3 Things You Should Know About Your Brand Before Doing Anything Else

July 7, 2009 · 12 comments

3For a number of reasons, we don’t always have the information about our brands or our clients’ brands that would help us do an even better job as communications professionals. Whether it’s because internal departments don’t share information or agency partners don’t ask the right questions, not having some key facts in mind can result in efforts that don’t make a real impact for the organization.

With that in mind, I wanted to share three things you should know about the brand you serve right now, before writing another plan, discussing a new strategy or executing another tactic.

1. Product/Brand positioning – Every product/brand should have a stated positioning that identifies the target audience in detail, the single most differentiating feature about that product and the single most compelling benefit realized by the end user.

Though the exact words or phrasing used in the positioning may not show up in a press release or a print ad, a well-articulated positioning statement sets the foundation and direction for everything the end user sees, hears, reads, experiences. If you don’t know your brand’s positioning statement, ask someone for it and memorize it.

2. Consumer segmentation – Yes, you know generally that you’re targeting females between the ages of 25 and 45, but a solid consumer segmentation breaks out your brand’s target audience and gives you vital information about sub-groups based on life stages, household income, key decision triggers and media consumption.

For example, if you know that a majority of those in the Newly Married sub-group is most focused on house hunting and weekend adventures, and prefers reading magazines like Real Simple and Conde Nast, it will allow you to better target your media relations efforts, from the story angles you develop to the publications you pitch.

3. Sales Cycle – Knowing how the product is sold along every point of the sales cycle – including at the distributor level, retail level and consumer level – will help you identify more ways that communications strategies can help sell more. If you focus primarily on consumers, look for opportunities to help get more of your product on retail shelves. Helping the sales team open more doors at the distributor level, for example, will only make you more valuable to the organization.

What would you add? What’s a key piece of information that you feel makes all the difference in developing better communications strategies?

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1 Anne Howe July 7, 2009 at 9:54 am

Agree in principle with your comments. Would add that a “double lens” including shopper segmentation and the insights derived from that proceess would make outcome much stronger. why? Because in today’s retail climate, a brand must help the retailer be different from competition. You have to collaborate with the retailer to offer something unique from custom product or packaging or promotion and more! Shopper marketing is growing and brands that do it well are winning!

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2 Seth Hosko July 7, 2009 at 9:55 am

Great post.. it’s something to acknowledge that communication professionals sometimes don’t have all the information. It seems in 1 and 2 that you are really talking about finding and sticking to a well defined niche, and digging deeper to really understand everything about it. I like #3 the most and the point of focusing on the whole sales cyle. I think its easy to overlook the rest of the cycle, but you are absolutely right – it is just as important.

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3 Tamsen McMahon (@tamadear) July 7, 2009 at 11:09 am

I’d add: Know thyself, warts and all.

You need to be the expert on your product’s and brand’s weaknesses, because nothing will expose them faster than a well executed branding / marketing / advertising / PR strategy. (What’s the old saw? Nothing killed a bad product like good advertising?)

You can have established everything else on your list, but if you don’t know where the vulnerabilities are–and have a plan for how to answer to or address them–even the best strategy will fail.

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4 David July 7, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Very key to know your product’s weaknesses and anticipate any shortcomings it may bring. Thanks for adding that!

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5 Stuart Foster July 7, 2009 at 11:54 am

Agree with Tamsen on the “know your weaknesses/strengths” point. If you aren’t prepared to counter or provide examples of what makes you a great product you won’t be able to maneuver effectively.

Really just comes down to knowing the product inside and out though.

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6 Jason Sprenger July 7, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Nice post. I’d add one rather obvious yet often overlooked component: the corporate mission and values statements. It’s one thing to develop communications strategies for a product or a brand, but they need to be put through a larger corporate filter. Do they align with who the company is and/or wants to be? Will the company’s advocates (internal and external) be able to support and/or rally behind them? Will they be able to uphold the mission and values over time? Branding reflects corporate identity…if a tactic or strategy passes these tests, it likely will advance the brand.

@JasonSprenger

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7 David July 7, 2009 at 4:09 pm

I couldn’t agree more. Consistency in areas like mission, values, brand, etc. is incredibly important. Having a single-minded focus on your core brand attributes, features, and benefits also helps consumers remember the most important things about your brand or product. Don’t muddy the waters! :)

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8 Kasey Skala July 7, 2009 at 3:57 pm

I think a key piece you need to understand is why customers prefer your brand. Why do they desire it? What seperates your product from Product B? Knowing the when, where and how doesn’t do any good if you don’t understand the why.

@kmskala

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9 Matt Cheuvront July 9, 2009 at 8:22 am

Good wisdom Dave (sorry I’m a little behind the curve in sharing my thoughts). One of the most important aspects in my mind is KNOWING your customers – and you do that through interacting and communicating with them. Getting ‘down in the trenches’ and finding out what they like, don’t like, what’s working and what isn’t working. The importance of customer feedback is often overlooked. Taking time to connect with your buyers (whether it’s with social media tools or through other methods) adds to the perceived value of your brand and provides you with invaluable feedback to remain one step ahead of the competition.

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10 Promotional Products July 26, 2009 at 1:06 am

These are some great tips. Building a brand especially with a small business can be a difficult undertaking and all the supplemental information that I can read is helpful.

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