A Lost Art: Putting a Face on Your Brand

Posted on July 9, 2010

Over the past several months, I’ve been working with companies in the healthcare and industrial services sectors where the initial conversations focused on their self-declared need for “a better website”, or “a lead generation strategy”, etc.  However, as I explored further I found that there was an underlying cause — the lack of a brand strategy (which includes a unique selling proposition).

I explained to these companies that simply touting quality, value, & service are not enough in today’s crowded markets to attract anyone to listen to what you have to say (online or offline).   These are the minimum requirements to be in business — not a sustainable brand position.   Further, I suggested that if the companies could not identify one thing they did better than their competitors (USP) — then we needed to start by solving this first before thinking about online/offline engagement strategy.

The re-occurring misconception I see with companies and even some ad/creative agencies is the lack of understanding of what a brand is.  In simple terms, a brand has three core components:

  1. Positioning -what you want the brand to be
  2. Design – translating “Positioning” into a name, logo, and color scheme
  3. Meaning – how the brand takes on associations with other things

A name truly becomes a brand when people associate it with other things.  So a brand is like a reputation.  The problem is that the companies I  was speaking to (and their agencies) largely define branding as item #2 (visual identity) bypassing the Positioning.   Without a carefully crafted Positioning Statement (target, frame of reference, USP, reasons to believe) there is no way to develop a proper marketing strategy or communicate a value proposition to drive sales leads.

These companies were buying lots of ad reach/frequency but had nothing relevant to say to a target audience.  They lacked a narrative that appealed to their target buyers. I see this all the time with healthcare companies using billboards and broadcast media — that is, feel-good messages that don’t really say anything.  Lack of positioning means being lost in the background noise.

I recommend a simple exercise called “putting a face on the brand” includes identifying actual personalities (employees) who can represent the brand online and offline to engage prospective customers as brand ambassadors.  I help clients develop their own communication style and help the marketing staff create an online/offline editorial calendar whereby they are now “facilitators of conversation” and thus act like a publisher.  By “stepping out of the billboard and into the community” brands can not only increase engagement, but more effectively communicate their USP (unique selling proposition).

Here’s a quick checklist to ask yourself:

Q1: Do we have a defined brand strategy with regards to all three brand components?  (positioning should drive design)

Q2: Is our brand positioning statement (particularly the USP) truly unique and are we communicating this consistently online and offline?

Q3: While every employee should be a brand ambassador, do we actually have people who are assigned to engaging prospects in online and offline dialogue to reinforce the USP and drive qualified sales leads?

Happy hunting

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