10 Essential Disciplines of Branding

Branding is the hottest buzzword in business today. Everybody wants a great brand. And in today’s over-crowded marketplace with thousands of messages bombarding consumers daily, it’s never been more critical for catalogers competing in the multi-channel world to stand out from the crowd.

Want your brand to truly work across all channels and find a permanent place in the mind of the consumer? Try these tactics.

1) Define your merchandise concept
Before you do anything, you must first clearly understand what you’re selling. It must be a unique collection of products and price points that resonates with a core target audience. Use this as a filter when you decide what new products to add to your mix.

2) Understand your customer
Who are they? What are their likes and dislikes? What’s important to them? Are you offering something that matters to them? Remember, you can’t be all things to all people. Narrow your focus.

3) Understand your competition
Who are you selling against? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What makes you different from them? There are many things fighting for your customers’ time and money. Consider them all competition.

4) Define the “one thing” you can own
You must stand for one thing in the mind of the consumer. Resist the urge to tell your entire story…people don’t care. Find something you can own that matters to your audience and that you can deliver consistently. Hammer that message every chance you get.

5) Define a Higher-Order Benefit
A higher-order benefit gives a brand a core engaging purpose, which connects all audiences emotionally in “why you do business”. It defines why you exist. Internally, this energizes employees and helps them understand what they’re working towards.

6) Create a tagline that clearly communicates your point-of-difference
A good tagline is brief and memorable (ideally 3 to 7 words). It should help explain what you do or how you’re different. Show it to someone who knows nothing about your brand and see if they get it.

7) Develop a unique personality and identity
Think of your brand as a real person. Literally. What does it look like, sound like, behave like? Do people recognize it, even if your logo isn’t visible? Do you look different from all of your competitors? You should.

8) Build your brand from the “inside-out”
The best brands have employees that buy in to the brand vision. They are passionate about what the company stands for. Think of great brands that are known for their passionate employees…Starbucks, Patagonia, Disney, Southwest Airlines. These brands were built from the inside first.

9) Consistently deliver the brand promise at every point-of-contact
Make sure you deliver a consistent experience every time. Each time you come in contact with your customer, it’s a moment of truth. Make it count.

10) Measure and monitor success
Branding is not a one-time thing. It’s an all-the-time thing. Put systems in place where you can question what you’re doing. You should hold a strategy meeting at least annually to monitor your progress.

Branding often seems like a mystery, practiced by creative-types who speak marketing mumbo-jumbo. The fact is, it shouldn’t be difficult. If you follow these 10 essential disciplines, you’ll be well on your way to building a distinct brand.

Brent Niemut is a brand evangelist for Mission, KS-based consulting firm J. Schmid & Associates.

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