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Illuminate Your Marketing With A Brand Strategy

This post first appeared on July 31, 2017. I wrote a movie script. It goes like this: Hello. I’m Kevin Walker from Boardwalk. I’m standing in the dark because I want to illustrate a point about the value of having a well-considered brand strategy. Any business, product, service, campaign or event needs to be marketed. And if you have something that needs to be marketed then you need a clear brand strategy to light your way. Otherwise, your marketing team, like so many these days, will be operating in the dark. Now, even when a marketing team is lost in the dark, they still have tactical options. They can do the things most marketing teams do. They can improve their website, run some ads or print a brochure. But they will be feeling their way, lacking a clear direction, and always in fear of falling off a cliff or running into a wall or some other obstacle because … well, they’re in the dark. They have no vision. They can’t even be clear about where they want to go. Read More


Seven Steps to a Brand Refresh in 2020

To build a brand, one has to, first, determine what your market expects of your enterprise and, then, align the presentation of your products and services to match those expectations. For most existing enterprises – businesses, nonprofits, etc. – the alignment can be relatively easy to accomplish because, presumably, they’ve already been more or less meeting expectations for some time. Very often, all that’s required is a brand refresh, sort of like when a married couple renews its vows. Sometimes, however, existing companies allow their brands to become so neglected they lose all value and power. These companies reduce themselves to commodities and, if they are to try to rebuild their brand, they have to start at the very beginning, as if they were brand new. Read More


How To Calculate Return On Brand Promise

Return on investment. Buy low, sell high! We all know the basic objective of business. Cover your costs, earn a profit and generate wealth. And repeat. It sounds so simple and yet thousands of businesses flounder and die every year. How do businesses fail? There are too many ways to count. But some fail because they focus solely on making money and forget they exist to serve a purpose – a purpose to the market. Some forget, or never realized in the first place, that they have a brand promise to keep. The market expects them to deliver on it and, if they don’t, the market will not reward them with repeat business. That’s a recipe for tepid sales or, at worst, a going-out-of-business sale. But how does a business, even one that has formalized its brand strategy, know when it’s staying on-brand? How can it keep from drifting into territories that will dilute its relationship with the market? With the ROI/ROBP grid. That’s how. Read More


Why All Business Brands Are B2H

Every company has a brand. B2C companies tend to take their brands seriously. They know how important it is for them to establish a rapport with consumers. They know their customers buy based on emotional factors. So they take care to wrap their messaging in the right kind of emotional triggers, using the right colors, fonts, imagery, etc. that will evoke the desired response from their target market. B2B businesses, on the other had, are notorious for ignoring their brands soon after giving birth to them. I’ve heard all the arguments. “We don’t need branding because we only have 25 potential customers and we know them all personally.” “Our customers set up purchasing committees to take all emotional connection out of the procurement process.” “Our customers buy on specs and price alone; they won’t respond to a fancy logo.” “Our products don’t sit on store shelves. We don’t need branding.” There are hundreds of excuses like this. And they’re all horse crap. If anything, the successful branding practices that B2C businesses use so successfully are even more effective when imported into the B2B world. That’s now more true than ever and it’s trending ever more rapidly in that direction. Because today, all businesses are operating in more and more of a B2H – business-to-human – world. Let’s take a closer look at that. Read More


Business Strategy and Brand Strategy

My background as an artist and graphic designer led me to my entire approach to brand strategy. I work with my branding clients the way I do because my background and experience brought me to my unique methodology. I see brands as the shared relationship between marketable assets and their markets. Brand strategy is the art and science of defining and managing that shared relationship for growth and profit. But then I wondered, what is the difference between that and an overall business strategy? So I set out to learn all about business strategy. I fired up the ol’ Google machine and started clicking and reading. It turns out a lot has been written on the subject of business strategy – apparently, all by people who have never talked to one another. I can’t exactly say that the articles I read on the subject often contradicted each other. But they all put emphasis on different things and, often, even omitted different things. In the following paragraphs, I’m going to attempt to describe how brand strategy fits into an overall business strategy. But, readers, please be aware. I’m going to use a definition of business strategy that makes sense to me but it may not be the one that makes the most sense to you. But, hopefully, you’ll see how brand strategy fits into your definition as well. Read More


Beware The Celebrity-Driven Brand

Remember this guy? Jared Fogle. He became a celebrity for losing more than 200 pounds by eating nothing but Subway sandwiches – for a year, I think. Subway made him a spokesperson for the brand and he appeared in ads that ran from 2000 to 2015. The ads were very successful and Subway only ended their association with Fogle when he was indicted for sexual offenses against minors. He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to more than 15 years behind bars. I’m thinking of Jared Fogle today because of a conversation I recently had with an attorney who represents several cannabis businesses. Cannabis is a commodity, as you know. So all growers are looking for ways to differentiate their crops and tell a compelling story. They need to build brands. The idea is to amass markets, of course, but also to attract the fat-cat buyers – big tobacco and big liquor – who are eating up the sector. A stronger brand means a higher sell price. According to this attorney, every grower’s dream is to attract a celebrity spokesperson as a shortcut to brand stardom and a massive exit package. But they should tread very carefully when making such a move. In a flash, Subway’s association with Fogle turned from profitable to toxic. There is a right way and a wrong way to use celebrity endorsers. Read More


What Is A Brand Strategy – Really?

Every business has a brand whether it wants one or not. Every business has a relationship to its market and that relationship is its brand. It’s partly a recognition thing. What does the business look like? What does it sound like? It’s partly a reputation thing. What is it known for? What does it stand for? It’s even partly a legal thing. What trademarks or copyrights does it own? Today, we think of it as a total experience thing. How does the market experience this business? How do the two parties relate to one another? How do people feel about this business? Most small- and middle-market business owners put very little time into thinking about their brand. They commission a logo design, launch a website and leave it at that. They let their brand grow wild from there without ever considering what it might grow into. Shrewd business owners, however, create a strategies for their brands. They decide how they want people to experience their business and they take steps to ensure that they do. They shape their relationship with the market and guide their business to a positioning that affords competitive advantage. The market leaders in every category do this. In large part, that’s why they became market leaders. Read More


Your Brand Is Like A Marriage

As a very astute business consultant I know points out – every business has a brand. Every business is perceived by those who are in a relationship with it in some way – customers, suppliers, employees, etc. And people who perceive a business hold opinions about it even if those opinions are never articulated. Remember now: people act on their opinions. They will buy from Company A or from Company B based on how they feel about those two businesses. So when the leaders of businesses ignore or neglect their brands, they are really ignoring the relationship they share with their markets. Emphasis on the word “share”. They are taking their customers or clients for granted, or worse. What happens in other relationships, like marriages, where one party takes the other for granted? The relationship becomes sad and troubled or even dissolves. Read More


Why Is Your Brand Like an Elephant?

While at breakfast with some new friends this past week, I happened to once again relay the tale of the six blind men of Hindustan, a famous Indian folk tale. In it, six blind men use their sense of touch to “see” an elephant. I was using the story to illustrate how different people experience brands in different ways and how it’s important to craft brand strategies that will address all those points of view. One of the people at the table very kindly complimented me on the metaphor. And that inspired me to notice that it’s been two and half years since we discussed brand constituencies in this blog. Time to rectify that now. Our tale begins in ancient India … Read More


What Goal Have You Set For Your Brand?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about charting a course to brand performance. To completely torture that maritime metaphor, when your brand is performing well, it’s like having your boat perfectly outfitted and your course plotted. At this point, your brand should be working efficiently for you. But where are you going? Most owners and managers of small and middle-market buildings have no idea. They point their vessels, imprecisely, toward “success” or “increased sales”. But that’s just like steering toward the horizon. A business needs a more specific goal. And, luckily, one of the benefits of constructing a brand strategy is that the goal becomes immediately apparent. Once you have assessed your products and services, matched up to your market’s values, assessed your storytelling capabilities and surveyed your competition’s positioning, you’ll see a rich goal that is readily available to you. And you’ll have plotted a course to it, one that neatly sails past shallow water and treacherous rocks. Read More