Too many business owners wrongly believe that branding is unimportant or superficial, says Lindsay Pedersen, author of Forging an Ironclad Brand: A Leader’s Guide. That couldn’t be further from the truth, she insists, because your brand is what sets you apart from everyone else.
“Product can be copied, patents expire and features become obsolete. What cannot be copied are relationships. What does not expire is the trust you earn by consistently solving a customer need. What never gets old is delight. A great brand strategy yields all these benefits. It creates loyal customers who stay with you,” says Pedersen. But only if you are working with strong brand strategy in the first place. “Unfortunately, few leaders put in the work it takes to do this, and the result is a weak, anemic brand,” she says.
So how do you develop a strong brand strategy? It starts with your brand promise. Pedersen offers this advice for crafting a brand promise that resonates:
- Make it big enough to matter to the customer. It must promise to make a big difference in customers’ lives.
- Keep it narrow enough for you to dominate. Choose a positioning you uniquely can own — one where you are both better and different than competitors. Pinpoint precisely what you can offer customers that others cannot.
- Address a deeply relevant and meaningful need. Genuinely have your customers’ best interests at heart, and make sure you understand their pain points.
- Strike a balance between familiar and novel. Be recognizable enough that your customer can easily grasp it, and yet new enough that it breaks through clutter, sparks intrigue, and grabs the customer’s attention.
- Serve the customer on both functional and emotional levels. If it’s only emotional, they might not believe it. If it’s only functional, they won’t connect to it.
- Offer a simple, single, sharp-edged promise. It should be ridiculously clear to customers what you do and don’t promise. Focus on that specific benefit, with all you do and say supporting that single idea.
- Make it demonstrably true. Offer compelling, granular, concrete proof that it will deliver on its promise. That helps customers believe it, trust it and engage with it.
- Deliver on your brand promise across everything you do — consistently. You can’t just nail the letter of the promise, but the spirit of the promise, too. Ensure you are meeting that promise, through product development, marketing, sales, customer service and more.
Pedersen admits that to meet all that criteria in your brand promise, it requires you to make hard decisions about what you will and will not pursue and prioritize. “It can feel scary to decide so boldly and shine a spotlight on what you have selected. Yet choosing is what separates flash-in-the-pan businesses from the ones that endure for generations.”
Lindsay Pedersen is the author of Forging an Ironclad Brand: A Leader’s Guide. She is a brand strategist, board advisor, coach, speaker and teacher known for her scientific, growth-oriented approach to brand building.