Building a Better Brand

July 13th, 2016
Sizzling steak on a grill

“Sell the sizzle not the steak” is a strategy frequently quoted, often pursued, and certainly wrong – it’s always about the steak – the core value your product delivers. And to build a strong brand you have to focus on the core.

Branding isn’t about logos, or colors.  And with all due respect (and much admiration) to Nike’s “Just Do It” or FedEx’s “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight”, it’s not about advertising tag lines.  It’s about an idea – a single, focused, distinctive, believable, big idea of what a customer can expect.

It doesn’t mean you can be dull, pedantic, or boring in the way you convey your brand story.  Marketers have to be interesting, engaging, and often boldly provocative to get noticed and remembered. But it does mean the entertainment value of your brand story cannot overcome the core message.

Be the best or be gone

One of the questions we ask clients at the start of brand exploration is to complete the sentence: “We’re better than anybody else in our industry when it comes to…”  And it’s curious that many companies struggle to give a confident answer.

Sadly, effective branding might be one of the most valuable assets companies waste.  It’s easy say “Me Too” instead of digging for what makes us different.

Too many companies speak in generalities – we stand for quality, we’re best at service, we focus on the customer, we have smart people (do competitors have dumb people?).  These are clichés that roll off a prospect’s understanding like water off a duck’s butt.

To become powerful, work your core

In an industry where competition is intense and customers have choices these flabby assertions of value lack any differentiating punch. They lie somewhere between oblivion and irrelevance.  Effective branding sweats the fat off these puffy claims and works the core to build some marketing muscle into your message.

Marketers cannot create brand advantages where none exist. They have to discover brand advantages that are inherent in the product or service or culture or operational reality of the company.  To be successful you must be best at something or best for someone.

The starting point is what makes a company different, what we’re best at.  But the only differences that matter are the ones that tip potential customers in your direction – a motivating difference, one that is important to the customers you want to serve. Branding is about consistently delivering a differentiated value that your customers want.

Escape the commodity swamp, emerge from the sea of sameness, and boldly assert how buying from you will be a different and better experience.  And be ready to deliver. You are what you do, not what you say. Performance is everything.

Work your core to build a powerful brand! Claim to be the best. It’s not bragging if you can do it.

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