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When Should I Start Branding My Startup?

In this hyper-entrepreneurial world, all sorts of businesses are being formed every day. Mostly, we hear about the tech companies. But plenty of service businesses are also being created. New manufacturers are popping up too although, nowadays, those are also likely rely on proprietary, advanced technology. And every entrepreneur, every driving force behind these new enterprises, grapples with the same question: At what point should I invest in branding this new thing? The companion question is, of course: And how much should I invest? My default answer is: Invest as soon as possible because a strong brand will attract investors as well as customers and staff. But that doesn’t mean you should run out and hire a logo designer. The branding process starts long before you get around to designing a logo. It starts way before you should be thinking of a name for your new business or product. Branding starts with knowing your customer. You have to know your customer well enough to understand what purpose they have for your new offering. What role will your widget play in their lives? What do they need you to be for them?

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Your Employee Is Your Brand’s First Customer

Some businesses are more dependent on employees than others. Sure, every business has to make good hires. You can’t get very far if the people you bring on board are unqualified, incompetent or disruptive. But some businesses have lots of employees who interact with customers every day. Those people are expected to be true brand ambassadors. They have to really believe that the products and services they provide are authentic and worthwhile. The businesses that run these kinds of staffs live or die by how well they represent the brand. Businesses like restaurants, retail chains, and call centers, etc. must all be sure their people know what the brand promise is. They must know what it means to deliver on that brand promise. Yet so many such businesses will give a new hire just one “orientation” session and leave it at that. Developing true brand ambassadors takes so much more. It requires regular engagement over time. If you can’t “sell” your brand to the employees, they won’t be able to sell it to the customer. So, in that sense, your employee is your brand’s first customer.

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Give Your Brand An Unfair Share Of Culture

I was reading the other day and came across an old concept, one that I had all but forgotten about. It’s the idea of having unfair competitive advantage over the competition. It’s what happens when one brand has such a dominant or unique position in the market that people rarely even think of the competition. But the article I read was an interview with Brent Smart, the CMO of IAG, an Australian insurance group. (Link in the sidebar.) He takes the concept further. He talks about unfair share of culture. As Smart points out, Nike has this kind of “unfair” share of culture. I might add that so does Apple. That’s why it can get away with charging premium prices for its products. So does Donald Trump. The other Republican candidates in 2016 never had a chance. As the news pundits at the time kept repeating, Trump “takes up all the air in the room.” Do you ever wonder how these brands get to be so dominant in the culture? There’s no secret to it. They work their brands.

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Who to follow on LinkedIn if you work in Advertising or Marketing

I’m not writing a blog post this week. Instead, I’d like to introduce Brandtalk readers to a LinkedIn post from Adam Brami that is special in a couple of ways. The post is from about two years ago but I only learned about it this past week. It’s special to me because it includes me as one of the people to follow. It lists me alongside some of my branding heroes like Al Ries, Mark Ritson and Denise Yohn. That association is both a true honor and a humbling experience. But the second reason the post is special is Brami links to examples of his recommendations’ thinking. So he lists 22 thought leaders and you get 66 smart takes on branding, marketing and advertising. That’s in addition to the seven links in this week’s sidebar. It you’re interested in how businesses connect with markets, this truly is a wealth of information. Happy reading. And thanks, Adam!

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Is Your Brand The Easy First Choice?

Once your brand is established and known, brand management begins. The idea is to take your brand from known to respected to well-liked to beloved. We can all think of brands we love. By the same token we can all name a brand or two that we hate. Brand management is about ending up in the beloved column and not in the hated column. When your brand is beloved, it becomes the easy first choice for much of your market. That’s where you want to be. You want your competitors to be barely considered at all. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 44 years. I know what my favorite Mexican restaurant in the whole city is. I love it. It is my easy first choice for a Mexican culinary experience. Except it’s pretty far away from my house. If I don’t want to drive a half hour or more, I have another easy first choice for Mexican only 1.5 miles away. People make different choices in different situations all the time. As brand manager, your job is to figure out what is the best positioning for your brand and then to become the no-brainer option for that situation. How do you do that? Clear, concise and consistent communication.

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Best Branding Reads
Week of November 30, 2020

Three Branding Assumptions to Avoid
More branding advice for the entrepreneur.

Bad PR & Good Brand Building
Don’t think I’ve ever mentioned how important public relations are to brand building.

Building Trust Capital For Business And Brands
Customers need to trust that you can – and will – deliver what you promise.

How Brand Leaders Overcome the Illusion of Customer Loyalty
Loyalty is getting harder and harder to learn.

Why Under Armour and Stephen Curry are launching Curry Brand now
This new brand is well-founded and off to a portentous start. Plus, what a great logo!

Google’s new logos are bad
Everybody’s hating on them. They’re not great but I don’t think they’re really that bad, either.

Key Measures Of Marketing Outcomes
Use these metrics to determine if your marketing dollar is being spent wisely.