How many branding consultants don’t get that position comes before brand?
Sadly, most. When you offer your branding consultant services to the general public, I think it’s important you tell them exactly from where your brand know-how comes. Now, I don’t expect to see Harvard or Wharton every time (I’m from the school of experience myself), but I do expect that you are more than a make-up artist, more than a web designer or web developer, more than someone who has the right trade alliances. My expectation, and I certainly hope it’s yours, is that your brand consultant will serve as your brand marketing consultant. It’s not brand instead of marketing and business development. It’s brand on top of the marketing and business development fundamentals.
Personally, my 20 years’ experience includes not only copywriting and marketing but the study of successful business and marketing practices. Moreover, I’ve led the positioning and branding efforts for dozens of companies. Having worked both large and small, I know where the mistakes are made. More importantly, I know how to avoid them. And building brands atop weak, unclear or unsound positions is more than an egregious, costly error. It’s bad medicine. These brands will ultimately fail. The so-called branders get rich and the businesses lose time and money. Bad, bad, bad.
If you define brand as this branding consultant does, as a holistic method of creating stronger target connections, you know position must come first.
Your position is the space you want to occupy in your targets’ minds. Think of it as mental real estate. The property lines in this metaphor are:
- For whom you exist to serve… specifically (not just broad demographics)
- What you uniquely provide them
- The benefits (not features) those products and services deliver
- The experiential benefits they can expect by conducting business with you. From here, you can begin adding dimension to your brand personality, with design and messaging that even more precisely delivers a uniquely memorable experience.
But too many firms are out there building websites and so-called brands without first defining their client’s unique value propositions. They can’t help it. They’re not marketers. They don’t think that way. But do you want to know what sits at the heart of all great marketing campaigns? It’s not an idea or a funny joke or even a single piece of marketing insight. It’s the strategy brief. It tells the creative talent exactly what they need to say in order to capitalize on the identified opportunity. It includes your company’s Unique Value Proposition and your Unique Selling Propositions for each product & service, for each target market. If it’s important for a single piece of marketing communications, exactly how many times more important is establishing the strategic specs for your brand?
Build your marketing house in brick.
There’s only one solid foundation upon which enduring brands are built. Start with your strategic positioning. Know your value props, know what sets you apart from the competition, know why your clients and customers would be silly not to buy from you. Rely on a branding consultant who insists you solidify your positioning before tackling the even bigger, more nuanced and sophisticated issues of brand. (You’ll thank him in the long run, and the long run will come sooner than you think.)
If it seems regimented or diva-ish, please take a few minutes to think about what your branding consultant is really trying to tell you. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some legendary craftspeople and I now fully understand the similarities. When somebody’s counting on you to deliver enduring quality, when they expect you to live up to your reputation, you don’t compromise on your choices in materials and you don’t abandon a process that has served you so well for 20 years. In the world of brand consulting, I refuse to build anything less than a brand actually capable of forging profitable target connections. That means starting with a position engineered to fuel business development.
Basement before penthouse. I know, I know. Not as exciting. But do you know what is exciting? Doing the heavy-lifting (and thinking) required to ultimately give clients the brands that do a whole lot more than look good and sound good.
Seacrest out. (Is that show still even on?)