Friday, October 7, 2011

How to Build Strong Brand Communication

“If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

For many small to mid sized businesses, brand building has become overly focused on tactical communication through social and digital media. The message is obvious – we are here and we are great, the target is everyone that has a computer and the product will sell itself once people know it exists. Since there is a low cost to accessing online PR and media, it is easy on the budget and is tempting to jump in without doing homework. Many businesses look at marketing strategy this way. While social and digital media are very exciting developments, it is critical not to confuse the work needed to find the media from the more important work needed to construct an effective message and build a brand.

There are 5 things any brand must do in order to create strong communication

  1. Know the target – what specific group are you looking to introduce to your product. What are their needs and hang-ups with other products in your category What motivates them? Don’t just observe where they live, age, income and behaviors (demographics), but more importantly find out what they believe in regarding the important benefits your category provides (psychographics). Paint a vivid picture of the exact type of person that will most likely need your product or service. It is then a much easier later to determine the marketing and what media you might choose to reach them.
  1. Define the product or service’s unique selling proposition (USP). What specific tangible and or emotional benefits does the product bring to the specific target group that the competition cannot (or does not) claim. Uniqueness can be a functional attribute, a value proposition, a marketing idea (advertising character, jingle, etc). An emotional benefit based on the functional attributes is usually the strongest approach.
  1. Determine the brand’s marketing goal – a marketing goal is measured on terms of impact to a target. Examples of deliverables – build awareness among 5,000 physicians in the New York metro area. Gain product trial of 10% of the target market of San Francisco music lovers. Metrics such as “create 5,000 Facebook followers” or “sponsor the catwalk at the NY fashion show” are examples of tactics and not goals.
  1. Look for strategies that deliver only your goals. This is where marketers tend to make obvious mistakes. Fun and interesting programs are sometimes huge money wasters that don’t work. Look for effective nuts and bolts programs first. They tend to work, which is why they are used. I’ve seen cases where new brands, needing to build basic brand awareness, spend energy around a celebrity endorsement event. This rarely gains basic awareness of products or services. Post event measurement of success against your goals can help confirm this, but by then it is too late.
  1. Build an original plan. Don’t “borrow” a marketing idea. The lure of an interesting campaign idea or promotion execution by a big entertainment property, or soft drink, or internet company, may look like your next “must do” marketing event. But a borrowed strategy or program makes no sense since that other company has entirely different goals. What works wonderfully for one brand can be a huge flop for your unique business situation.

Larger organizations tend to spend much more energy on these building-block activities than they do on the tactical idea execution which is often outsourced to agency partners. They learned over time - due to the enormous costs of traditional TV advertising – that the risk of product failure based on poor communication was enormously expensive. Now that some online communications seem comparatively cheap, companies cannot forget that the brand target, the brand proposition and the message are far more important than the communication vehicle for product success.


Jim Matorin said...

Good summary. Curious what you think Bob, but now thanks to so many platforms to connect on, is it possible that your targets vary, thus you need to tailor your USP by target?

Bob Clark said...

Thanks Jim, There are now so many media platforms - and the data suggests we are consuming multiple media rather than migrating from one to the next - I believe it is still better to keep the brand USP and the message the same but tailor it creatively to fit the nature of the media

Nikolina Tomaskovic said...

Thank you for sharing. I agree that companies should devote more time to the quality of the content they communicate, instead of piling up the quantity.

Sometimes whispering the right thing is better than yelling the wrong thing, what do you think? :)

Bob Clark said...

Nikolina - That's a great point - if you really know the target and are sure you have a good message, you certainly don't need to shout.

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