If you want to succeed as a business today, having the best product is no longer enough. Having the best price isn’t even enough. These days, you can’t differentiate yourself from the competition on product or price alone, because ultimately, those are things that your competitors can copy. Your brand, on the other hand, is something your competitors can’t copy (no matter how hard they might try).
That’s because a brand is more than just a logo or a tagline — it’s an emotional connection between a customer and a company. And every single interaction a person has with a company, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, has an impact on that connection. From seeing an advertisement, to reading a book (like this one), to having a conversation with a sales rep, all of these distinct experiences coalesce to form a person’s perception of your brand.
In this section, our marketing experts explain why building a brand has become a cornerstone of modern marketing and share tips for how you can strengthen your company’s brand.
Experts quoted in this section:
What we’re seeing is an evolution in how a brand shows up in the world to now include every touchpoint that somebody might have with a company. Everything from what it looks like to show up in a physical office space to interacting with sales or speaking with customer support.
Marketing can be a powerful instrument to help align people around the mission, vision and story and enable everyone to think about using those as a lens for doing work.
Every company has a blog and a podcast. Every company is making videos. Every company is spending money on AdWords, Facebook ads, and retargeting. And on top of that, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of competitors in every industry leaving more options for your potential customers than ever before.
We live in a world of infinite supply. And in this world, traditional marketing and demand generation just aren’t working like they used to. Yet most marketers continue to play by the same old rules and that’s why they keep getting the same old results.
But that doesn’t mean that marketing doesn’t work anymore. In fact, marketing today can be even easier, because you don’t have to learn all of the tricks, algorithms, and formulas: you have to focus on being you and building a brand.
If you own a market with your brand, then the revenue will come. Because people want to buy from people they like. They don’t want to buy because they got a discount. And they might initially buy for a discount, but they will always pay more if they like you. And if your brand can tell that story and a Google Ad [is] where [you] can get them in, you have to have both.
… in a world where a VP of sales or a customer service leader, the people who we target, are getting emails and direct mail all the time, you’ve got to think of something other than ‘Call me so I can demo my software?’ because the last thing you or I want to do is demo somebody’s software.
It doesn’t matter whether your objective is to mold a professional services business on your own or to build a small venture that employs others who believe in your mission. Designing a unique and distinct category niche is the biggest step that any entrepreneur — whether she is going it alone or leading others — can take towards successfully carving out territory in the minds of the audience she wants to attract.
It comes down to leveraging the exponential value of what makes you or your venture “different” rather than leaning on the incremental value of what makes you “better.”
Your No. 1 goal on the path to legendary is to achieve a unique position, one with which your brand can become synonymous.
Imagine being so respected in your field that other people who do similar things are compared to you, because you are the category queen — the leader in mindshare.
After many years of helping startups define their brands, here’s what I believe the four P’s of successful brand building are:
The best brands are those that have truly defined their traits, because a brand’s genetic makeup does a beautiful job relating to the values and culture of its intended audiences.
As marketers, we never want to be in a place where our solution is searching for a problem to solve. It makes messaging and positioning incredibly difficult, pushing you toward promoting features and functions rather than the brand’s value.
As with any relationship, trust is crucial to maintaining a connection, especially when it comes to brands and their customers. As marketers, it’s easy to solely focus on acquiring new customers, rather than building loyalty and revenues with your existing base.
Last, and certainly not least, is the ability to maintain perseverance for the process of branding. Building a brand is not just time consuming, but mind consuming. It likely takes a few iterations of the brand before it’s really “right.” And even then, “right” is a relative term.
Being true to your values is critical, but you need to choose those values. At Slack, we wanted to be human, empathetic, courteous and even funny. These values worked because they reflected who we really were and we made sure to stay true to them. You have to act like that, you have to be like that. I want a brand that I can have a connection with, and that starts with authenticity.
We realized that as we had grown to over 800 people, if you asked 20 people around the company, “Tell me about Okta,” you would likely get 20 great but very different answers. We spent something like five or six months generating 700 pages of interview transcripts with employees, with customers, with partners, trying to understand that story. We then had to distill that down into something that everybody could speak to in the same way. It was really very helpful for us.
We created a 300-page book that describes the origins of the company, why the founders started it, how we talk about us, how we visually represent us, and how we think about customer success. We give one to every new employee. On their first day of work I tell them about the branding story, the process we went through. We think of it as a field manual for how to talk about our company, and we measure the success of it in how often we hear it back from new employees.
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