to Wal-Mart in its early beginnings, but the company consciously chose to evolve into a more upscale, trendy yet affordable brand. I’ll save that brand evolution story for a future post.

In conclusion, if you don’t know what you do and can’t communicate it well, neither do your customers and prospects. You need to proactively manage your brand. Don’t become a Wal-Mart branding disaster.

Resources:

Next week: Part 4. After this week’s brutal reality about branding, we could all use some good news. I’ll talk about how to leverage what you already own to make your brand a brand worth getting to know.

Until then, feel free to do your homework. Download the presentation now!

About the “Build a Bullet-proof Brand” series

This series of blog posts is based on a branding masterclass workshop from last fall. The topic is evergreen, based on the number of brand-related questions my partner Robynne Davis and I field every week in our marketing meetups. This series is designed to bring all of these important elements into alignment with your authentic brand:

  • Your true brand essence
  • The visual experience behind logos, fonts and color
  • The emotional connections with feeling that happen with images and videos
  • The power of words to convey your brand promise and your brand essence
  • How you appear in the many worlds of social media – consistently and meaningfully.

How to Build a Bullet-proof Brand: Part 2

Generic tomato sauce

Why is it important to build strong brand differentiation?

Your brand is about intangible perceptions—how people feel about your products, services or business. Similarly, what people experience when they interact with your brand. Most importantly, you want to create powerful brand differentiation that helps you stand out from the pack. 

For instance, you can use the power of brand differentiation build a strong, bullet-proof brand. As a result, you prevent your brand from becoming a generic commodity such as kitty litter, cornflakes or catsup. 

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room.”

    ⏤ Jeff Bezos

“A brand is not a product or a premise. It’s the sum of all the experiences you have with a company.”

    ⏤ Amir Kassaei

What happens when people don't see any perceived value in your brand?

Perception is in the eye of the beholder. Some see them, some don’t. However, when people don’t perceive any intangible value, it’s a commodity to them. You're as good as generic kitty litter or catsup in their eyes. 

A commodity is a product, service, cause or organization with NO perceived intangible benefits or attributes. On Wall Street, commodities of the same type are interchangeable with each other. Therefore, If you are a commodity, you are stuck in a no-win price competition.

A brand differentiation lesson from tomatoes and catsup (ketchup)

Catsup (ketchup) is catsup, right? The stuff you squirt on hamburgers, hotdogs and French fries. You say "toe-may-toe," I say "toe-mah-toe." you make catsup by smashing tomatoes up into a tangy sauce and put into a bottle. Brands range from the generic to exotic. People who don't care about their tomato catsup (ketchup) brand will buy the generic, cheap stuff found on the big food chain shelves. 

In contrast, catsup (ketchup) connoisseurs (aka "food snobs") will go out of their way to discover exotic flavors and brands, including Harry and David and classic Sir Kensington. As a result, in the minds of the buyers of these prized gourmet brands, they are most certainly not interchangeable commodities. This is a vastly different mindset from the regular folks who buy generic brands.

All these brands have their place in the market. Who do you think is able to charge more for their product? Who gets more social media buzz and loyal customers? 

"Almost as American as apple pie"

Market Pantry™ promises freshness and quality always at a great value. The essential condiment for barbecues and picnics.

"America's Favorite Ketchup"

Heinz updates its classic with organic tomatoes, no high-fructose corn syrup for a well-balanced version that appeals to the organic food crowd.

"Share more"

Harry & David appeal to people looking for thoughtful, gourmet food gifts that reflect well on the giver.

"Quirky sensibility"

Sir Kensington's was designed to appeal to people who wanted a tasty, non-GMO ketchup on their grass-fed burger with their farm-to-table side.

1. BRANDS COMPETE ON THEIR INTANGIBLE ATTRIBUTES.

2. COMMODITIES COMPETE ON PRICE OR CONVENIENCE.

3. YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE VIEWED AS AN EASILY REPLACEABLE COMMODITY.

Keep these three rules in mind as you work on creating your branding.

In conclusion, all these brands have a legitimate place and purpose in the condiment market. The lesson here is that if you do not want to be viewed as a generic, commodity product or service who can only compete on pricing, you need to build strong brand differentiation to survive. Take a cue from Sir Kensington and figure out what's in your "secret sauce" that will make you irresistible to your customers and prospects!

For those of you who are into the classic red stuff and love a good food fight,  read the Epicurious "tell all" blog post for the insider scoop on which brand makes the best catsup (ketchup). 

Next week: Part 3. Guess what? You already have a brand, whether you know it or not! I will show you how to identify your brand essence and start to put your secret sauce to work.

Until then, feel free to do your homework. Download the presentation now!

About the “Build a Bullet-proof Brand” series

This series of blog posts is based on a branding masterclass workshop from last fall. The topic is evergreen, based on the number of brand-related questions my partner Robynne Davis and I field every week in our marketing meetups. This series is designed to bring all of these important elements into alignment with your authentic brand:

  • Your true brand essence
  • The visual experience behind logos, fonts and color
  • The emotional connections with feeling that happen with images and videos
  • The power of words to convey your brand promise and your brand essence
  • How you appear in the many worlds of social media – consistently and meaningfully.

How to Build a Bullet-proof Brand: Part 1

BMW sedan

If you search online for the definition of “what is a brand” you will likely be very confused by your search results. Definitions such as “a type of product or service produced by a particular company under a particular name.” Nope. “It is the emotional and psychological relationship you have with your customers.” Close, but no cigars. Business blogger Allan Dibb’s definition of brand was short and to the point, a brand is the personality of a business.” I like this explanation a lot.

What is a brand?

Your brand is NOT just your name, trademark, logo, package or product.

Your brand is a collection of people’s thoughts + feelings about their experience with your brand. The ultimate goal of branding is loyalty.

Thoughts and feelings are intangibles.

As compared to tangibles…

Which you can see hear feel 

smell & touch

Intangibles you just…feel

Your brand represents who you are in the mind of your audience. It’s the sum total of how people think and feel about you. Your name, logo, trademark, packaging or products are a reflection of various aspects of your brand. They all need to be in alignment and harmony with your core values, mission and business purpose.

If there is no connection, you will fail miserably to attract the loyalty of customers, partners and community advocates you need to succeed. Remember that your brand’s function is to link your brand principles with what you do. When your brand acts out of character, then your brand’s very essence is corrupted and such damage takes time to repair.

BMW sedan

Porsche launches new luxury sports sedan

Mercedes adds performance to their luxury brand essence. Take that, Porsche and BMW.

Audi moves into the luxury  electric vehicle space. Watch out, Tesla. 

MINI Countryman

MINI moves into Jeep's traditional branding territory with fun and adventure as a key part of their brand essence. 

BMW is a perfect example of how you should manage the essence of your brand. Their brand stands for "pleasure." Their slogan "Sheer Driving Pleasure" integrates this with their other key values: power, performance, innovative, aesthetic and dynamic. This manufacturer does not stand for "technology" (which is Audi’s brand essence), or for "longevity" (Mercedes), "sportiness" (Porsche), or "fun" (MINI Countryman). For giggles and grins, google each of these brands to see their brand essence pop up the search results.

Here’s how BMW describes their brand:

“What you make people feel is just as important as what you make.” 

Well said, BMW. An excellent example of a great branding philosophy demonstrated in practical, real-world application. It's spring, the weather is amazing, and BMW makes me want to own a luxury sports car so I can go out for a leisurely drive in the Cascades with my beloved. 'Nuf said.

Next week: Part 2 digs deeper into what is a brand. I will talk about how good branding keeps your brand from being viewed as generic kitty litter. eewwww...

Until then, feel free to do your homework. Download the presentation now!

About the “Build a Bullet-proof Brand” series

This series of blog posts is based on a branding masterclass workshop from last fall. The topic is evergreen, based on the number of brand-related questions my partner Robynne Davis and I field every week in our marketing meetups. This series is designed to bring all of these important elements into alignment with your authentic brand:

  • Your true brand essence
  • The visual experience behind logos, fonts and color
  • The emotional connections with feeling that happen with images and videos
  • The power of words to convey your brand promise and your brand essence
  • How you appear in the many worlds of social media – consistently and meaningfully.
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