Do You Need a Brand Road Map?

brandDo you have a plan that aligns your customer and shopper based initiatives? It will help you make more effective decisions across all business functions.

Here’s how.

The goal of a brand vision is to drive sales and profits by building a strong, differentiated brand – yours.

A brand vision will…

  • Define your company’s purpose clearly for both internal and external audiences
  • Provide metrics to measure business decisions
  • Identify clearly who the target audience is
  • Provide a framework for new product development
  • Focus you messaging and the voice/tone to communicate with
  • Establish an architecture for the brand
  • Identify key channels of trade

A brand vision builds strong, profitable brands

This clarity and focus is what will help you build a strong brand  What is a strong brand?

Strong brands are products and services in which consumers believe there are no substitutes.

Strong brands:

  • Command premium prices
  • Create barriers to competition
  • Are not commodities
  • Inspire confidence and trust
  • Are products and services consumers connect emotionally with

But most importantly, strong brands help make the sales team’s job easier with sell in and the retailer’s job easier with sell through. In other words, everybody wins.

Brand visions are a road map to success

Your brand vision is going to set the tone and direction for the brand. It’s where you ultimately want the brand to stand for. As a result, the vision is a collection of six key components:

  • Purpose
  • Positioning
  • Character
  • Personality
  • Brand strategy
  • Brand guidelines

Purpose. Your purpose is a single statement that embodies the company’s mission and desired perceptions.

Positioning. These are the benefits we deliver to the marketplace.

Character. How we want our brand to be perceived.

Personality. These are the attributes that define the brand.

Brand strategy. This is the masterbrand architecture that defines the relationship of your brand to other sub-brands, product brands and services.

Brand guidelines. This is a comprehensive document that provides standards for brand management. Like the brand vision, this reflects your strategic brand goals, contains shopper and category marketing best practices and establishes a communications framework, identifying both required and flexible components.

Elements to include are:

  • Visual Identity System
  • Design standards for the brand
  • Masterbrand components
  • Compliant examples (do’s and don’ts)
  • Library of logos
  • Templates and brand toolkit
  • Web design standards
  • Packaging Strategy

Building a Brand Positioning Framework

Think of the framework as a four level pyramid. All levels should be supported by research, not guesswork.

  • 1st level (or the pyramid’s base) focuses on your brand’s attributes. These are tangible and can be seen or touched.
  • 2nd level is your brand’s functional benefits.  Once again, these are tangible and are  demonstrable benefits that ladder up from attributes.

Next two levels of pyramid are the emotional drivers for your brand.

  • 3rd level identifies your brand’s emotional end benefits. This is the “feeling” that comes from your brand, the voice through which your brand touches the consumer.
  • 4th level (or the pyramid’s capstone) identifies the bigger idea and tells what your brand “signs up for” in the lives of your core consumers.

Sum it all up with a single sentence that reflects this thinking: “Brand X is…” (the line that summarizes your brand essence).

A brand vision will lead you to insights that touch all of your marketing

No brand vision is complete without being able to clearly define your core consumer and key market segments.

Once you know more about your consumer you can begin talking to them in their terms, understanding their emotional connection to your brand and the path to purchase they follow.

Think about how this now informs your brand vision and your corporate strategies by providing:

  • End-user definition
  • Distribution programs
  • New product development insights
  • Communication vehicles
  • Messaging
  • Shopper-based best practices

Now your focus is on the consumer and what they want. The brand vision will lead you to insights that touches all of your marketing. Not only will it differentiate your brand from the competition, but it will create a strong brand that consumers will want and be willing to pay for.

Good Selling!

Active Search Results (ASR) is an independent Internet Search Engine using a proprietary page ranking technology with Millions of popular Web sites indexed.


Are You Following These 8 Basic Steps For Online Success?

8 steps to online successYour potential buyers are actively participating in social media every single day. In many cases, they are having conversations about your products or your brand.

This is where social media comes into play. It presents you with a huge opportunity to take part in conversations your potential buyers are engaged in, and offer value by providing information and education.

By doing this, you’ll quickly move your buyers from the “shopping phase” to being “ready to buy.”  If you’ve done a good job giving them information they will “like” you, engage with you and be more likely to buy your product.

Here are eight basic ways to become part of the dialog and create awareness of your company and products.

1. Create a Twitter account


There are many companies who are using Twitter effectively as a customer service tool. These companies continuously monitor the “Twitter-sphere” looking for people who have problems related to their products, or who have questions.  These companies have dedicated staff to provide answers to their questions and handle issues they may be having.

Another way companies are stepping up is by becoming the expert consumers turn to for answers to questions they have while moving through the buying process. Since potential buyers are turning to the web to educate themselves before they are ready to buy, Twitter is a great platform to give valuable knowledge to these information seekers. You should send out “tweets” containing the most often asked “pre-sale” questions your potential buyers have, and include links to content you have created that contain the answers.

2. Create a Facebook page


Facebook pages are an excellent way to get your message and valuable information in front of a large volume of people. The way the system handles these pages is extremely valuable for businesses since: when there is a post on your Facebook page, it shows up in news feed of anyone who has “liked” your page and is visible to anyone else that may be visiting their profile page.

A Facebook page will also give you the ability to position your company as much more than simply a company that wants to sell stuff. It provides a way to make a connection with your consumers while they are going through the buying process and shows potential buyers that you care about them regardless of whether they open their wallet or purses up … or not.

3.  Facebook pay-per-click advertising

facebook_ad2Facebook provides an excellent opportunity for you to reach people based on interests they list within their profile. You can create customized image ads based on the target you are looking to reach.

This type of advertising is extremely inexpensive and can be highly targeted. These ads need to have a very compelling call to action or they risk being ignored. If you are simply looking to create top of mind awareness, you can do that by creating a brand focused ad. This type of ad will not receive many clicks, but it will create a high volume of impressions which will create a familiarity of your brand among those targeted.

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4. Create a YouTube channel


It is important to understand the way your potential buyers prefer to consume online content, and once you know this, give it to them in that format. Video is a good way to achieve this because most people would rather watch a 1-2 minute video than read pages and pages of content.

Populate your YouTube channel with “user submitted” testimonials, “how to” videos, and any other relevant videos. Fight the urge to place “one way” advertising message videos on the site since nobody cares about that stuff besides you. These videos also need to be highly optimized for your brand so they can come up higher in the results than any negative videos about your brand’s products.

5. Frequent blog participation


If you don’t have one already, you should create a blog for your brand. Be sure to post at least once a week and make sure your posts include valuable content that either educates or entertains readers. If the content is very “corporate” and stiff, consumers won’t return.

The more content you post, the more likely you’ll be able to connect with your buyers through  search engines and ultimately on your website. You should also make a point to read other blog content related to your category to identify hot topics consumers are looking to solve. If you feel you can help them and add value …you should post a comment. If your comment has valuable information and stands out, chances are you’ll receive visitors to your website.

6. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)


Your social media efforts, blogging, YouTube participation, and article creation will help you significantly with your SEO since your main focus should be on building a large number of inbound links. These links are viewed as “votes of confidence” for your site and are used in determining where your site should appear on the search engine results page for specific keyword searches.

7. Reputation Management

Build your reputation

Your brand is no longer controlled by you, but rather by what your consumers are saying about you. The internet has created an environment where a company’s reputation can be destroyed almost overnight if they don’t work on knowing what is being said about them online.

You need to address the negative content which resides online and either work on “burying it” through aggressive SEO efforts, address the negative comments head on, or produce a high volume of testimonial focused content. Believing that you can get negative ratings or comments removed or changed is naive.

Regardless of which path you follow, it is critical for you to check the internet constantly so you know what is being said about you and your products.  It is no longer acceptable to wait days or in some cases minutes to address negative comments. The “real time” nature of the internet allows for a negative message to spread around the world in minutes and can completely alter your prospective buyers’ perception of your company.

8. Engagement

Engage with consumers

If you’ve done a good job of “amping up” the awareness of your company and products, and have done an effective job building a solid reputation online, you still have one more step to take. You need to make sure you are engaging the visitors who arrive on your website.

Consumers are turning to the search engines for solutions to problems they are experiencing or education. If your website is simply talking about how great your company and products are and don’t have any interactive mechanisms in place to engage your visitors, they’ll have no reason to return.

Meaningful conversations lead to relationships

The new rules demand that you find out where your potential buyers “hang out” online. You then need to go there, and take part in the conversation. That doesn’t mean you go there and spout off about your great products or try to sell them. It means you need to go there and add value to the conversation. The result will be lasting consumer relationships with your brand and strong demand for your products.


Is Your Marketing Thought Up or Thought Through?

Brand idea chartThe key difference between being “thought up and thought through” is to be:

  1. Driven by insights
  2. Obsessed with creativity and innovation
  3. Built on the foundation of a brand position
  4. Varying your message and method by stakeholder
  5. Focused on building long-term relationships

1.  Driven by insights

The first step to transforming your communications is to understand everything there is to know about your key consumer.  What is the demographic, mindset or other key traits that will help you understand your core consumer better?

And don’t assume that you can identify these key insights by just sitting in the office and sifting through point of sale data or old research.  Get out on store walks.

Go to every store, in multiple regions that carries your category.  Go in with an open mind and look at other categories besides your own.  Are there new, unique or interesting display or POP ideas?  How about packaging – what’s new and eye-catching?  How are others using graphics, product photos, lifestyle photos or color coding systems?

Treat this assessment process formally.  Take pictures, write-up your notes and share them as broadly as practical within the marketing, channel and brand teams.  Look for their advice as well to broaden your search for insights.

Then ask yourself what are the major drivers you uncovered?  How could you turn these into opportunities?

2.  Obsessed with creativity and innovation

You can have innovation in branding, not just in new products.  How can you be innovative with your brand strategy?  Your communication tools?  Your media strategy?  Your packaging and merchandising?

Even your customer engagement strategy can be made richer with insights.  How would your customer think of your company if you are sharing insights on:

  • How their shopper and your core customer overlap
  • How they shop
  • Why they buy the category

Try this: approach the competition’s product line with the mindset of how might they position their brand and offering at this retailer?  What would be their sales pitch to upset your placement?  Dig deep into understanding their product offering.  Is it innovative?  Is it the best value?  How does your core consumer view them relative to your brand?

3.  Brand position is the consistent foundation

Everything you do should be built off of your brand position.  Make sure you have it distilled down to the core essence.  A brand position is NOT “we are the world leaders in…”  And it certainly isn’t your tagline.

The brand position should be built from your insights – to get you from “what you do” to “why you do it.”  This is the foundation of the emotional connection you will make with your core consumer.

From the brand position, you will be able to build out your:

  • Brand promise
  • Brand strategy
  • Brand plan
  • Tagline

4.  Varying your message and method by stakeholder

How do you start the conversation?  By recognizing that you need to develop specific content for specific groups.  You will have one message for internal audiences.  Another for consumers.  Yet another for customers.  Maybe even one for the communities you are located in.

The process is the same for each group of stakeholders:

  • Understand them better
  • Invite them to start or extend a relationship
  • Speak relevantly and authentically to them
  • Motivate them to consider buying our products and services
  • Become an active part of their lives

5.  Ongoing conversations build long-term relationships

Long-term relationships and ongoing conversations with stakeholders will intensify the brand experience.  The goal is to develop a program that is based around creating a relationship between your brand and consumers.

  • Listen to the conversations that are happening around your category
  • Develop a story to link and connect with those conversations
  • Reach out to key industry voices
  • Develop a relationship with purchase influencers (bloggers and social media)
  • Create a memorable and engaging persona for your brand
  • Leverage these relationships to generate new positive content and awareness
  • Tailor the message to the audience

The goal is to build lasting, relevant relationships with your consumers.

Define your brand and slam the door on the competition

Products become commodities without brand building.  What’s more, consumers are willing to pay more for brands they love.  But the real bottom line is this: competitors will define your brand if you don’t define it yourself.

This process will help you slam the door to the competition.