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Your Brand – what is it? Fluffy nonsense or something fundamental to your business?

Your Brand – what is it?  Fluffy nonsense or something fundamental to your business?

There are so many articles and papers written on what a brand is or should be.   I’ll add my thoughts to these and touch on a recent example where getting your branding wrong can make a huge difference to your share price!

So then, what is branding?

Firstly, what it isn’t:   It’s not just about your logo!
It’s about meaning. It’s about what you and your business actually mean in people’s heads and hearts.” (Simon Middleton).  You must connect with customers and audiences emotionally, authentically and inspiringly, making sure what you say and believe you are, really is how you are perceived.  And it’s really important to understand this;  if not you may be portraying a brand image to your prospects and customers that is not necessarily the key value that is associated with you by your customers.   It could be something quite different…..   So you need a survey, a questionnaire to your users to ask them, and then a process to consider the results, educating your team about the findings to develop a clear positioning statement, a list of brand values/traits, the brand promise and the brand story

Your brand personality can help your brand by

  • helping to suggest the kind of relationship that a customer has with your brand
    Brand Loyalty
    Brand Loyalty
  • brand loyalty – think John Lewis
  • giving a vehicle for differentiation which is difficult to copy

Successful Branding: Five key elements

Think of it as a set of human characteristics associated with your business.
Brand Position: this describes what you do and for whom; what makes you unique, special and different from your competition and why should your customers buy from you.   Back to target customer, of course, thinking also about gender, age, socioeconomic position and also emotional characteristics.  Once you’ve defined this, make it available in 25/50/100 words – which can then be developed into your Elevator Pitch.
Brand Promise: this is what you promise to deliver to your customers EACH AND EVERY TIME YOU CONNECT WITH THEM.  To come up with your promise, consider what customers, employees and partners should expect from every interaction with you and ensure your brand promise reflects this.
Brand Personality: How does your brand ‘behave’?   Brand Traits illustrate what you want to be known for – think about specific personality traits you want prospects, clients, employees and partners to use to describe your organization.   Work towards 4-6 traits – single adjectives.  For example, this could include sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication and strength
Brand Story:  Your brand story illustrates your history showing how your history has added value and credibility to your brand.  It also usually includes a summary of your products or services.
Brand Associations:  This is the bit people often mistake for being ‘brand’ in itself.  So the specific physical ‘stuff’ that make up your brand – name, logo, colours, taglines, fonts, imagery.  All of this must reflect your brand promise, your brand traits and support your brand positioning statement.
One Vital Mantra from this:  Consistency.    It’s no good spending time and energy in creating all the above if you then don’t ensure its CONSISTENT execution.  There’s no excuse to falter ‘ even once’.  Without consistency, brand awareness becomes impossible to achieve, no matter how much money you spend on marketing.
So you’d think in a large company all of this would be understood and these basic steps followed.  How then can it all go so wrong?

“Fashion retailers, Mulberry, based not a million miles from here, faces a painful fight to recover past glory as profits dive”

(Times June 13th 2014)

What did they do wrong?

They tried to get into the ultra-expensive bags for millionaires at £15,000 a pop (how much?) instead of their more modest selling price of between £500 and £800 a bag. A completely different target market which clearly wasn’t ready to embrace Mulberry.   Their pre-tax profits dived from £26M to £14M.  They had appointed a new Chief Exec,(now no longer) –  a former Hermes Executive who wanted to take Mulberry into the top echelon of European designer labels as he had been used to with Hermes….   Mulberry accepted that their CE’s approach had been fundamentally “flawed”.  “You need to build up a reputation over decades in leather goods to charge those prices”.  I imagine they didn’t do their basic Brand Positioning exercise, customer research, target customers etc.  What a fiasco…
So even if Fearne Cotton and Katherine Jenkins choose to spend £15K on a handbag (or maybe they were freebies to promote them??) suddenly changing your Brand Position without doing your homework first may not be the right way to go.
Update November 2014:
I’ve just spotted in the local Bath Business News that they have slumped into the red with a half-year loss of £1.1m after the disastrous attempt to go upmarket backfired. It has suffered a 9% fall in sales while wholesale revenues tumbled 31%.
Update Summer 2015
And another update reports that profits have plunged again – a mere 86% drop in profits from £14M to £1.9M in the year to March – a legacy of the group’s disastrous attempt to move into the ultra-luxury end of the market.   But they are confident that their ‘turnaround strategy is well on track after ‘upping the creativity button’ and designing more ‘desirable’ handbags.  And they have appointed Cressida Bonas, Prince Harry’s former girlfriend, as its ambassador.
Hmmm… watch this space!
Update June 2017
“Luxury brand Mulberry has fashioned a jump in sales and profits for the last year as shoppers were won over by new creative designer Johnny Coca’s handbags.  Pre-tax profits have increased 21 percent to £75 million which is good news.  A new range of more affordable bags, designed by Johnny Coca, has hit the right note with shoppers.  One of the best sellers is the revamped lighter-weight zipped Bayswater, which is his take on Mulberry’s best-known product, with its signature postman’s lock”.
So the moral of the Mulberry story is?  If you need help in creating a buying persona for your target market, please call on 07789 778 335.  A really important exercise.

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Buying Personas Target Customer Target Market

Buying Personas – Target Customer

Buying Personas – Target Customer
Buying Personas sound much more interesting than target customer don’t they?    But the importance of identifying and understanding your target market is so critical to all your marketing activity, it can be scary how often it is not considered.
So what is a buying persona?  It is when you slice your target market into individual groups of people and identify them not only in terms of what problem you are solving for them but also the type of language you use to communicate with them, the means of communications etc.     For example if you were a hotel, you might have 6 separate ‘personas’.  An business person,  a training manager/event manager looking at conference facilities, a weekend break couple, a bride to be, a user of the sports/leisure facilities or a family wanting to use for lunch or to arrange a party.   How many do you have in your business?
When running marketing campaigns, you will need to adapt your messaging to fit the needs of your different buying personas.

  • what is his or her need?
  • why would they need your product… what problem are you solving?
  • why should they care about you?
  • what is your unique value proposition?  what makes you unique/special and different…..

There are lots of things you can do when you have the buying personas in your head:
1.  Give each persona a name, and put that name and a fun sketch of that type of person on separate sheets of paper.  Make it really clear in your mind who that person is, what sort of person they are
2.  Think about what questions they will want answered when contacting you, so that you jot these down as an ‘aide memoire’ on the sheet, to act as a prompt for you and your team.  Great exercise in which to involve the team.  Think too about any extra information you want from that type of enquirer in order to give him/her a really good response to their enquiry. Jot these questions down on the sheet.  Think too about the questions they are not asking (developing listening skills!) – for example if you have a very innovative product then kudos could come into the enquiry, being the early adopter etc.  The underlying reasons are important to establish too.
3. Think about what type of communications you’ll use for each persona  – work out the best path to each persona.  Will it be on line or off line or a mix of both.  Whatever you choose, make sure it is relevant for your target market.  Don’t get caught up in the social media hype in isolation and think it will be answer to all your business needs.
4. Think about your language and style.  The language you use to ‘talk’ to your leisure club user, for example,  would probably be different from your weekend visitors/wedding enquirers.  And if you typically use a lot of flowery language you may want to limit this a tad when emailing an FD or IT person.   And similarly if an IT or numbers person, then you could work with a colleague to make sure your typical responses are fully understandable and not coming across as too curt and disinterested.
4. If you are looking for some customer feedback, then it can be powerful to survey

Buying Persona customer feedback survey
Buying Personas Customer Feedback

a number in each group of your personas.   Or you could start to create a profile of your customers – what would be important for you to know?  Perhaps age, profession, financial standing, education, or it could be free time activities, buying decisions shopping habits.
5. When writing blogs then vary the content, so one would be geared to your wedding couple, whereas the latest upgrade in sports equipment in your gym would appeal to the leisure club members.  It can also be very powerful to include references to your recent survey – opinions and stats…
6. But you must also mention your other services to all of the sectors, the “cross sell”, so that they are all aware of what else you do.   The leisure club member may be looking for a venue for their wedding.  And in a legal practice you might be dealing with someone for their conveyance/will etc. but they absolutely must know too that you have an amazing commercial department and what it offers.   One of the worst comments about your business would be: “Oh, I didn’t know you did this”.
7. Let your team have copies of these ‘master’ sheets for their reference – and/or pin them on the wall in front of their desk.  Make them fun.
Think too about where/when you can use this sequence of information, for example

  • answering an initial enquiry or email
  • sending a formal proposal
  • making a presentation
  • attending a networking event
  • attending an exhibition or trade show – train your team representing you at such an event into the different typical buying personas and you can be sure that the relevant information will be passed on

This is  part of my sales training sessions so if you need help, just send me a mail or call me.