Branding strategy (or lack thereof) is where most startups go wrong. Peripherally, branding means awareness and trust—that is, people being aware of your name and seeing you as a trustworthy company. However, the deeper meaning of branding has more to do with ensuring you’re sending the right message each and every time you interact with potential customers.
If You Confuse Them, You Lose Them
One mistake people make is in trying to get too clever with their messaging. Most of the time your cute or clever slogans are lost on your target audience, and can lead to confusion. Clever is fine as long as you’re not confusing people about who you are and what you do in the process.
When I first started my marketing company (before I made the break into just doing PR and Media Relations), I aptly named it “The Alpha Omega Solution.” It seems like an odd name for a marketing company and it was. I chose it because I really liked the slogan that I made up to go along with it, which was “the beginning and end of your marketing solutions.” The slogan was clever, no doubt. But overall, my business name and messaging just confused people. I can’t tell you how many times I got emails from people thinking I was some sort of religious group or church. Should have seen that one coming and kept it simple. Finally, when I went through my (first) rebranding, I settled on Media Moguls PR, “not your grandpa’s PR company” and the message was much more clear.
The problem is, if the customer does not easily and quickly “get” what your message is, they will lose interest fast. They don’t have time to be confused or have to figure out what you’re selling. They’re not even going to waste time reading your About Us page to figure out what your mission is.
Your obligation is to sell the brand in the first few lines of your web page or your brochure, or whatever other means of communication you’re using.
This could be a motto, or a graphic, or a paragraph or a combination of all of those techniques. The point is, there should be no confusion. You have a “pitch” to give your audience and that’s what will sell your product. The rest of it is just reassurance to make the sale…but if you lose them before you ever even get to that point, it’s a lost cause.
Branding Should Be First On Your Marketing Agenda
Whether your branding is totally wrong or you’ve never even thought about branding—you’ve got a problem on your hands. If you go to all the trouble of marketing your business, getting visitors to your website, pitching the media, etc but then your target market is utterly confused about what you’re doing, you’ve just wasted valuable time and money…and more than likely, lost potential customers.
- You must manage your reputation or else people will fill in the blanks
- They will not be kind in their evaluation, unless you give them a reason to be!
- Branding not only communicates market and audience but also value
- Good quality branding makes people remember your company, your logo and your sales pitch, even over a long period of time
- A strong brand message inspires not only customers and clients, but a loyal following, a fan base…A TRIBE!
- Branding inspires others, employees and customers, to work for you and help make you successful
Stop Listening to What Your Competitors are Saying
Branding should never be about mimicking what your competitors are doing. It’s actually the opposite—your competition should teach you what is missing. Rather than focusing on what your competitors are saying or doing and how to say it better; instead, focus on what they aren’t saying and the related market they are not reaching and fill that hole.
A classic example of a business who mastered their business by saying what their competitors weren’t saying is Burger King and their slogan “Have it your way”. People could always have it their way at McDonalds, but because McDonalds never made that a part of their messaging, they ended up losing some of their business to people who wants to customize their orders at Burger King. Clever, simple and effective.
That’s the secret to branding—in effect, telling people how they should feel about you. Not through hype or promises, but by addressing and fulfilling their needs.