Too many would-be-great brand strategies fail because of a lack of clear value proposition. Here is how to avoid making this far-too-common mistake.
A company’s value proposition is part of the overall business model. A business model is what a company does to create value for itself, its customers and society in general. (You may think creating value for society is optional, but in today’s socially responsible world, it isn’t.) Therefore a value proposition is how this value is offered and delivered to the customer.
It all starts with a simple question: “What value do we really represent to the customer and how can we clearly communicate this?”
This can be answered in many different ways. However one of the best ways is to solve a customer’s problem. And not just any problem, but acompelling problem. There is a difference between a problem and a compelling one. A regular problem can be managed and even avoided. It’s part of human nature to procrastinate on problems. But a compelling problem is something that a customer actually wants to solve, and is willing to pay for, immediately.
If you can communicate your brand in the context of solving a customer problem, than you have a solid value proposition.
Here are some other questions you can ask yourself to solidify the value proposition:
- Is our product/service innovative or new? How so?
- Does our product/service perform better than others. How can we prove this?
- Can our products/services be customized to each market segment?
- Is it designed better?
- Does our brand carry a unique status with anybody that does business with us?
- Do we have the best price? (You will need to prove this.)
- Can we reduce the cost of doing business with us? (Bulk Deals, Discounts, Negotiation)
- Can we reduce the risk of doing business with us? (Guarantees, Free Trials, ‘Lite’ Versions)
- Do we make our products/services more accessible than competitors?
- Are we more convenient or usable?
Don’t Forget The Culture
Another part of the value proposition can be the company’s culture. Many company’s are using culture to win the branding game. Culture creates an experience. People want to share brands when they have had an amazing experience. So it is important to define your brand culture and ensure all your communications and marketing are carefully aligned to reinforce it. Managing your culture is what it takes to be part of the creative economy. In North America we cannot compete on manufacturing or even product-quality any more. We have to compete on ideas and creativity. This is what culture is all about.
Remember, value proposition first, brand communication second.
It happens far too often. A creative team crafts a brilliant brand strategy. Resources are invested. Everybody is excited. Execution plans are launched only to be met with dismal failure. The strategy can’t gain traction despite the marketing department’s best efforts. Job security is questioned. Even worse, the whole value of branding becomes trivial and dismissed as something only for companies like Coca-Cola and Apple.
One of the most common mistakes that causes a brand strategy to fail is in the area of alignment.
Branding and marketing communication is more complex than ever. Media channels are fragmented. Disruptive technologies are transforming entire industries, causing giants to fall and upstarts to thrive. The reality is Chief Marketing Officers and creative agencies are forced to deal with the unknown on a monthly basis.
Branding is no longer isolated to a cool logo or fancy slogan. Sure your YouTube video may have gone somewhat viral. And your Facebook and Twitter accounts might be pretty popular. But none of that ensures success. Companies need to consider the integration of its brand strategy across all facets of an organization. This is were alignment can make you or break you.
There are four areas we recommend for careful consideration when it comes to brand strategy alignment. They represent the front lines of today’s most successful brands. We’ve integrated these areas into our Brand MDNA model. Whether you are familiar with Brand MDNA or not, they are just as important and can be equally addressed through a multitude of marketing models and concerted effort. They are:
DIGITAL CHANNEL ALIGNMENT
Mass interruption-based media is no longer effective. Brand MDNA allows the identification of digital channels that offer the highest leverage and target market penetration. Some company cultures are better designed for certain types of media. While certain target audiences prefer specific digital content.
SOCIAL BUSINESS ALIGNMENT
The consumer market is becoming savvier than ever when it comes to authenticity of a company’s alignment with social responsibility. Brand MDNA allows a company to integrate socially responsible initiatives with its core culture for a seamless blend of “for-benefit” marketing and earned media.
VALUE ANALYSIS & ALIGNMENT
“Eyeballs” or the size of a social network no longer represent the same value. Social networks and media are no longer a novelty. And although most social media is initially free, a brand strategy integrating social networks is a substantial investment on multiple levels. Part of the Brand MDNA process is the ability to establish value metrics and authenticate results for an ROI on every dollar spent on strategy.
PEOPLE, PEOPLE, PEOPLE
The majority of brand strategies fail due to poor execution. And it’s not for a lack of effort either on the part of management and other stakeholders. Using Brand MDNA, a company can align its internal stakeholders, all the way from reception to executive management, to truly live the company’s culture and participate in the brand strategy.
So don’t forget the alignment when it comes to your brand strategy–especially before launching an initiative after resources have been invested. Alignment will substantially increase the chances of success. And if you’re feeling like your current brand strategy just isn’t getting the traction you want, try analyzing each area objectively.
And if all else fails, contact us. We’d love to help.
Have you ever met one of those really curious (and potentially annoying) kids that always ask the question, “Why?” Well it turns out that the innocent perspective of a child is sometimes precisely what is needed to have breakthroughs in design and branding.
Here are two simple yet critical questions to ask of yourself and your company when it comes to designing a winning brand strategy:
Sounds a little too simple? This is actually a technique we have developed by combining some of the best design and success practices modeled by thought leaders and innovators.
To first establish a company’s challenges, ask the “Why?” question. (Many times we know there is a problem, but the trick is to define what the exact problem is.) Then ask the “Why not?” question when it comes to deriving opportunities and potential solutions. Here is an example:
“Our company is not growing.”
“Not enough people are buying our product.”
“We aren’t recognized as a viable choice next to our competitors.”
“Because they have a stronger social media campaign. We should use social media like they do.”
“Because we don’t have the expertise in-house.”
“Our team doesn’t use it themselves.”
“We aren’t training them. We should train them.”
“There really isn’t a reason not to train them if we properly budget for the time and bring in the right expertise. Let’s do it!”
The trick is not to dismiss the simplicity and bluntness of the questioning. Some people feel this is too juvenile and as adults we should be able to have a meeting. But unfortunately meetings are proven to be a rather ineffective way to creatively solve problems. Take a risk and try this method. We think you will be pleasantly surprised at the results. And if you need help facilitating these transformational conversations–let us know.
Have you heard of Zipcar.com? Zipcar is a unique rental service offering quick access to a vehicle for even the smallest travel needs.
Zipcar, which now has 605,000 members in 50 cities and revenues of $131 million, didn’t always have such appeal. In 1999, its first year, 75 people signed up. By 2003, Zipcar had a mere 6,000 members in three cities and was running through its venture capital. They fired their CEO.
What happened to create the turnaround?
They focused on target audiences that increased brand density.
What does that mean?
First, they stopped trying to take over the world and carefully selected a few target areas. They used psychographics to establish areas where people would be interested in different types of cars and specific levels of convenience.
Then they loaded these areas with specific cars. They made Zipcars so easy to access there was a density created for their brand. Cars are now available five minutes away for everybody. They is a distinct competitive advantage compared to having to spend hours organizing a car rental for longer periods. This allowed them to jump to other markets with the same strategy and market equity.
This is called “Hyper-Localization.” And in the world where social media and digital marketing are cluttering up our lives more than ever, it is a critical strategy if you want your brand to be a big deal. Start local and small SLOWLY to eventually go national and large very, very FAST.
If you’re not sure where to target your branding and marketing, think locally and focus on where you will achieve the most density as a platform for future expansion. It works.
They say that perception is reality. This is completely true, especially in the world of branding and marketing communication.
Take a look at the image to the left. Is it a vase or two people having a conversation face-to-face? Well that depends on your perception of course. It can be both until somebody is convinced one way or the other.
How do you perceive your company’s brand and marketing communication? You may see it one way when in reality, it is perceived by your target market as something completely different. It is really important to step back sometimes and get an external perspective. This is one of the intangible benefits of working with visual communication professionals and agencies.
Don’t let your perception become deception.
We see many times people get entrenched into their brand image and marketing strategy. This can become a deception that causes ill-advised decisions to be made. The results can be fatal.
Many times while speaking with clients, an entrepreneur or manager will convey their brand with true passion and clarity. If you were stuck in an elevator with these individuals for just an hour, you would come out of the experience being completely sold on their company, products and services.
The question is: Then how come that same passion and clarity is not reflected in marketing collateral and brand communication?
This always brings people to a pause and moment of reflection. And if the client is able to get really honest with their brand, deception is averted. Then there is freedom to ask simple questions like, “Is our branding strategy working?” “How do we know this?” “How can we measure it?” “Do we need to change?”
These are all very valuable questions if you are willing to be honest. After that, reaching your goals when it comes to marketing and branding becomes much more possible.
Web pages crammed full of copy, multiple type treatments, images and other various elements can be confusing and overwhelming. Overloading content doesn’t give the reader any sense of organization or hierarchy of information and generally looks like a mess. I know we have all seen these kinds of websites! Strangely enough, even though they seem to have everything possible, these sites are still missing something: white space!
White space (sometimes called negative space) can include space in the margins, space between headlines and space between lines of copy. It isn’t always literal “white space” but more so an absence of words and pictures. A rest amongst the visual noise that is the content.
An article posted in DesignModo by Roxanne Peterson focused on the great importance of white space in web designing. She writes that, “White space is associated with something that is expensive and high quality”. This can be all too true. Think, for example, about expensive purse or shoe stores where there is often only one item per shelf. Or perhaps a museum, where there is nothing but white walls surrounding one piece of art. This display approach creates an environment where one can appreciate and seek to understand the art or object to be purchased for what it truly is, without distraction by colorful surroundings. Just as white space assists in giving full attention and emphasis on a work of art, it also gives greater value to website content that it accompanies.
Web design is a lot like print design in that the ultimate goal is to convey information or the big idea effectively. Information can be organized in such a way that the viewer can understand the important points immediately and white space helps achieve this.
Arranging a good (and balanced) mix of typography, imagery and white space can make a page feel less confusing or overwhelming. It gives the viewer clues to the most important points that you want them to take away. In her article, Roxanne not only wrote about how white space is important to create breathing room for main content but she also noted that there are dangers in overusing it. Too much white space and not enough content leaves a reader questioning if there is a great importance to the website and the information it contains.
How can you best put to use white space in your website? Have you really captured the core of your content? Don’t let your message get lost in the excess. Remember, sometimes less is more.