Building a Brand: Answers to three critical questions
Many dealers and others in our “get-it-done-yesterday” industry view branding as a luxury – or simply a waste of time.
But nothing could be further from the truth. Today, more than ever, companies must articulate why they’re different and better – something a strong brand can achieve.
Still, identifying and cultivating your brand can be a difficult process. A good way to start is by understanding the answers to three basic, but crucial, questions.
“Just what is a brand?”
There are a variety of competing definitions, but here’s the most useful way to define a brand. A strong brand distinguishes your company’s strengths and differentiates it from the competition. A strong brand helps make your company quickly recognizable. A strong brand should also embody your promise to the customer — a clear promise that your team can understand, and deliver.
Typically, the notion of a good brand brings to mind a product with a well-known logo, one that’s immediately identifiable and that consumers generally regard positively. In terms of the building industry, for example, we may think of Owens-Corning insulation and its longtime use of the Pink Panther.
But there’s more to a brand than a recognizable logo or the “good will” it builds over decades of cultivation. When your company defines a brand properly, it shapes decisions about your key strengths, markets, competition and philosophy of doing business.
Ideally, these are captured not only in a well-developed logo and tagline, but also in a brand positioning statement that can serve as the basis for marketing, pricing, customer service and other facets of your business.
“Why is a brand so important?”
A strong brand can be one of a company’s most valuable assets — particularly in the building industry today, where we are mired in a significant home-building slump, where price is a critical buying factor, and where products are often viewed as commodities.
Even in this environment — in fact, especially in this environment — a brand can offer significant benefits that result in real-dollar value. In the building materials or construction industry today, a well-developed brand is critical for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few:
1. It creates value in the marketplace Over time, your company builds “brand equity” by organizing its efforts around a cohesive central idea. More people will understand your points of differentiation, and more will recognize your name, logo and tagline as shorthand for value.
2. It sets you apart Nowhere is competition fiercer than in the building materials and construction industry. A well-developed brand provides the separation from competitors required for success.
3. It builds customer loyalty A strong brand helps customers associate your company with its key traits, and offers a rallying point for employees.
4. It makes marketing more effective Your brand provides a solid platform for all your company’s communications because it forces your company to determine your key messages and audiences in advance.
5. It helps new products and services gain traction By establishing your company’s value through a strong brand, you’ll be better positioned to introduce new products and services, because your brand has helped you build trust over time.
“How does my company create and cultivate a brand?”
Most companies have at least some vague sense of their brand, and some may even have spent a bit of time talking about what it means. But building a strong, well-defined brand takes time, effort and commitment.
We all realize that developing a successful brand doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, many of the world’s most successful brands – think Heinz ketchup – have been around for 100 years or more.
At its core, the brand-building process can be distilled into three crucial steps — each one necessary to success:
1. Understand your current brand. Start by identifying a baseline. What do your customers and prospects think about your company? What do your current products and services, pricing strategy, delivery and return policies, training and incentive programs say about you? By taking an honest look at the state of your current brand, you’ll reach critical understanding necessary for the next step.
2. Define your desired brand. You know where you stand. Now, where do you want to go? What qualities should your brand embody, and what value should you offer your customers? What is your promise? Once you’ve arrived at clear answers to those questions, you can create a brand platform (logo, tagline, creative elements, and more) that defines that brand.
3. Deliver your desired brand experience. For a brand to grow and become stronger, a company must deliver on its brand promise. By differentiating a service offering and “living” a brand, a company gradually builds trust. Over time, customers begin to trust the brand, and the brand becomes a valuable shortcut during the buying cycle.
Remember: there is no silver bullet or quick-fix when it comes to building a great brand. Building a brand requires consistent effort and constant care. But, done well, you’ll reap big rewards – greater market share and higher revenues — for constantly tending your brands.
About Kim Downs
Kim has been focused on building WOLF’s brand and shaping product messages for 17 years. Her integrated approach to program development includes interdepartmental communication as well as common sense strategy resulting in programs that work. She has a steadfast belief that building a marketing plan doesn’t require an unrealistic budget. Kim contends that even small, meaningful steps can do wonders in building a brand.