By Katrina Olson
Last week on a plane from Charlotte to Chicago, I sat next to a gentleman who conducts branding workshops for companies like Anheuser-Busch, Coca Cola, Ford and Philips. We discussed how easily marketers can (sometimes) be distracted by “shiny objects.”
As much as I enjoy writing about marketing trends like drone video, hypertargeting, and marketing automation—they're tactics. Tactics are necessary, but only when they're the result of a solid branding platform and strategy, plus a research-based marketing plan.
Assuming you already have a marketing plan, when was the last time you evaluated your brand? If it's been awhile, ask yourself these questions:
- What are we known for, or want to be known for?
- What are we best at?
- What makes us better than our competition?
- What unique benefits do we offer customers?
- Why are your loyal customers so loyal?
- Why do we do what we do?
These questions get to the heart of your brand—why you exist and what you offer customers. But your brand is not just who you think you are, it must also resonate with your customers and how they feel about you.
Your brand must also be based in reality—or a reality you create. In September 2014, CVS became the first major American pharmacy chain to stop selling tobacco products, saying it was “the right thing to do” despite losing approximately $2 billion across its more than 7,500 stores.
President and CEO Larry J. Merlo said “The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose— helping people on their path to better health.” CVS went even further, launching smoking-cessation programs, specifically targeting youth and cancer patients.
A strong brand transforms your organization from a commodity to something special and unique—like these brands with that intangible “something” that makes them iconic.
What do these strong brands have in common?
- Purpose: Every brand makes a promise. That's the minimum. But especially when consumer confidence is low and budgets are tight, you need more than a promise. You must have a defining purpose—something that differentiates you from competitors.
- Consistency: Avoid talking about things that don't relate to or enhance your brand. Consistency contributes to brand recognition, which fuels customer loyalty.
- Emotion: Customers aren't always rational. Connect with customers on a deeper, emotional level and you'll strengthen relationships and foster loyalty.
- Flexibility: Adapting in a rapidly changing world will help you stay relevant. Keep your brand fresh by constantly looking for new ways to fulfill your brand promise.
- Employee Involvement: Everyone in the organization must buy in to the brand strategy and platform, and live it when they answer the phones, respond to requests, etc.
- Loyalty: Reward the customers who love your brand; they're brand ambassadors who will write about you, tell their friends and recruit new customers.
- Clear Messaging: Find your customers pain points and develop clear messages that resonate with their needs. Can you offer solutions to their problems?
- Competitive Awareness: Watch your competitors. Don't copy them or let them dictate what you do, but be aware so you can differentiate your brand.
We're halfway through the calendar year. If you're not ready to start working on next year's marketing plan, why not commit to thinking about your brand? Start by reading these past articles in the digital edition of tED magazine and on tedmag.com.
Olson is a marketing and public relations consultant, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She has written for tED magazine's print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine's Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. She can be reached at Katrina@katrinaolson.comor via her website at katrinaolson.com.
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