To successfully brand your company, you must know who you are and show who you are in every aspect of your business – but especially in your promotional materials. Are you the innovative maverick in your industry? Or the experienced, reliable one? Do people choose your product because of its quality – or because of its price point? You can’t be all things to all people, so you have to decide just who you are. Strategically pinpointing your niche in the market will simplify all your branding efforts. Every visual aspect of your brand should consistently point in the same direction. But when you’re first starting out, how can you do this quickly and cost effectively?
When it comes to the basic building blocks you need to develop your brand in the most efficient manner possible, I use what I call the “A.S.A.P.” formula of branding. Here’s how it works:
- A = Advantage. You’ve got to decide what prevailing message – what content – you want to communicate to your customers.
- S = Style. What’s the style of your message? In other words, how are you going to “dress” your message for your audience?
- A = Adjective. What verbal cue will your message carry to your customers?
- P = Pantone (colour). What visual cue will your message have that helps to reinforce your brand.
Now for your advantage
So what makes your company unique? You’ve got to determine what differentiates your company in your market in order to craft a brand that makes that advantage obvious. Ask yourself this: How is your brand better than the others? In what areas does your brand create value for consumers?
Here are some common competitive advantages I’ve found in working with small businesses:
- high quality
- low cost
- stylish or trendy
- wide range of choices
- conveniently located
- first-to-market (the “classic”)
- unique (the only one)
When you’re trying to decide just what makes you stand out, remember this: Contrary to popular opinion, a brand can’t successfully occupy both the high quality and low cost niches in the mind of consumers. Simply put, it’s impossible to be “the high quality, low cost” option. You can be the high quality choice, or you can be the low cost choice. But you can’t be both. If you really think you could be both, your best bet might be to focus on value, because value is a different story. Value implies satisfactory quality at a satisfactory price, and that’s something all consumers love.
If you’re having difficulty identifying your key advantage, start by answering this: What makes you personally different? Most new businesses take on the personality of their owners, so your unique traits really do matter. Another option is to list all the advantages up for consideration, and then choose the strongest, most interesting, or most profitable.
Whatever route you take, choose only one advantage for your brand. When it comes to marketing and advertising, the ability to prioritise is golden – and the ability to select just one advantage is genius. Today’s consumers have no time or inclination to juggle the three, four or five different advantages you may actually offer. They need to file your brand in their minds quickly and easily, into just one slot, so they can retrieve it quickly and easily, so choose one advantage.
Once you’ve determined that one advantage, sum up your brand’s value in a sentence, and try to include your product’s principle features or benefits. Here’s a sample, fill-in-the-blank formula: “[name of brand] provides [name of target market] with [advantage to target audience].” For instance, “Prodo Products provides JSE Listed companies with the highest quality printers.” Then go further by stating the benefit your clients derive from your advantage:”… by providing fast document printing to increase business efficiencies.” This statement can serve as a compass for virtually all your branding efforts.
Only after you’ve determined your brand’s advantage and nailed the content of your message can you address its style.