brand positioning

Is Your Brand Honest?

Men_HandshakeWe’ve all become aware of the recent media incident involving an employee of Hydro One acting inappropriately, resulting in his swift dismissal due to their code of conduct policies. Although it has raised several social issues, it has also given many of us pause to rethink the importance of brand honesty.

Strong brands are built on a business’s values and beliefs, and as a business owner in the marketing industry, I know how challenging it can be to stand behind those values and beliefs, particularly when faced with an issue in the public eye.

While it’s clear a brand exceeds far beyond just a logo, and integrates into the lifestyle of your consumers when they interact with the brand, we need to be mindful of and be committed to upholding our brand values even when it may not be the most popular thing to do. The public’s perception of Hydro One now as opposed to a couple of weeks ago lays bare just how important brand values can be and the role they can play with your audience.

McDonald’s relies on the public’s opinion and/or perception of them to sell their products. They are often in the media with bad press related to the quality of their food, which may be influencing a public shift to healthier fast food alternatives elsewhere.

To combat this perception, McDonald’s created the “Our Food Your Questions” campaign, which introduced a series of videos to address some of their customer concerns. The campaign features hundreds of video questions from actual “real people”, which are then answered from third-party suppliers to McDonald’s. Questions like “Is your McChicken actually made from chicken?” and “Is your burger 100% beef?” are posed, and are then answered by chicken and beef farmers respectively.

Although it appears that these videos are honest and unbiased, I am not convinced that they have changed customer perception of their food quality. I find myself wanting to believe but still questioning the sincerity of these farmers and testing labs.

Changing the perception of a brand is no easy task. Acting swiftly and with conviction as in the case of Hydro One sends a powerful message not only to their employees (i.e behaviour outside the workplace is just as important as in the workplace), but also to us as consumers. Regardless of how you feel about their decision, there is no denying their brand honesty – to stay true to their values and beliefs.

How do you think consumers perceive your brand? What challenges are there in changing the way people perceive a brand? I look forward to discussing this further!

Brand Storytelling: Why It Still Matters

once-upon-a-brand“Storytellers, by the very act of telling, communicate a radical learning that changes lives and the world: telling stories is a universally accessible means through which people make meaning.” – Chris Cavanaugh

With almost two decades in the marketing business, I believe that storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to add life and character into your brand. Capturing and sharing stories gives your brand and identity (it’s also a great content marketing approach!) that takes your target audience on a journey where they can find a personal connection with your brand.

The goal of storytelling is to increase your consumer’s emotional involvement in your brand by being well integrated into their daily online and offline lives. Although the idea of brand storytelling isn’t a new one, the emergence of digital media, content marketing, and social media, has presented opportunities for brands to share their tales in a strategic way.

What is a brand story?

A brand story is far more than a narrative with branded content. Everything you do tells part of your brand story. From the colours you use and the staff you hire, to the texture of your business cards and what your tagline is, each element should convey a truth about your brand to your intended audience.

Your brand story should be authentic, creative, and inspirational, and go beyond what’s written on your website and in your brochure. I tell my clients all the time that their story is not only what you tell people, but also what they perceive you to be, based on the messages your brand sends.

Speak the truth with some personality.

Try to keep in mind honesty and transparency are important when crafting your brand story. Your story should be rooted in the reality of your brand, industry, products, and services, and should follow the three primary steps of brand building: consistency, persistence, and restraint. If your stories are inconsistent, they will complicate things for your customers, which will set them off in search of another brand that meets their expectations. Be creative and keep your brand promise in mind.

Remember – brand stories are not marketing materials, advertisements or sales pitches. Exciting brand stories, full of personality, will attract and retain potential customers!

Create characters your audience will identify with.

Emotional branding has great potential to drive revenue and keep customers coming back. Since brands are a matter of perception, how a person feels about your brand typically determines whether or not they will buy your product.

When you tell a story that represents human challenges and triumphs, you create an experience that resonates with potential and existing consumers. Creating well-crafted characters that your audience will like and root for will deepen the bond customers have with your brand, and as a result, increase brand loyalty.

Why should you tell your brand’s story?

Without a brand story you are just another commodity with no way to distinguish your brand or business. However, creating a brand story isn’t all about getting noticed – it’s about building something people can care about and buy into. Frame your brand’s weaknesses, dictate your brand’s strengths, and help customers think beyond the usefulness and functionality of your products or services.

If I can leave you with one final thought – a potential customer’s relationship with your brand most likely begins before they buy your products and/or services (those are only part of the story). Your brand story is the foundation of your brand, and a strategy for future growth.

Does your business have a brand story? Share your brand stories with me and tell me how they have helped you reach success.

Digital Collateral – To Go Paperless or Not To Go Paperless?

Business concept of flat design smartphone with handPrint media has taken a backseat in the last decade to make room for digital. However, even in this digital age, print isn’t expected to go away any time soon. We’ve seen a large shift in businesses using available technology to transfer print collateral into more meaningful, interactive and engaging material.

Business materials that have traditionally been printed – like brochures, business cards, newsletters, flyers, sell sheets and catalogues (to name a few) – are all considered “Marketing Collateral”.

Business owners frequently ask me if they should go paperless with their marketing collateral and I see the benefits to both, though I’d say a large part depends on the size of your company, your strategy, and whether you’re B2B or B2C. Let’s examine the benefits of going paperless.

Benefits of Going Paperless

Excessive use of paper is bad for our planet, and can also be bad for business by draining your time and money. When thinking about going paperless, here are a couple things to consider.

  • Content Marketing is now A “Thing”: Digital collateral is ready to take center stage with marketing moving towards a more content-based approach. Creating digital collateral for your business that has original content and is easily shared means you’ve got original resources on hand!
  • Digital is Agile: Easily transferable and shareable, digital collateral and digital publications can be updated quickly and used to share any type of collateral online (including brochures, catalogues, magazines, direct mail, newsletters, reports, postcards, and other business documents).
  • Cost Efficient: In short, digital collateral means lower production costs, and increased reach (hello social media!).
  • Leverage Your Social Media Presence: A PDF posted on a static page of your website isn’t going to stir up excitement in a potential customer. Digital collateral on the other hand, provides you with original, user-friendly resources, which can also be shared through other platforms to help spread your mission and message.
  • It’s Green: You save paper when you use digital collateral. You can also avoid having boxes and boxes of unused and/or out-of-date materials laying around and cluttering up your workspace.

Should You Go Digital?

In my experience, business owners can get a little nervous if they don’t have tangible marketing collateral (because as a business owner you want people to believe and trust you as a real company, not just a virtual one). So why not have both, digital collateral and traditional print collateral?

Digital and print mix well together – it’s all about finding the right balance. Traditional marketing tools have a longer life span, however in some cases (like for smaller businesses) digital collateral, when done right, can save the day!

Refer back to your marketing strategy (if you don’t have one then have one created – it is imperative!) to see what’s appropriate for your business. One thing to remember when making your decision is “paperless” means less paper, not no paper. If you choose to go paperless, like any major change you should start small. Here are tips that can make the transition easier:

  • Keep business cards in the traditional printed format: Business cards aren’t going away any time soon! I believe printed business cards are a staple for all key employees, and are necessary for networking.
  • Create a digital version of your main piece of collateral: Be it a brochure, postcard, sell sheet, or flyer – it will be beneficial to you and your business to have a digital copy on hand that you can send off or post on the fly!
  • Start an E-Newsletter: this is a great way to communicate online with your customers and get the online conversation going!

What do you think about going paperless? What is your biggest concern with going paperless? Do you have a marketing strategy that speaks to having digital collateral?

Share your thoughts and stories with me in the comment section! 

Emotional Branding – Why your Business Needs it!

Dove

Making an emotional connection with your audience should be a year-round priority for your business, as consumers and clients (both B2B and B2C) make most of their buying decisions based on emotions. As I pursue business development opportunities, I aim to provide my potential clients with a brand that resonates with their audiences, and this often involves developing messaging that evokes emotion and impact.

Last year, I came across a blog by Jim Joseph of Entrepreneur and thought the message was worth reiterating with you: Many people have different interpretations about what brand positioning means. It’s one of those concepts that is hard to pin down, yet at the same time is so important to the success of your brand. Positioning is at the heart of your brand. It’s essentially the summation of everything your brand is about. Positioning is built from what you know to be true about your customer. It takes the benefits you’ve outlined and makes them meaningful to customers. In its simplest of forms, positioning is the mental space you want to occupy in your customer’s mind. It’s the first thing you want your customer to think about when they hear your brand name.

An emotional connection with your customer is the key to being a brand. But that emotional bond should be reflected in the positioning statement for the business. Positioning is more about emotions and less about the facts. That’s why marketers who think a claim about their product or service is a positioning statement, really miss the boat. The same goes for a description of your type of business. There’s no emotion in that and it’s emotions that differentiate a brand. Your brand’s positioning is the basis for building the brand experience across the entire marketing plan. The key is to make sure the actual brand experience delivers on what was intended in the positioning. Let’s take a look at a few big brands and what they’ve done for positioning. The tagline can often be a big hint:

  • L’Oreal: “Because you’re worth it.”
  • BMW: “The ultimate driving machine.”
  • State Farm: “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”
  • Dove: “You are more beautiful than you think” – featured in photo above in ad called, “Real Beauty Sketches”

Notice the level of emotion in each of these taglines, which essentially highlights each brand’s positioning. Here’s how they might be translated into positioning statements:

  • L’Oreal: Makes you feel valued and good about yourself.
  • BMW: Makes you feel powerful.
  • State Farm: Makes you feel secure and safe in times of need.
  • Dove: Makes you see what other people see when they look at you.

These are obviously big blockbuster brands, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t do the same for your small business. Here are a few tips to creating a positioning statement for your company:

  1. Think about the emotional benefit that you offer your customer.
  2. Think about how you want your customer to feel about you, every time they think about you.
  3. Try to capture that emotion in a brief statement that best describes what you can offer, and jot down a few options.
  4. If you have a team, run the ideas by them and do a little brainstorming. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you start generating ideas.
  5. If you need help with any of these, have a marketing agency facilitate this process, their expertise will help you.

Do you feel your brand makes an emotional connection with your customers? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

Can You Spot the Difference?

branding2When branding your company, not only will you need to communicate how you are different from your competition, but what value(s) are placed on that difference.

Although your logo is essentially the face of your brand, there is a lot more to your brand than your logo.

Your brand is how the public is able to identify with you visually, but it needs to be supported by brand values. In other words, to make the sale, you’ll need to “convince” your consumer that your brand (product or service) is right for them – it needs to resonate with them.

In marketing, we make connections with our consumers by determining your brand values and making sure they accurately reflect your brand.

After you’ve established your brand values, you’ll need to create supportive messaging for your brand. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Put your best foot forward: Determine or develop a positioning strategy that makes your brand a leader in your category.
  2. Make the right colour choice: Establish colour as an icon that represents your brand exclusively. Think UPS.
  3. What they think matters: Talk to your stakeholders to be sure that their perception of your brand accurately reflects the reality of your brand. It is a good opportunity to validate your values as well.
  4. Sync your brand logo and culture:  Your brand logo should reflect your values and also help to differentiate you.

Branding is complex, but if you are able to build these four steps into a cohesive message, you will be well on your way to strengthening your brand and make it easier for you to sell your products or services.

Do you feel if you have a brand that accurately reflects your brand culture? How important do you think it is to have a cohesive brand?  Please share your experience in the comments below.

Create a Strong Brand – Make an Emotional Connection to your Customer

Brand-Positioning

I came across a blog by Jim Joseph of Entrepreneur and thought the message was worth passing on to you:

Many people have different interpretations about what brand positioning means. It’s one of those concepts that is hard to pin down, yet at the same time is so important to the success of your brand. Positioning is at the heart of your brand. It’s essentially the summation of everything your brand is about.

Positioning is built from what you know to be true about your customer. It takes the benefits you’ve outlined and makes them meaningful to customers. In its simplest of forms, positioning is the mental space you want to occupy in your customer’s mind. It’s the first thing you want your customer to think about when they hear your brand name.

An emotional connection with your customer is the key to being a brand. But that emotional bond should be reflected in the positioning statement for the business. Positioning is more about emotions and less about the facts.

That’s why marketers who think a claim about their product or service is a positioning statement, really miss the boat. The same goes for a description of your type of business. There’s no emotion in that and it’s emotions that differentiate a brand.

Your brand’s positioning is the basis for building the brand experience across the entire marketing plan. The key is to make sure the actual brand experience delivers on what was intended in the positioning.

Let’s take a look at a few big brands and what they’ve done for positioning. The tagline can often be a big hint:

  • BMW: “The ultimate driving machine.”
  • State Farm: “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”
  • L’Oreal: “Because you’re worth it.”

Notice the level of emotion in each of these taglines, which essentially highlights each brand’s positioning.

Here’s how they might be translated into positioning statements:

  • BMW: Makes you feel powerful.
  • State Farm: Makes you feel secure and safe in times of need.
  • L’Oreal: Makes you feel valued and good about yourself.

These are obviously big blockbuster brands, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t do the same for your small business.

Here are a few tips to creating a positioning statement for your company:

  1. Think about the emotional benefit that you offer your customer.
  2. Think about how you want your customer to feel about you, every time they think about you.
  3. Try to capture that emotion in a brief statement that best describes what you can offer, and jot down a few options.
  4. If you have a team, run the ideas by them and do a little brainstorming. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you start generating ideas.
  5. If you need help with any of these, have a marketing agency facilitate this process, their expertise will help you.

Do you feel your brand makes an emotional connection with your customers? Please share your experience in the comments below.