Brand Positioning is not a new concept. Identified by Jack Trout and Al Ries in 1980, brand positioning is recognized as one of the most effective ways to become a market and industry leader. Since the “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind”  book was published, thousands of companies used the concept to formulate a concise version of their vision.
While the book makes developing a brand positioning statement look easy, the reality is many businesses and organisations end up with meaningless statements. For example, “We’re the best web development agency that helps clients achieve their goals” is a pompous, meaningless statement that doesn’t communicate value to the customer on their terms i.e What’s in it for them? In a sceptical, information overloaded world, a statement such as this evokes doubts, not admiration.
In order for your brand to have an impact, you need to craft a positioning statement, that clearly defines why you’re different from others while also reflecting your strengths and competitors’ weaknesses.
Creating a strong brand positioning statement is a complex science. So before we give you a step-by-step guide, let’s dive deeper into complexities of the jargon.
If you want to become empowered to transform your brand and shape your positioning to increase your sales then the Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Mastermind is the perfect fit for you. This is a two-day brand building intensive shared with a small group of like-minded peers where you work on your brand with our leadership. Discover more here.
What’s Brand Positioning?
Despite the fact that many marketers and entrepreneurs have heard about the concept of brand positioning, only a few can clearly define it. Kotler defines brand positioning as “the act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of a target market”. Simply put, brand positioning illustrates how a brand is different from competitors and where it sits in the customer mind.
Here is why brand positioning is important. When you enter a crowded marketplace you’re expected to be different. If you’re not different, then what is the reason people should buy from you and not from your competitors? Secondly, brand positioning describes your brand’s unique qualities and traits. Brands are, essentially, like people. You can highlight certain traits and suppress others to make your brand more appealing to a particular audience so you can attract your ideal customers. With the right approach and increased awareness of your brand personality, you can get to the core of your brand and express it to the public.
Expending effort to create a brand positioning statement is similar to learning how to express yourself as a human. As the following video from The School of Life points out, there are no boring people. Since brands are partly an expression of their creators, there can be no boring brands, but you need to work hard to identify and reveal your uniqueness to others.
Are you looking to launch a new product or brand and need to position it properly? Our brand profiling service helps you codify and map out your brand, resulting in your own specific brand blueprint to stand out, attract your ideal customers and build a lasting relationship with them so you can grow your profits. Feel free to get in touch to discover more.
Seven Critical Brand Positioning Concepts
Positioning is something that happens in the mind of the customer.
You might be intentionally working on the positioning of your brand or ignoring it completely, either way, customers will find a way to compartmentalise your brand and put you into a box, good or bad. However, you can positively influence customer perception if you’re being proactive in codifying and mapping out your brand strategically.
In an ideal world, you’d have absolute clarity on your brand positioning long before you finalize your product or service. In this video Kevin Roberts explains the importance of developing your brand before a product or service solution is finalized:
This point of view is partly supported by David Skok from For Entrepreneurs, who identifies two factors that spur creative thinking and lead to the development of a business idea. These are:
Customer Motivation, that includes an unmet need and entertainment
Disruption, that includes new technology or new business model
When the two factors collide, they create a rich ground for brand idea generation. Frequently, novice entrepreneurs focus on one factor only. If you have a tech mind bias, you strive to create the most advanced technology. If you’re a people person, you fall in love with abstract concepts and marketing messages. The fact is, great ideas lie on the verge of opposite realms.
In branding, positioning is a way to combine the two factors in a single message and communicate it to target customers. It’s the continuous and consistent application of your brand strategy in implementation terms that ultimately results in ideal customers becoming aware of your brand and perceiving it to be different, unique and perfect for their needs. Consistent and regular brand message reinforcement with standout positioning across multiple, appropriate communication channels is one of the secret drivers of success, and yet the one most often poorly executed.
Brand positioning requires creative, analytical and critical thinking. If you’re struggling to create strong positioning for your company, product or service or even your personal brand, check out the Personality Profile Performer™ programme. This is a DIY solution enabling you to make your brand stand out with higher perceived value than your competitors so you can increase your sales and your profits.
If you’d like a one-on-one consultation and a personal brand positioning building session take a look at our Brand Positioning & Profiling Service. As a result of brand profiling, you’ll get a clear understanding and expression of what your business offers, how the business delivers it and what it means for your customers, partners and key audiences so that you can build a brand that’s different, distinctive, likeable and profitable.
7 Critical Brand Positioning Factors
To understand brand positioning, you need to know the seven critical factors that form the core of the concept:
Perception defines how customers see your product. Bear in mind that perception is a neurological concept. According to neuroscience, things we pay attention to are real, while other things don’t exist. Accordingly, in the branding world, all that exists in the customer mind is the reality, everything else is an illusion. Here is how this idea plays out in real life:
Many marketers believe that they have the best product, and since the product is the best, it can win the leading position in the market. But both the belief in having the best product and the belief in having a competitive advantage are marketers’ perceptions, not customers’ perceptions, hence they are not real.
It’s important for brand owners and marketers to recognize when they’re focusing too much on their own perception rather than on creating and moulding customers’ perceptions.
Choice is the enemy of sale. When customers have to choose between many similar brands, they fail to make a choice. Brand differentiation is the positioning of your brand against competitors in a meaningful way that makes your brand stand out in the eyes of customers.
Differentiation comes down to unique values that only you and your brand personality can offer. If you own a bookstore and have a wide selection of books, great customer service, and good design interior – you’re just like any other bookstore. But if you run regular book reading meetups, customers who are looking to connect will choose your store over the other.
A lot of brand positioning work revolves around competition. A brand is positioned a certain way compared to competitors. This concept is hard to illustrate without examples, so here are the most common brand positions in relation to competitors:
- Defensive position – when your company is the market leader
- Offensive position – when you’re challenging the leader
- Flanking position – when you occupy the 4-6 place in the market
- Guerilla Warfare position – when you occupy and defend a small segment of the market
Specialization is the ability to focus on what you’re good at. Specialization allows smaller brands to challenge market leaders. When you specialize in one thing you inevitably become an expert and people come to you with particularly difficult problems. Ultimately, specialization is the only way for small business to beat larger brands.
The concept of simplicity is related to the paradox of choice mentioned earlier. Simplicity allows brands to plough through the clutter of thoughts in the customer mind. People are bombarded by branded messages on a regular basis. So when you present a simple clear idea or a simple way to solve a problem as opposed to overly complicated competitors’ ideas, it gives you an advantage of being seen as helpful and user-friendly. Your brand promise becomes more appealing than those of the competitors.
The one who comes first always wins. In marketing, the leaders will always take more space in the customer mind compared to the followers. You can become a leader by launching an innovative brand idea, that takes the market by storm, or by slowly conquering the market. Take Coca-Cola, for example. Whenever we talk about cola drinks, we can’t help but think about Coca-Cola. Similarly, when you think about computers, you’ll think about Apple even though Apple might not be considered the best computer in the world by everyone.
Reality goes back to perception. Realty concept states that customer perception is the reality, while everything else is an illusion. When you pay attention to the reality you can reinforce your brand positioning. When you focus on your fantasies and misconceptions, you’re hurting your brand.
Frequently, entrepreneurs have a very distinct perception of their brand so they try to establish it in the customers’ minds. But your target market might see the product or service from a completely different point of view. Your responsibility as a business owner is to recognize misleading thought patterns and channel branding strategy and marketing endeavours in the right direction.
The Difference Between Positioning And USP
Some businesses attempt to use brand positioning and USP synonymously. But these are two different concepts. USP is a unique selling proposition. And as the word “selling” points out, USP is meant to sell. USP is a tool, not a strategy. If one USP doesn’t resonate with your customer, you can invent a new one.
Brand positioning, on the other hand, is a strategic concept, that defines where your company stands in the customer mind comparative to competitors. USP highlights a single benefit or feature, while a brand positioning statement has nothing to do with features, rather it is used to claim an emotional and mental space in the audience’s mind.
Types of Brand Positioning
Businesses usually focus on one of four types of brand positioning:
This type of brand positioning focuses on one type of user. The CRM company Relenta is leveraging its brand strategy to target older consumers and small businesses, hence their design and logo look is more traditional rather than leading edge appeal. The brand positioning statement “An email-based CRM for people who want to Get Things Done” highlights productivity concepts and online tools that have been around for years and resonate with an older audience. Note that the brand isn’t using any of the current buzz words such as “collaboration”, “agile”, and “big data”.
Benefit-oriented positioning is when a brand defines its position relative to competitors based on the values it brings to customers. In this case, the benefit will be a major selling point and a part of the brand’s identity.
Goalsetter is a brand that produces recreational basketball hoops. The company’s product is incredibly durable backed by strong warranties. The brand derives its value from technical characteristics of the product. Their positioning, therefore, focuses on technical benefits rather than emotions or feelings. This positioning is reflected in the advertising video below.
If you’re comparing your brand’s benefits to those offered by competitors, your brand positioning will be considered competition-oriented. Amazon’s advertising campaign for Kindle was largely based on the comparison of Kindle to Apple iPad. This type of brand positioning is mainly used by brands that are trying to disrupt the established order and challenge the leader.
iPad is used for a much broader range of activities compared to Kindle, a lot of which entails web browsing and isn’t as easy on the eyes for prolonged reading so Kindle attracts customers with their “reads like a book” claim.
Branding is often perceived as a way to increase brand equity and drive a higher price point. But some companies choose to use low-prices as a pillar of their brand positioning. Ryanair, for example, draws on its low price point to establish itself as the most affordable airline in Europe.
The Process of Writing a Positioning Statement
Writing a positioning statement isn’t tremendously difficult, but it does entail profiling, codifying and mapping out your brand together with research work to get a strong result.
Here is a step-by-step plan to creating a winning positioning statement:
Step 1. Analyze how your brand is currently positioning itself
Before you even start thinking about your brand positioning, you need to see your current brand positioning from a perspective of an outsider. If your company has been around for years, your brand already occupies a certain space in the customer mind.
Depending on where your brand is you might need to re-position or de-position it.
Re-positioning means changing the identity of the brand in the eyes of consumers.
De-positioning is an attempt to change the identity of competing for products so that your product can take up a space that others once occupied.
Step 2. Identify your competitors and target market
Since positioning statement is meant to differentiate you from competitors, you need to have a thorough understanding of the marketplace. Note that you aren’t looking for the exact data on sales and market share, rather you need to understand how competitor products are perceived by customers.
Similarly, target market research is meant to give you an understanding of customer needs and wants. You can then use this knowledge to direct customer attention to benefits that are unique to your product and can elicit the maximum positive response from customers.
Step 3. Determine what differentiates you from competitors
Competitor research will give you a steady ground for your own positioning statement development. You’ll see what niches are already taken and what opportunities exist. Your job is to match identified opportunities with the benefits your product provides.
Bear in mind that benefits can be emotional as well as rational. And while you’re restricted by technical specs when it comes to rational benefits, the range of emotions is limitless and you can easily find those that aren’t utilized by competitors. For example, Gillette employs notions of technical prowess and masculinity, while Dollar Shave Club makes emphasis on humour and community.
Step 4. Craft a brand positioning statement
By now you have a clear understanding of your market, target audience, customer needs, and unique values of your product or service. To create your positioning statement use the template below:
For [target market description] who [target market need], [how our business offering meets the need]. Unlike [key competition], it [most distinguishing feature].
Here is another template you can use:
- What: The only [category]
- How: that [differentiation characteristic]
- Who: for [customer]
- Where: in [geographic location]
- Why: who [need state]
- When: during [underlying trend]
To illustrate how this template works, take a look at Harley Davidson positioning:
- The only motorcycle manufacturer
- That makes big, loud motorcycles
- For macho guys (and “macho wannabes”)
- Mostly in the United States
- Who wants to join a gang of cowboys
- In an era of decreasing personal freedom.
Harley Davidson positioning statement creates a clear picture of what the company does and who they do it for. It also serves as a basis for brand’s tagline: American by birth. Rebel by choice.
As you can see, a brand positioning statement is an expression of all the assets that the company owns: from Purpose to Product, and to Infrastructure. Each asset is developed separately, however, brand positioning statement brings those assets together and arranges them in a certain order: from emotional and intangible to rational and tangible.
Step 5. Verify brand positioning
A powerful brand positioning statement is a great tool that brings focus to your brand strategy actions, marketing campaigns, and promotions. If used properly, this statement can help you differentiate your brand and win a significant share of the market.
To check the efficiency of your statement ask yourself these questions:
- Does it differentiate your brand?
- Does it allow for growth?
- Does it communicate your unique value?
- How difficult is it to copy?
- Is it memorable?
- Does it evoke strong emotions?
Positioning gets you seen and remembered so it should never be handled as an afterthought. Positioning is an idea that should shape each and every aspect of your business including product development, brand strategy and marketing strategy, distribution tactics, creative direction, design and so forth.
You have to identify and decide on your brand positioning long before you start to worry about budgets and sales or design. Once you have your positioning statement, you need to constantly engage with your customers and apply consistent implementation to position your brand the right way so you can expand your market share, increase your sales and grow your business.
Inspired to finally take control of your brand positioning? The Personality Profile Performer™ System is the perfect DIY solution because it’s a step-by-step process empowering you to build your brand yourself and become more profitable. Get the Personality Profile Performer™ Programme here now so you can make your brand No.1 in your market.
If you want leadership direction and support transforming your brand so you’re empowered to identify your strong brand position and leverage it to the full to increase your sales then the Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Mastermind is the perfect fit for you.
This is a two-day brand building intensive shared with a small group of like-minded peers where you work on your brand and fully map it out with our leadership to grow your business.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What’s your current perceived position among customers?
- How is your current perceived position different or similar to existing brands?
- Does your positioning have long-term viability?
- What do you need to improve your presence?
- What core benefits do you offer that cut across all potential customers?
In branding, it turns out that bigger is better together. In successful strategic brand partnerships, the branding strategy of two plus two can equal five…or more!
Before jumping into bed together, several questions need to be asked – and answered. It’s essential to be clear and consistent about your values and your vision and to bring that conviction to the relationship from the start.
“Relationships between companies begin, grow, and develop—or fail—much like relationships between people”.
– Harvard Business Review
Objectives of Strategic Brand Partnerships
Strategic brand partnerships are a “win-win” for both parties, delivering a great return on investment when done well while reducing marketing spend internally. It’s important to develop SMART* goals though and a plan for tracking and measurement of ROI in advance.
Partnering with the right business achieves:
- Brand recognition
- Increased visibility
- Inherited reputation
- Validity and credibility
- A pathway to an expanded target audience
“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.”
* Watch for an upcoming post covering SMART objectives for brand awareness.
10 Things Brands Must Look for in The Right Brand Partnerships
Successful brand partnerships between smaller and larger or better-known brands can work when there are mutual gains and wider distribution to be achieved by both brands. Both partners must examine the opportunity for synergy by first reviewing each of the following:
- Common brand values
- Complementary brand cultures
- Core competencies
- Mutual benefits; a “win-win”
- Alignment between products or services
- Enriched customer experiences
- Articulation of a clear brand road map
- Resources available
- Ability to reach a wider customer audience
- Mutual trust
If your brand is the smaller partner in the relationship then you need to ensure you have your brand fully codified and mapped out so you can critically evaluate who would potentially be a good partner for you.
Ensuring your brand is properly profiled with its personality, positioning and purpose fully articulated and documented means you’re also more fully equipped on an equal footing to engage with the larger player because they will have all their brand essentials including their brand guidelines fully documented so you want to level the playing field before approaching the deal!
If you want some direction developing your brand and your brand partnership strategy then take a look at our brand building programme called the Personality Profile Performer™. This online course takes you through all the key steps you need to implement in building your brand. You can watch a free course preview here.
Alternatively, if you want in-person professional direction with expert input to develop your brand and brand partnership strategy and would like to discuss working with us then give us a call T: +353 1 8322724 (GMT hours 9:00-17:00) or drop us a line to [email protected]. We’d be delighted to talk with you.
Successful Mixed-Size, Mixed-Use Brand Partnerships
Sometimes a brand partnership appears unlikely at first glance. A beverage and a nail polish; a social network and an airline; a music app and yogurt. How and why are these brand partnerships workable? Or even utterly brilliant?
The biggest innovation in media prize went to Burger King when the fast food brand sassily and publicly pitched McDonald’s. The much bigger, better funded golden arches folks declined to co-brand “McWhopper” for a day. Let’s take a closer look at each example.
|PARTNER 1||PARTNER 2||BRAND 1||BRAND 2|
|Destination||Satellite & Cable TV||NYC & Co.||Nickelodeon|
|Top end designer||High Street retailer||Karl Lagerfeld||H&M|
|Music app||Yogurt||Spotify UK||Danone “Light & Free”|
|Social network||Museums||UNESCO #Museum Week|
|Soft drink||Nail varnish||Coca-Cola||OPI|
|Online dating||Airline||Tinder||Delta Air Lines|
|Ride Share app||Fast food giant||Lyft||Taco Bell|
|Fast food giant||Fast food giant||McDonald’s||Burger King|
Take a look at these brand partnerships a bit more closely because there are valuable learnings and takeaways you can apply to grow your business too.
NYC & Co. | Nickelodeon
NYC & Company, New York City’s official destination marketing organization, announced Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will continue their role in 2017 as Official NYC Family Ambassadors. The co-branded national ad campaign highlights New York City as a family-friendly destination. Its activation allows visitors to pick a turtle to explore a topic.
Why It Works:
It’s fun. A popular, compelling cartoon family become the official brand ambassadors and tour guides for real families who make up about one-third of NYC’s 60 million annual visitors. The campaign’s activation allows kids to pick a turtle to explore a content topic.
Karl Lagerfeld | H&M
The collaboration that changed everything is revived once or twice a year with other top-end designer brands. It seemed incredible when introduced in 2004, a partnership between Karl Lagerfeld, haute couture fashion icon, and a mass market clothing chain. The in-store collection that was meant to last two weeks sold out to frenzied shoppers in 25 minutes in many of the retailer’s 1,000 locations.
Why It Works:
Initially shocking, now it’s cool to make luxury apparel affordable. Both brands have reached new markets. The choice of designer is kept quiet in advance, and the collections’ resale market is as vibrant as the pieces that fly out the doors on opening day.
Spotify | Danone
What does yogurt sound like? Danone signed a year-long deal to associate its ‘Light & Free’ brand with Spotify ‘Chill’ moments, targeting listeners, artists, and influencers to create chillout playlists with ads for yoghurt.
Why It Works:
Pairing up products with moods resembles the way music reflects moods. Both brands suggested that consumers “really enjoy the feeling of ‘Light & Free’ at first hand.”
Twitter | Museum Week
The first-ever #MuseumWeek launched in 2014 with Twitter as a partner. Hundreds of cultural institutions and heritage landmarks across Europe tweeted out 140-character bursts of inside information, facts and trivia to promote sharing and pique curiosity. Powered by UNESCO, it’s an annual success.
Why It Works:
Nobody gets museum fatigue. Twitter is the perfect partner for pumping out fascinating, compelling conversation-starter tidbits: “Did you know a bluestone weighs 2 tons, the same as 22 sheep?”
Coca-Cola | OPI
Paint your nails a flavour? Coca-Cola Red, of course. ABC News reported, “It may seem like an oddball pairing, but the connection between Coca-Cola and beauty products is not unprecedented…Coca-Cola said that partnerships with nail polish and lipstick brands actually date back to the 1940s. More recent products include Bonne Bell’s Coca-Cola flavoured lip balms.”
Why It Works:
Both brands are pitching happiness in a bottle to an important female customer segment. For the nail polish, the association says, “I’m a classic.” For Coca-Cola, the association says, “I’m hip and happening.”
Tinder | Delta Air Lines
Delta’s promotional partner Tinder says, “World travellers are more likely to be swiped right.” On their Facebook page, AdWeek proclaims “Bravo, Delta.” The creative teams painted famous international landmarks on a Brooklyn, NY #DeltaDatingWall for selfies.
Why It Works:
Because travel is a turn-on. Because selfies are instantly shareable. And because data supports the validity of the claim. Both partners reach a prime customer audience in a densely populated, trendy neighbourhood.
- 62 percent of men and 74 percent of women want a partner who shares their travel interests
- 1 in 2 singles say travelling is one of their favourite things to do
- 1 in 2 singles say travelling to a new city to meet a date would be exciting
- 1 in 3 singles ranked travel as a top priority in 2017
- 57 percent of singles take 1+ vacations year
- 1 in 3 singles try to go somewhere different for vacation every time they travel
Lyft | Taco Bell
Lyft (a Uber competitor) is partnering with Taco Bell to satisfy your late night hunger pangs. Taco Mode encourages Lyft riders to make a pit stop at a California Taco Bell fast food location for a free Doritos Locos Taco before reaching their final destination. Request to be collected in a Taco-themed car between 21:00 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Why It Works:
The emphasis is squarely on the customer experience. Taco Bell tells the New York Times this partnership represents a new type of “experience innovation,” delivering customers to the food instead of vice versa.
McDonald’s | Burger King
In the best partnership that never happened, Burger King got everyone talking when they publicly proposed a ceasefire on burger wars in an open letter to McDonald’s. In full page ads, Burger King suggested a hybrid McWhopper to mark World Peace Day. While McDonald’s rejected the tongue-in-cheek partnership, BK’s 2016 print campaign won a Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions festival. (Just what Burger King wanted: Attention!)
SMEs and Co-Branding – Leverage These Brand Partnership Ideas to Grow Your Business
Strategic partnership brand strategy can be especially fruitful for startups and small-to-medium sized companies that find the right collaborator in a bigger brand. By engaging with a like-minded big brand buddy, a smaller brand can build traction, momentum, and credibility while stretching their branding budget.
This works especially well when a bigger brand is launching in a new market, hence it must behave like a small brand, as there’s not yet brand awareness. Carabao Energy Drink was unknown when it was recently introduced in Europe while enjoying a strong second place standing in its category in Thailand with 21 percent market share.
However, small and big isn’t an exclusive combination solution. Two small brands or two big brands can also support one another very effectively as evidenced here in the four case studies detailed below.
|PARTNER 1||PARTNER 2||BRAND 1||BRAND 2|
|Energy drink||Sports teams||Carabao Energy Drink||English Football League|
|Online dating||Dining app||Match.com||Grub Club|
|Destination||Bank||Tourism Authority of Thailand||Krungthai Bank|
|Supermarket chain||TV show||Coles (Australia)||MasterChef (Australia)|
Want to develop your strategic partnerships branding strategy so you can grow your brand awareness, increase your sales, expand your market reach but you’re not sure where to start to get a successful return on your investment?
Just drop us a line to [email protected] or give us a call T: +353 1 8322724 (GMT 9:00 – 17:00) — we’re here to help.
If you want direction and support transforming your internal branding strategy so it empowers your team and increases sales then the Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Mastermind is the perfect fit for you.
This is a two-day brand building intensive shared with a small group of like-minded peers where you work on your brand with our leadership. In fact, over the two days, you reevaluate your brand, codify it and create your brand strategy from the ground up whether you’re revitalising an existing brand or creating a new one.
This is a highly empowering workshop where we take a deep dive, step-by-step into how to build a brand. You discover and apply the systems and methodologies used by some of the world’s greatest brands as you work on your brand under Lorraine Carter’s direction and tutelage so you can grow your own brand and business.
This is not a theory based program but a highly interactive fast-track course where you work intensively on your brand throughout the programme duration using our ten step system to:
- Completely re-evaluate your brand to make it much stronger so it’s highly visible enabling you to increase your profits
- Map out your brand in full so it’s codified and comprehensively documented to grow your business faster
- You leave with your total brand road map or GPS of your brand empowering you to manage your brand, stand out and attract your ideal customers so you multiply your sales
Your brand transformed so you can increase sales.
At the end of the two-day Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Mastermind you leave with your fully documented brand strategy ready for implementation in your business or organisation.
If your team is larger and you’d like to include everyone’s’ participation in the Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Mastermind then we also run in-house private client brand building intensive programmes too.
Just drop us a line to [email protected] or give us a call T: +353 1 8322724 (GMT 9:00 – 17:00) to discuss your preferences and we’ll develop your brand building intensive bespoke to your particular brand requirements so that you’re empowered to develop and lead your internal brand building team.
Carabao | English Football League
Carabao is a Thai energy drink with good market share. However, the brand was unknown in the UK, part of its European launch. Carabao is a principal partner of both Reading FC and Chelsea FC.
Why It Works:
Pro sports and energy drink are an obvious dynamic pairing. The English Football League and its 92 member clubs got a shot of adrenaline when Carabao signed on for three years of title sponsorship. Carabao got instant brand recognition as a major player in its new territory.
Match.com | Grub Club
Grub Club connects chefs with underused spaces for pop-up dining. Diners are delighted by quality food in quirky places. The supper club startup was founded in London in 2013. Grub Club hosted an après ski-themed evening with Match.com, one of the largest dating sites.
Why It Works:
Dinner = Date Night. Even if it’s over the top for a first date, Grub Hub engages with an established like-minded web-based company that acts as a big brand buddy, helping them build brand momentum and credibility. The bigger brand gets access to a closely aligned niche.
“Very few startups have any marketing budget so the only way to get your brand out there is by setting up strategic partnerships with companies big and small.”
– Siddarth Vijayakumar, Co-founder of Grub Club
Tourism Authority of Thailand | Krungthai Bank
Medical tourism meets beach holidays. The largest bank in Thailand partnered up with the national tourism office to promote the destination for people who combine treatment with travel.
It’s a large and growing international trend, and Thailand is a leader in the market.
Why It Works:
A health and wellness website highlights popular treatments available in Thailand as well as providers. The bank offers tourists the Miracle Thailand Card, a free visitors’ debit card that carries some medical and life insurance coverage and is accepted at 286 hospitals.
Coles | MasterChef
Business surged when the Western Australian supermarket chain launched “To cook like a MasterChef cooks, shop where a MasterChef shops” as a campaign tied to recipes used on the reality TV show.
Why It Works:
How about a 30 percent uptake overnight in the meat sales for a MasterChef beef stroganoff dish? From spices to cooking equipment, the grocery store chain says revenue is soaring. For MasterChef, the positive impact on expanded viewing audiences tuning in for the next bright cooking idea is built right into this “win-win” partnership. After all, everyone regularly goes grocery shopping.
So the question is, have you considered strategic brand partnerships to increase your brand awareness, market reach and sales? Scale and size is not an excuse because this is a brand strategy open to large and small with innovative thinking — once you have a few fundamentals in place, like codifying your brand as previously mentioned.
Consider Strategic Brand Partnerships to Increase Your Customer Base and Grow Your Sales Fast
- Do you have a marketing budget dedicated to brand partnership opportunities?
- Do you have clear objectives in mind for a potential co-branding campaign?
- Do you have one or more potential co-branding partners in mind for your business?
- What innovative co-branding or brand partnerships have impressed you lately?
Most leaders and employees would view company brand culture as a crucial part of job performance and satisfaction coupled with great customer service, yet for so many brands it remains an elusive concept.
We all know intuitively that a bad company culture produces bad results and there are plenty of statistics to back this up. One Columbia University study shows that the probability of job turnover when a brand’s company culture is poor is 48.4%, compared to just 13.9% when the brand culture is perceived as a good one.
In fact, good corporate brand culture fundamentally drives financial performance as evidenced by the research published in the book ‘Corporate Culture and Performance’ by HBS Professor James Heskett and Kotter International
|GROWTH||Average Increase for Twelve Firms with Performance-Enhancing Cultures||Average Increase for Twenty Firms without Performance-Enhancing Cultures|
|Stock Price Growth||901%||74%|
|Net Income Growth||756%||1%|
“Great companies that build an enduring brand have an emotional relationship with customers that has no barrier. And that emotional relationship is the most important characteristic, which is trust.”
Howard Schultz, Starbucks
Culture matters because it’s about transparency, company behaviour, what you stand for, who you are. Brand Culture is how you convey, share, and translate that into your brand. It’s what every employee believes, does, and lives to express that culture.
It’s about building a relationship between your culture, which may be developed over time but should ideally be guided from the top, the founder, owner or CEO — the visionary behind the brand — and your brand itself in terms of its personality, how it does things, the customer experience it creates and what it stands for. How you develop them to create a strong positive and distinctive brand experience.
There are also bad cultures within businesses and organisations which are not positive brand experiences. These poor brand cultures undermine performance, productivity, the whole perception of the organisation, the brand and negatively impact sales.
Our experience working with many different companies and organisations across diverse sectors clearly illustrates that it’s not that they haven’t considered company brand culture, it’s that developing and implementing something perceived to be so abstract can be difficult.
Because of this apparent client challenge we’ve pulled together some tangible ways you can start working on and developing your brand culture together with case studies from worldwide brands to show you ‘brand culture’ in action in the ‘real world’.
They’re brands who, like us, understand that building culture is not about placing a ping-pong table in a rec room, it starts with strong brand values that respect your employees and customers alike.
12 Ways To Improve Your Company’s Brand Culture so You Increase Performance and Grow Sales
1. Don’t be Afraid to Mix Marketing with People
Based in Kansas and proud of its community roots, CornerBank, now part of RCB Bank, describes itself as the bank that is “on your corner and in your corner”. Their approach to culture and marketing lies in people, something which RCB Bank is trying to emulate since their merger last year.
CornerBank practised what they preached by combining the head of HR and the head of marketing into one role because their “people are their best marketing tool”. While it’s undeniably an unorthodox way of structuring a company, in doing so, they put faith in their staff, and most importantly, their staff’s commitment to upholding those community roots. It’s a company that looks out for the little guy and ensures that its employees identify strongly with this.
2. Bridge the Gap Between Employee and Customer
With a client retention rate of a near-perfect 97.8%, bank and insurance provider, USAA is one of the most reputable and trusted brands in America.
They have a unique proposition in that the vast majority of their customers are active or retired US military. No one knows their customer better than USAA and the company instils this in their employees by training them in the experiences of a soldier.
This works in two ways. Firstly, for company culture, it gives employees insights that help them do their job better, which improves job satisfaction, and challenges them in the right way. And secondly, it shows customers that their experiences are genuinely important to the brand as a whole, but also that the people who they reach out to for service are much better equipped to deal with their situation. For soldiers trying to do their banking from war zones, that is often a pretty unique one.
3. Foster Fun and Creativity
When you think of best practice company culture, tech companies tend to come to mind. They seem to understand the important connection between having fun and innovating. Squarespace embodies many of the principles of best practice company culture – an attractive office space, very few levels of management, celebrations, downtime and flexibility.
What’s important here is that these practices stem from the company’s respect for its employees. This is the approach we take when we are working with clients. Downtime and flexibility show employees that they are respected enough to get on with their job and exercise a certain amount of autonomy.
The fun aspects of this company’s culture are layered on top of this to let employees know that their work is appreciated. This two-pronged approach ensures that your company brand culture is engrained as a real living experience for everyone and not just lip service.
4. Offer Flexibility
Flextime is not a particularly new concept, and you’ll find it especially prevalent in public service organisations and progressive companies in western countries. Because of this, extensive research has been conducted to measure the value of offering this to your employees.
A survey conducted by The Alternative Board (TAB), an international provider of executive peer advisory boards, of hundreds of business owners, found that business owners who thought that their company culture was ‘strong’, also offered their employees flexible conditions, particularly in terms of time and remotely working. We tend to find that when workplaces concentrate on results, project completion, and quality of work, the perceived ‘drudgery’ of the 9-5 work culture is eliminated, and employees feel part of something bigger which engenders a greater sense of job satisfaction.
Medium-sized British activewear company, Sweaty Betty, embodies these principles by using open communication and showing that they understand their employees have life commitments in addition to their work ones. “We trust our team and operate on a flexi-hour policy,” says Jessica Howden, people and events coordinator. “If a team member would rather leave earlier in the afternoon because of a long commute, they can start earlier in the morning. Our working hours are not set in stone.”
5. Build Brand Relationships to Create Community
Ask any social scientist, the key to happiness among employees in a workplace is when they feel like they are part of something bigger that makes a difference. Apple and Nike exhibited this in their September 2016 keynote where they teamed up to introduce the second-generation Apple watch. This is a watch that allows people to be part of two tribes – the Apple tribe, and the Nike Running Club tribe.
Aligning with another brand that commands respect and complements your brand values and positioning promotes inclusivity in your workplace and makes your employees feel like they are part of something larger than themselves. It also strengthens your brand in the mind of your customer and leads to commercial growth – advocates of one brand will be more likely to become advocates of the other when they are aligned.
When we work with companies to identify co-branding opportunities, having a strong brand culture or value fit is essential. Some of the most effective brand collaborations and alignments are not even necessarily in the same industry. This can yield great results for SMEs where the primary focus is to stand out, increase brand awareness with sales and reach new audiences.
6. Hire ‘Your’ People
Traditional recruitment is generally based on skills and experience. Our approach to recruitment for your brand is to ascertain a baseline level of aptitude that you would consider mandatory, and place more emphasis on finding a suitable fit with your organisations brand culture.
Recruitment companies, such as New Zealand-based company, Weirdly, take an innovative approach to recruitment using a series of tactics to assess a potential employees culture fit before they even get to the interview phase. In doing this, you create a workplace where people feel a sense of belonging, as well as the crucial creation of an environment where ideas can be shared.
7. Employees as Brand Ambassadors
As we’ve mentioned, most companies will try to hire employees who reflect and embody their company’s values in some way. Increase engagement with your brand and create authentic communication by making it attractive for your employees to become brand ambassadors.
According to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer “Employees rank higher in public trust than a firm’s PR department, CEO, or Founder. 41% of us believe that employees are the most credible source of information regarding their business.”
We believe that this likely stems from the perception that employees are much more likely to voice their honesty, particularly if they are disgruntled. An employee that is openly endorsing a company is viewed as a trustworthy and reliable opinion. Social media is a great platform to try this on. Creating environments where employees feel compelled to share the goings-on of their workplace on their personal channels speaks volumes, and is a great place to start.
American-based retailer, Zappos, has an infamous reputation for its focus on employee culture. “At Zappos, we really view culture as our No. 1 priority. We decided that if we get the culture right, most of the stuff, like building a brand around delivering the very best customer service, will just take care of itself.” Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos–January 9th, 2010, The New York Times
8. Give Your Audience a Sneak Peek into Your Culture
In a similar way, don’t be afraid to shed a little light on how great your company is behind the scenes. Doing so increases your brand value with your customers and gives employees a public reason to feel proud of where they work. Your customers could also be your potential employees.
Just ensure that what you are posting accurately reflects your brand values as a company and how you want people to perceive it. ASOS is a great example of this – they use their Instagram account to provide sneak peeks into their workplace culture. It injects personality into the brand and shows that they value their employees.
9. Remove Restrictive Hierarchies
Hierarchies are a particularly tricky area of company politics to navigate. We tend to look at hierarchies not from a ‘have them/don’t have them’ perspective, but rather explore why you have them, what purpose they serve and, most importantly, whether they are restrictive. Closed door policies can inhibit the flow of ideas and creates an ‘us and them’ culture, which is intimidating and often counter-productive.
While your brand needs a leadership team, and there will be things that the leadership team knows that employees aren’t privy to, there are ways to create an open and flexible environment.
SME, Valve Software, does this well – they have no managers, projects are started when an employee can group a team together, and performance management is conducted as peer review. As a result, Valve has experienced tremendous growth – something that would normally require rigidity to manage.
10. Make Your Employees Part of Your Brand Mission
Create an atmosphere where employees feel like they contribute to the outcome of your company or organisation. Environments where staff feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves have been constantly proven to be success-drivers. Results happen when everyone is invested.
So, how do you go about this? Our approach is to create a great brand and strategy communication from the top down. Internal communication should be tailored so that, no matter the structure of your company, each employee knows how they contribute to wider goals, and, most importantly, has a clear idea of what those wider goals are.
Including corporate social responsibility into part of your operations is a great way of tangibly showing both customers and employees that your company is committed to the greater good.
Ice cream giant, Ben & Jerry’s, demonstrates that ethics are not just for the realms of small, niche enterprises by only using fair trade ingredients. In strengthening their customer’s positive perception of them as a company, they increase employee morale, drive purchases, and ensure that their brand personality doesn’t fall into the trap of becoming disconnected with consumer’s needs.
11. Give your employees what they need
This is the proof point that your company is not just about placing that ping-pong table in the rec room. Showing employees that you value them and their lives as people, not just workers, vastly increases job satisfaction.
71% of staff at Goldman Sachs feel that they often or almost always receive great rewards, while 82% of American Express employees report that the company often or almost always provides needed training, fair promotions and personally challenging work. While it’s not the glamorous, fun side of company brand culture, creating a base that ensures that your employees know they are valued through things such as child care, mentoring and health, can make a dramatic difference.
12. Create Autonomy
Career analyst, Dan Pink, has spent much of his own working career studying what it takes for employees to be motivated. It turns out, creating an environment where employees feel that they are the ‘masters of their own destiny’ is one of the most important aspects of employee happiness. This can be relatively easy to establish if the work is naturally project or campaign based, so thought should be given particularly to the roles where work is more constant and not as varied.
For instance, a Web Content Manager at an SME spends their day ensuring that the content is relevant, accurate and appropriate for the company. A company with a poor brand culture will treat this Content Manager as a worker, one who processes and publishes the team’s work, whereas a company with a great brand culture will instil autonomy in the Content Manager. They own the content space, feel comfortable providing advice and direction, and are looked to as the expert in that field. A small change, but one that makes a huge difference.
Brand culture integrates itself into every part of your company from the way customers perceive your company and trust you, which in turn has a massive impact on their likelihood to buy and become brand advocates, to your own employees’ sense of job satisfaction.
If you’re struggling to strongly develop your brand culture in order to improve your overall performance, growth and profitability, then a brand audit is a very useful tool to help you evaluate your areas of strength, weakness and potential innovation and growth.
Take a look at our brand audit programme called the Auditing Analysis Accelerator™. This online course takes you through all the key steps you need to consider in giving your brand a health check. It enables you to identify areas of strength, weakness and pinpoint new opportunities for innovation and growth. You can watch a free course preview here.
Alternatively, if you’ve got a major challenge on your hands then perhaps a brand revitalization or refresh may be the most effective option to turn things around. Feel free to get in touch, we’d be delighted to help. Drop us a line to [email protected] or give us a call T: +353 1 8322724 (GMT hours 9:00-17:00).
Viewing your workplace as a mutually beneficial environment, one that adds value to both the employer, employee and customer is crucial to job satisfaction, role performance and customer satisfaction, which are what collectively drive growth and achieve strong commercial results.
There are so many ways that SMEs / SMBs can add value to their employees’ lives by providing them with the benefits and autonomy they need, to creating a fun and inviting environment that instils a sense of pride and appreciation. We can help you uncover and articulate your brand values, and most importantly, how to actually achieve them in your organisation in an authentic way that enhances your peoples’ lives while also increasing your profits.
Questions to consider
- Have you evaluated how you can improve your brand culture to attract and retain high performing talent so you can increase your brand awareness, market share and sales?
- When did you last give you brand a health check so you can identify areas of weakness, strength and where to innovate?
- Could you give some members of your team more autonomy to increase their motivation, performance and sense of fulfilment?
- Have you trained your staff and fully inducted them in what your brand stands for and what that means in a day-to-day actionable, living sense so you can improve their performance, brand alignment and the quality of the customer experience delivered?
- Is now the right time for a brand refresh so you can improve your brand culture, re-invigorate company morale and increase overall market impact and growth?
Want to refresh your brand but you’re not sure where to start to get a successful return on your investment?
Drop us a line or give us a call… we’re here to help!
If you want direction and support transforming your brand so it fully embraces changing trends and increases sales then the Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Mastermind is the perfect fit for you.
This is a two-day brand building intensive shared with a small group of like-minded peers where you work on your brand with our leadership. In fact, over the two days, you reevaluate your brand, codify it and create your brand strategy from the ground up whether you’re revitalising an existing brand or creating a new one.
At the end of the two-day Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Mastermind you leave with your fully documented brand strategy ready for implementation in your business or organisation.
If your team is larger and you’d like to include your full team’s participation in the Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Mastermind then we also run in-house private client brand building intensive programmes too.
Just drop us a line to [email protected] or give us a call T: +353 1 8322724 (GMT 9:00 – 17:00) to discuss your preferences and we’ll develop your brand building intensive bespoke to your particular brand requirements so that you have your brand solution built to greatly enhance your brand culture and secure your future success.
Sorting through all the noise we’re bombarded with in the digital era is certainly a challenge. It’s essential for a brand to avoid getting lost in the daily deluge as customers navigate information overload and a visual avalanche to focus on what’s most relevant. That’s where emotional connections come in, solving a digital age dilemma by using humour in branding as the delivery vehicle.
Strong content will stop consumers skipping adverts, according to a study conducted by Millward Brown as reported in Marketing Week, which reveals the top five reasons someone will watch. These are:
1) An advert is funny
2) It is for a category the recipient is interested in
3) There is a reward, such as coupon or points
4) The advert is for a brand the consumer is interested in
5) Something noteworthy happens in the first few seconds
Consumer research from Adobe and Edelman Berland indicates that humour is best for product recall according to 7 out of 10 respondents. 
Top Five Benefits of Emotionally Driven Humour in Branding
Research tells us that when customers feel a genuine emotional connection with a particular brand, they generate disproportionate value for that brand. Those who are ‘fully connected’ emotionally are 52% more valuable to brands than customers who are ‘highly satisfied’, reports Harvard Business Review. 
Five benefits of emotional branding, especially humour, are:
1. Differentiation Through Humour in Branding
Of course, some brands have it easier by their very nature. But it isn’t necessary to be Disney or Ben & Jerry’s to find a deeply personal, possibly humourous, way to present for that all-important emotional bond. Indeed, it’s the all-important way that Disney can differentiate themselves from Universal Studios Hollywood or Legoland and Ben & Jerry’s can inform their strategic direction based on differences from the likes of Häagen Dazs. Humour also amplifies your brand’s personality, giving it more character and life which enables it to standout more strongly and consequently attract your ideal audience.
Read more about how to make your brand standout here: Personality Matters, Bringing Your Brand to Life to Grow Your Profits
2. Storytelling Through Humour in Branding
In the automobile world, for example, it could be a desire to appear flashy, a have a sense of freedom, or the express wish to transport the children safely. Alternatively, Volvo suggests it could be the wish to “Live Fully Now.” While this advertisement’s humour is not the belly laugh type, it’s impossible not to smile as Volvo holds up a mirror to tell the story of each of us (personalization is at work here, as well).
Watch as Volvo evolves from their earlier hard sell and deadly serious car crash commercials emphasizing their steel cage design, to now endeavouring to make a successful emotional connection in the 2017 video,” The Get Away Car,” imploring us to “Live Fully Now.”
Learn how to use storytelling to increase your sales here: Brand Stories, 5 Compelling Examples That Sell Themselves
3. Personalization Through Humour in Branding
Nobody is better at personalization than Amazon, who are acutely aware of any product you search on the web, and quick to pass you pop-up banner ads and emails to let you know that they know. But small brands without the sophisticated big data collection of Amazon can accomplish personalization — with humour — as well.
Read more about delivering customer expectations here: Brand Promises, How to Craft, Articulate and Live Them for Brand Success
Victor Pest makes mousetraps and is a supplier of rodent control supplies — not very sexy as products go. A Victor rodent trap will never make an appropriate birthday or Valentine’s Day purchase, nor anybody’s Christmas wish list.
They’ve used Twitter and Pinterest as channels for a humorous tone of voice directed at likely customer audiences: home builders, decorators, realtors, property management, home inspectors, exterminators, DIY shop owners, etc. The result goes way beyond what one might expect from a pest repellent company to create top-of-mind-awareness branding for an unsavoury problem.
4. Relationship Building with Humour in Branding
“Hello, I’m a Mac. And I’m a PC” was aired by Apple from 2006 to 2009. What’s the key to this classic ad? Making your own brand the butt of the joke. When you give your brand a frivolous name (Ex: Macintosh, Dunkin’ Donuts, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter), it’s a head start.
Building your customer relationships using other types of humorous treatment for your brand include:
- Video commercial. Has there ever been a better example of that first 30-second Old Spice commercial featuring actor Isaiah Mustafa as “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”? The “wildly smug, cool-cat smooth dude persona” introduced in 2010 maintained eye contact with the camera throughout, creating a connection between audience and Old Spice Man, reaping awards and more than 53 million views by January, 2017.
Old Spice – we have used often, but here it is again because it’s one of the best!
- Print ad. Proving that a picture is worth 1,000 words, Rowenta 2100 Watt Vacuum Cleaner does just that with one image. It connects perfectly with an outdoorsy audience who we imagine must be looking after heritage country estates that require lots of dust busting.
- Jingle and lyrics. “The Meow Mix Theme” was created in 1970 and performed by a dubbed singing cat using subtitles and a bouncing ball on the lyrics. Simple and memorable, “Tastes so good, cats ask for it by name” is considered an advertising classic that cat owners adore.
Learn more about standing out here: How to Use Brand Positioning to Build Brand Impact in an Overcrowded Market
5. Loyalty Created Through Humour in Branding
No matter what size, service, or product, any business can find an emotional connection that creates brand loyalty. Add in a dash of humour for a winning formula with stickiness for loyalty.
Talk about loyalty…Some of the best-known advertising icons, Poppin’ Fresh Pillsbury Doughboy (1965) and the Morton Salt Girl (1914) are still hard at work through generations of loyal customers.
More than a century later, Morton’s girl is now seen on bus stop shelters to encouraging selfies.
Even a contemporary supply chain software called Kinaxis has found a path for humour, using actors as characters who display their benefits as a service (Simplicity, Flexibility, Easy Upgrades, etc.) in a dating series of videos; have a look.
High tech startup brands don’t expect decades of loyalty in a single ad campaign, but they are looking for swift and sticky traction — translated as loyalty in 21st century lingo.
“Customers define themselves through brands they use. The branded clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the drinks they consume, university they attended, favourite spots to hang out, and so on.”
– Nyimpini Mabunda, Smirnoff Vodka Marketing Manager: “Emotional Branding In a Changing Marketplace”.
Redefine Your Ideal Target Audiences
Remember, there’s a risk with being brilliantly clever and funny. That is, there’s nothing worse than humour that strikes out. To make sure you’re addressing the right humour to an audience to appreciate it, a brand audit is the best way to ensure that your branding reaches the right audience(s). It’s also important to ensure you have your ideal audience fully identified and mapped out in detail. Purchaser Personas or customer pen portraits are an essential tool to ensure you get this right.
“One of the major keys to a successful humorous campaign is variety, once a commercial starts to wear out there’s no saving it without some variation on the concept…while making the customer laugh, they have to keep things interesting, because old jokes die along with their products”.
– Mark Levit, Managing Partner of Partners & Levit Advertising and professor of marketing at New York University.
If you need direction and support giving your brand a health check feel free to get in touch [email protected] or give us a ring T: +353 1 8322724 (GMT hours). Alternatively you can also give your brand a health check yourself to identify its strengths, weakness and areas for potential innovation and growth using our Auditing Analysis Accelerator™ programme. This is a step-by-step walk through, complete with downloads, questionnaires and checklists, to help you audit your brand. You can watch a section of the programme here.
Why Humour in Branding Works Best for Sharing and Word-of-Mouth
Your fans and followers on social media provide one of the best ways to get a targeted expanded audience, that is, their friends with look-alike habits, likes, tastes, budgets. When you deliver humorous content, you significantly increase the chances that your fans will share your message.
Don’t Take Your Own Brand Too Seriously
- Even mundane products like bathroom tissue, computer hardware, and home owners’ insurance can come to life through the use of humour.
- Bring a smile to their faces — it’s a small gift — it doesn’t have to be a huge guffaw.
- Aim for hearts over wallets, the heads will follow — remember you must move the heart first if you want to win the mind
“When a brand shows that it doesn’t always take itself too seriously, it’s a powerful way to demonstrate authenticity and confidence, as well as connect with your community.”
– Tim Washer, standup comedian, Webby-nominated video producer and corporate humorist; creator of Cisco’s “The Perfect Gift for Valentine’s Day” video for the $80,000 ASR 9000 router.
Here’s one of our all-time favorites from Blendtec to inspire you to think outside the box when creating humorous content.
Questions for Brand Owners, Managers and Entrepreneurs About Using Humour in Branding
1. Does your brand lend itself to humour across customers, staff, and stakeholders?
2. How well do you know your customer base? When did you last conduct a brand audit of your customers?
3. Have you clearly identified your prime target audiences beyond your immediate base? Have you mapped out your different customer types with your Purchaser Personas™ so you can attract your ideal audience more effectively?
4. When was the last time you conducted a comprehensive health check of your brand?
5. Will a tasteful, humorous approach fit with your brand promise and your audience(s)?
Want to make your brand more successful or launch a new one? Find out how you can here.
From Silicon Valley to Silicon Docks and Silicon Roundabout, the buzzwords “entrepreneur”, “branding” and “startup” get bandied about quite a bit, so let’s take a look at their meanings. Dictionary definitions indicate that an entrepreneur is a person who initiates, organizes and manages a business and assumes its risk. A startup is the vehicle for doing so and branding is what makes your brand highly visible, different, memorable and much loved. Underlying the definition in common use today, is that an entrepreneur has a vision for a new brand, a startup that will disrupt a particular practice.
Entrepreneurship is “creative, disruptive innovation,” as notably coined by the early 20th century economist Joseph Schumpeter.
A century later, a newer definition, courtesy of Silicon Valley-based investor Reid Hoffman, is: “An entrepreneur is a person who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down.”
Image via Gapingvoid, © Hugh MacLeod
Branding From the Beginning
Startup brands in our commercial midst are actually nothing new. In fact, branding has been central to the success of innovators from the beginning. For centuries before modern society’s computer chip lent Silicon Valley its moniker, startups have been an essential part of the economy, picking up steam — to coin a phrase — during the Industrial Revolution. In the Information Age, entrepreneurship accounted for 14 percent of all working-age Americans in 2015, some 27 million people, in the USA alone. 
Startup Brands Are Still Brands
Startup brands are brands, just like established ones, only less developed. And, a branding professional who has been down this road many times can provide all-important markers for you in trailblazing the way ahead for your new brand. You’ll want to avoid brand mistakes that will likely require a costly do-over in time. Our Personality Profile Performer™ Programme is designed to guide brand owners and managers to build a highly visible, different, memorable and much loved new brand from scratch.
From birth you need a memorable name, a mission statement, a brand promise, a standout brand personality and a strong brand strategy prior to a brand launch. No one will debate that creating a startup brand isn’t hard work. We’re here to help!
Whether it’s the first sewing machine, a craft beer, or a new messaging app, being a founder is all-consuming…and always starts small even when you are thinking big.
What Is and Is Not Your Brand
The adage, “Everything is your brand and your brand is everything,” as it appears in the pages of the Harvard Business Review, is true enough. However, until and unless you have your brand’s core values and the building blocks of your brand foundation in place, it is premature to take the next steps.
Your logo is not your brand. Your clever new dot.com name is not your brand. Your website is not your brand. Your packaging is not your brand. These are components of your brand to reflect your purpose and value.
Also, your place of business is definitely not your brand. Even a billion dollar brand can start in somebody’s garage…and they certainly have:
- Disney in 1923
- Hewlett Packard in 1939
- Apple in 1976
- Amazon in 1994
- Google in 1998
Essentials for Startup Brands and Branding
As an entrepreneur, YOU are the voice and visionary of your brand, you embody your brand and your passion shows. Seasoned Silicon Valley startup pros offer plenty of free advice for today’s entrepreneurs.
One of the key takeaways on perspective comes from Dave McClure, the straight-talking co-founder of 500Startups, a Silicon Valley startup accelerator and global investor. Here, McClure is describing the best way to make an elevator pitch for funding — yet the essence of his advice is spot-on for the strategic approach to building the foundation of a startup brand. He counsels:
“Here’s the secret: Pitch the problem, not the solution.”
“Just tell me the problem FIRST, not the SOLUTION. The reason is, I may not be able to understand what your solution does, but if you connect emotionally with me on what the problem is — and hopefully I also have the problem, or know someone who does — then I’ll give you PERMISSION to tell me more about how you’re going to solve the problem.”
Ten Essential Startup Branding Tips
Here we take a look at 10 essential startup branding tips with comments from a dozen or so outstanding innovators and advisors from the Silicon Valley dot.com frontier.
- Amazon founder Jeff Bezos
- Lynda co-founder Lynda Weinman
- Linkedin co-founder Reid Hoffman
- Microsoft founder Bill Gates
- YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki
- Apple founder Steve Jobs
- Media personality Oprah Winfrey
- Intuit co-founder Scott D. Cook
- Venture capitalist Matt Turck
- High tech investor Ben Horowitz
- Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman
- Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg
- Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg
- SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk
- Winner of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur 2015 and “Best Start-up Award” at Google’s Dublin HQ, 24-year-old James Foody, now San Francisco-based
Tip #1: Building Your Brand
“You don’t know what you don’t know.” – Oprah Winfrey at a 2014 Stanford University Graduate School of Business interview.
Don’t try this alone. Silicon Valley wisdom counsels that even a genius cannot create a successful startup brand alone. No single person can possess all the required skills and have all the tools in their shed. Consider co-founders and advisors to move your business and branding strategy forward in the right direction. Remember…the “Fifth Beatle” for the Fab Four was their manager.
“My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other, and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That’s how I see business: Great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.” – Steve Jobs
TechCrunch, a San Francisco, Silicon Valley media platform, says mentors are the secret weapons for a successful startup brand. Their study shows that “mentors who had already achieved success in the tech industry were able to help younger tech startups outperform their peers by a factor of three.”
Broadlake, in Dublin, models their whole philosophy on a very hands-on approach as both advisors, mentors and investors who invest their time and capital to help entrepreneurs succeed.
“There’s always new challenges and I think with new challenges we gotta switch on, we gotta engage, we gotta work with these teams and try and achieve often for what these ambitious growing companies are looking to do, which is ground breaking stuff.” – Pete Smyth, Broadlake
Image via Broadlake
“Everyone needs a coach. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast, or a bridge player.” – Bill Gates
Image via Stanford University
Tip #2: A Brand is Not a Logo
Brands are not solely visual. Your new brand is about how you make people think and feel about your product or service. The most common misperception out there among startups is from those who think their brand is about their logo and not much else! CEOs, owners, partners, investors and founders should not make this mistake…nor should designers.
“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” – Jeff Bezos
Image via Slideshare
A side note: When Marissa Mayer was appointed new CEO of a struggling Yahoo in 2013, a new logo was among the first tasks undertaken by an internal committee. Meantime, email customers were unhappy with their service.
Image via Naldz Graphics
Lesson: When Yahoo skipped the brand audit they ended up with a deep customer disconnect that was never regained. 
The Yahoo backstory to date:
Image via Twitter
Tip #3: Build Brand Trust
As a founder, you are the embodiment of your brand both internally and externally. From the moment you interact with your first core users, trust is critical. Your company may grow, but brand trust is a constant.
“Google is a consumer company and our success is directly linked to our users trusting us.” – Susan Wojcicki
And when you hire, make sure you hire the right people to personify the brand in its infancy. It is absolutely critical that your brand is represented properly all the time.
Image via Twitter
“If someone likes you they will listen to you. If someone trusts you they will do business with you.” – James Foody, Ayda
Image via Ayda
Tip #4: Identify Brand Need
When Lynda Weinman started teaching web design in 1993, she went in search of a textbook. All the books she found were too technical for beginners. (You can probably see where this story will lead.)
“I remember thinking maybe this book doesn’t exist yet. I went home from the bookstore and wrote the book proposal.” – Lynda Weinman
It was early days on the internet in 1995 when Lynda then got the idea to move her reference materials online and create a teaching course around them. Two decades later, Weinman had earned the nickname, “Mother of the Internet.”
In the spring of 2015, Lynda Weinman sold her company, Lynda.com, to LinkedIn for $1.5 billion. The new owner, the world’s premier business-oriented social networking service, was seven years away from its own founding when the brand Lynda.com was created.
Tip #5: Become a Brand Guru
Once you’ve identified a passion, become an expert in whatever it is. Tell your story well. In the brand’s early days, you need anecdotes, not raw data. Be authentic, be enthusiastic, be clued up and know your stuff. Your brand promise must be frequently voiced, relatable, and completely transparent.
“Whether you are interacting with customers, fundraising or recruiting, you are always selling and, and the best salespeople are master storytellers. Craft a compelling and genuine company story that resonates with your audience not just intellectually, but also emotionally.” – Matt Turck, Venture Capitalist, FirstMark Capital
Tip #6: Determine Brand Positioning
“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is — it is what consumers tell each other it is.” – Scott D. Cook
Your core customers are your sounding board — an important audience for a startup. Is your brand positioning clear? Customers want companies to listen to their opinions, so you’ll need feedback to guide you in shaping your brand position in the marketplace. Before you can concern yourself with traction and loyalty, you need to ensure that the brand resonates, fills a need, and has value. Get feedback at every iteration along the way to ensure you’re moving in the right direction for consumer wants and needs. Tweaks will be necessary.
“Another one of my favourite posters at Facebook declares in big red letters, “Done is better than perfect.” I have tried to embrace this motto and let go of unattainable standards. Aiming for perfection causes frustration at best and paralysis at worst.” – Sheryl Sandberg
Tip #7: Communicate Your Brand
It can be difficult to properly communicate your startup vision to others. But, it’s critical that you do so effectively.
Keep lines of communication open constantly and force yourself to listen to critics. Learning how to manage people takes work. But if you don’t learn how to communicate, you risk destroying relationships with customers and employees.
“As a company grows, communication becomes its biggest challenge.” – Ben Horowitz
Image via Gapingvoid, © Hugh MacLeod
Tip #8: Delight Your Customers
Bill Gates says the one word that best describes the startup mindset is optimism. Self-made multi-billionaire Warren Buffett says “At 85, I tap dance to work every day.”
Have fun and the pleasure of doing business with you will show right across your startup brand. Even if your brand is about heavily scientific based inter-planetary colonization, like SpaceX founder Elon Musk, let your good humour shine through.
“I would like to die on Mars, just not on impact.” – Elon Musk
“Fun is at the core of the way I like to do business and it has been key to everything I’ve done from the outset. More than any other element, fun is the secret of Virgin’s success.” – Richard Branson
Tip #9: Believe in Your Brand
Perseverance is the name of the game. Believe in your vision. Remember the lesson from a 30-year-old Steve Jobs when he got fired from the company he founded…it’s OK to fail. So be brave, take risks, learn from them, and don’t give up if you love what you do.
Passion will keep you going when you get hit in the head with a brick, which will only make success taste even sweeter.
Fact: A startup brand will experience setbacks.
“See criticism as free learning that makes you a better entrepreneur. Don’t be constrained or deflated by criticism, but do learn from it.” – James Foody
Tip #10: Nurture Your Brand
Once you’re certain your startup brand is is ready for launch, keep your vision focused on the moonshot…the thing that people may not think is possible could be within your reach. Listen to your inner GPS and let it guide you on the ride of your life.
“Picking what problem to go and solve is a much bigger and more important challenge than being able to solve the problem.” – Mark Zuckerberg
“When people use your brand name as a verb, that is remarkable.” – Meg Whitman
- Are you developing a new brand to launch to market but you’re just not sure where to start to ensure a strong financial return? Our “Personality Profile Performer”™ course is perfect for you.
- Have you got an existing brand but it’s just not strong enough to make it to No.1 in the market? Talk to us about how we can guide you to build your brand recognition plan.
- Have you underestimated how difficult a startup brand really is? Or, perhaps you’re not dreaming big enough. We can help you with a branding strategy to ensure that you are properly positioned.
- Are you struggling with your brand story? Let us help you craft a compelling one in your brand’s own tone of voice.
- Does your brand identity need a boost? We can consult with you on everything from font to packaging design.
- Have you attempted a startup that missed its mark? We can help you revitalize and relaunch a product or service to get the result you’re looking for.
Mondelēz International is a globally recognized snack manufacturer responsible for over 50 brands. However, according to its fact sheet released in 2015, 13 of its ‘power brands’ in 2014 were responsible for 60 percent of revenue which suggests that those 13 high performers have stronger brand positioning than the rest of the portfolio. In fact those 13 brands alone grew twice as fast as the company overall. 
Those statistics indicate how core brands can be crucial to a company’s overall success. However, the brands must be well positioned to attract the desired customer response.
Here, we’ll look at how to position your brand appropriately for success — even if the market is overcrowded. If you want to make your brand highly visible, different, distinctive, memorable and loveable take a look at the Personality Profile Performer™ Programme. It’s a step-by-step process empowering you to build your brand. Brand positioning is a key part of the brand building process — as you’ll see in the case studies listed below.
What is Brand Positioning?
Brand positioning is focused on the perceptions of your audience, which means that it’s about what you do in the minds of your audience, and not what you do to the product or service itself. Brand positioning is about how you clearly differentiate your brand in the mind of your customer because this perceived favourable differentiation is what drives them to choose your brand instead of your competitors.
Typically the most well positioned brands are linked to words or phrases in the customers’ minds, so the brand’s identity is personally defined in buyers’ minds. In other words they quickly differentiate that brand (product or service) from other possible options because of how you’ve positioned your brand to them relative to other potential options. 
For example, if a person thinks of the Apple® iPad®, he or she may instantly connect that product with words like “sleek,” “cutting edge” and “capable.” The last one is particularly likely, since Apple® ran an ad campaign that featured the phrase, “There’s an app for that.” It helped strengthen the idea that no matter what customers needed to get done, there’d be at least one app available to help them do it better.
Companies help develop the perceptions customers have about brands, but the brand experience itself determines whether something lives up to expectations. Therefore, the Apple® iPad® would not be well positioned if people found the tablet bulky, outdated and very hard to use. Brand positioning must be original, but also believable.
Brand positioning also relates to characteristics including style and customer types. As iPads evolve and newer models get released, each one is usually more streamlined than the last. The tablets also have a distinctive look that makes them easily identifiable, even from a distant store shelf.
Typical Apple® iPad® buyers are also arguably quite tech savvy and it’s unlikely a technophobe who only wants a very basic tablet would ultimately select an iPad as his or her first choice. Apple typically appeals to a younger, hip and technologically engaged customer type.
Image via www.apple.com
Its business emphasis is to continually release products that have the “wow factor,” and the iPad® is no exception. Because Apple® has a history of innovation via previous products like the iPod® and iPhone®, it has already been able to successfully establish itself as impressive, even in relation to other top brands.
Geographic appropriateness is also a key factor in brand positioning. Swiss Miss® hot chocolate, for example might cause customers from a cold region to associate it with something they drink to warm up on cold nights. However, in a part of the world where the temperatures are much higher, the brand might be positioned in customers’ minds as a treat to drink when they want something sweet, but don’t need to warm their bodies.
Image via www.swissmiss.com
If a brand is perceived by its target audience to have or provide something very unique, it will have much stronger positioning in a competitive marketplace. Analysts are hailing the Chevrolet Bolt as the first mainstream electric car that has earned critical praise. 
Although the Nissan LEAF was offered to customers five years ago, that electric car was reportedly considered a failure because it was perceived to be less reliable, aesthetically less appealing and seemingly unable to win admiration of auto reviewers.
In contrast, the Chevy Bolt is already achieving good brand positioning because not only is it getting good marks from auto publications and reviewers, but its also offered at a significantly lower price than Nissan’s electric car, making it much more accessible to everyday consumers.
Image via www.chevrolet.com
Questions to Ask When Creating Your Brand Position or Writing a Positioning Statement
There are numerous questions that brand owners, managers and marketers should consider when building a brand position or researching the marketplace.
- What can the brand deliver better than competitors
- What value does the brand give to customers?
- What are the brand’s most believable characteristics?
- What desirable things should the brand be known for?
- Do we have the necessary resources to maintain the brand’s position once established?
- What are the key emotional factors that will resonate most with customers?
- Is the brand and its market focused enough?
The answers to the questions posed above will help focus your thinking when writing your brand positioning statement. That’s a one to three-sentence piece that explains to customers what makes your brand different from competitors, and the specific perceived value it provides. 
4 Key Characteristics That Will Help Your Brand Stand Out From Your Competitors
A weak brand position will be largely useless if the market is so saturated people don’t notice it. In order to strengthen your brand positioning consider some of the factors listed below to enhance your differentiation. 
A Positive Impact
Customers gravitate towards brands that clearly have a positive impact on the world, on specific communities, or society at large. Clearly define the impact your brand has, or aspires to have, and ensure your company values reflect this positive impact in everything it does. Positive impact builds authenticity and trust, which resonates with your target audience and consequently builds stronger brand recognition, visibility, referrals and repeat purchase.
An Admirable Sense of Ambition
Don’t shy away from thinking big when considering your brand’s ideals, values, mission, promise and purpose. Maybe you’re not currently equipped to provide everything you’d like to for customers, but perhaps co-branding or a partnership with another brand could solve the problem or accelerate your ambitions.
An Excellent Customer Experience
When customer service gets sacrificed, it often doesn’t matter how amazing a product is. Always work hard to attend to needs and exceed expectations in every way possible.
The Ability to Fill a Void
Strong brands gain momentum by successfully fulfilling unmet needs. If other brands are already similarly positioned, explore other angles to create a greater perceived difference and stronger visibility to ensure your ideal customer notices of your brand’s special offerings.
Now, let’s look at three case studies of brands that have worked hard to earn their well-defined positions in the marketplace.
This audio accessory brand’s positioning allows it to compete well against Bose, a respected market leader, especially with younger consumers. Even though Bose is very well known for its technical prowess, Beats Electronics offers headphones and similar accessories that give bass-heavy sound, and look appealing too.
Many of the brand’s marketing materials are not only visually stunning, but they feature celebrities proudly wearing the audio gear.
Image via www.beatsbydre.com
As a result, the brand is positioned as a cool, capable choice for people who love music and want to showcase that devotion through stylish accessories.  Beats Electronics is doing so well, it’s aiming to expand into other geographic markets. 
This brand has successfully carved out a niche in the veggie burger market in its native Charlottesville, Virginia, plus many other states, along with Washington DC.
The burgers are organic and offer two flavour varieties. In addition to purchasing them in shops, people can also buy them through Relay Foods, a delivery service. The brand’s position focuses on the company being locally connected, and thereby more able than some competitors to determine what customers want.  Furthermore, the wholesome ingredients appeal to people who want healthy and tasty food.
Image via www.nobullburgers.ca
This budget-friendly airline has succeeded because it takes the position that low-cost fares and high-quality air travel can go hand in hand.  For example, travelers sit in leather seats and enjoy ample legroom. They also get unlimited snacks and even get the opportunity to use the Internet for free as they fly. Fantastic customer service is another thing the brand’s known for, and JetBlue has proven people don’t have to endure poor treatment for low-priced airfare.
If your brand is well positioned like the examples mentioned, it will achieve the attention it needs to thrive. Even more importantly, brands that have excellent positions stay etched in customers’ minds even as other options crop up and endeavour to capture a chunk of your market share.
Do you need to enhance your brand positioning? Take a look at the Personality Profile Performer™ Programme. It’s a step-by-step process empowering you to build your brand and it’s positioning.
- Brand positioning gives customers reasons to buy one product or service over another
- Brand positioning can be affected by aspects like style and tone-of-voice, brand personality, uniqueness, customer types and company reputation
- A brand positioning statement succinctly tells customers what your brand can do that others can’t, and why it’s valuable and believable
- The quality of a customer experience, the positive impact of a brand and its ability to meet needs must help differentiate it
Questions to Consider:
- What are a few things you believe customers think of when envisioning your brand?
- How might you work to make customers have more favorable brand associations that result in better positioning?
- Can you name at least a few ways your company excels compared to competitors?
- Have you considered how to help your brand maintain a good position over a long-term basis?
- How might you make your brand’s position more believable?
You may also like:
 http://www.mondelezinternational.com/ “Unleashing a Global Snacking Powerhouse” 2016.
 Susan Gunelius, https://aytm.com/, “What is Brand Positioning”
 Brad Berman, http://wwwplugincars.com, “200-Mile Chevy Bolt is Praised as First Mainstream Electric Car” January 2016.
 Lisa Nielsen, smallbusiness.chron.com/, “What is a Brand Positioning Statement?”
 Maryam Banikarim and Karl Heiselman, http://www.fastcompany.com, “Ask the Experts: How Do I Brand my Business to Stand Out from the Competition?” February 2014.
 Paul Maccabee, info.macabee.com, “7 Lessons from a Brand Battle: Bose vs. Beats By Dre Headphones,” November 2014.
 Roger Fingas, appleinsider.com, “Beats President Luke Wood Now ‘100%’ Focused on Electronics Division Targeting Global Expansion,” September 2015.
 Tejeshwari Chandrappa, finance.yahoo.com, “Must-Know: JetBlue’s Competitive Airline Positioning”
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