A start-up, today, may or may not have started to think about developing its brand. If it chooses to do so, there are three simple yet important questions that come up.
What do our customers and prospects really value?
Which value, prized by customers, is in short supply among the existing offerings in the market?
How do we build a strong association for ourselves with the values most desired by customers?
Let's look at the first question. At this point, is it more variety and choice that customers want? Fresher goods? Bundled offers with convenience and savings? Killer looks? A better reputation for environmental concern? And now, consider the second question. Is there an opportunity before us to identify a value and focus on it, so that we are usefully differentiated from the competition?
How we answer those two related questions will determine how our brand is going to be relevant to customers, and how it'll differentiate itself from others in our category.
Brand management isn't only for giant enterprises with large marketing budgets. It starts from the first minute when an entrepreneur clearly defines the value proposition in their business, and how they plan to deliver on it. This is an entrepreneur who knows that they are not only making a product or offering a service. They are fulfilling a promise to the buyer each time. The buyer sees a value in procuring from you, in being your customer rather than anyone else's, and they have found a reason. The entrepreneur must make sure this belief is reinforced, and the value gap between his brand and the competition is widened. So the emphasis is not only on consistent quality of product/service, it is on competing more effectively.
To compete more effectively, we must become adept in working with value. We need to be good at imagining it - how can a user have a more delightful experience, how can a customer feel less strain, how can something take less time or be safer, what would be a popular new flavor, the next cool fad....
We need to be good at designing for it, finding snappy cultural expressions for it, and staying consistent with our brand's theme in everything that we do or say. These are the ways in which you can be the next Rowntree, who Nestle will happily acquire. Note here that branding isn't only some surface slickness that is added on in a studio, it is built into the product's design, into its go-to-market, and into the plan for attracting our prospect's attention.
When we design our brand's identity, we ask ourselves if its look reflects our brand promise. We are trying to incorporate our personality's touch into everything we do as a brand. That's how our brand becomes more readily recognized for what it's trying to be and do for its audiences.
So whether it's how we greet people over the phone, the terms of service on our product's website, the instructions on how to dispose off the carton or wrapper, the signage at our entrance - everything that a customer will see, hear, smell or infer about our brand is a communication opportunity. Our brand essence is the aggregate of all these impressions and experiences.
We can be a class apart right from the minute we decide to be. That's the moment we become mindful that we are building a business as a brand, and that we must visualize the details of the brand experience our customers will have of it. So then, the time to build a strong association for ourselves with the values prized by our customers is now.