Getting Real about Your Current Branding Identity
The best starting point for brand development is a true and candid look at what people currently think of your brand and industry in the marketplace.
If you're starting a business and don't yet have a brand to analyze, instead assess the image of the business arena you're entering. For instance, if you're starting a children's museum, think about the mental images people have about museums in general and children's museums in particular. When you know the preconceived notions you're dealing with, you're in a good position to develop a strategy that leads to a brand image that reflects the unique attributes and differentiating aspects of the organization you're starting.
The point of your brand assessment is to determine answers to the following questions:
- What do people like or dislike about you, your business, or your business arena?
- What do they trust or distrust?
- What do they think you are and do?
- Why do they choose your offering?
- How do they think you compare with your competitors?
- How do they think you affect their lives for better or worse? How do they find your offering relevant and a good fit with their lives and needs?
Don't rely solely on your own judgments or those of your top management team to assess your current image. Instead, gather input from a wider range of people. Ask those who work on the front line of your business. Go to the people who answer incoming calls, take product orders, field complaints, and fix service problems. Then go talk to some customers or prospective customers, too.
Use the following questions in your interviews. They're designed to help you collect information on your current brand identity without making you or those you're interviewing feel self-conscious about their answers:
- In a sentence, how would you describe our business?
- How would you describe our products or services?
- What one reason, above all others, causes you and others to buy from our business?
- When you consider buying from our business, what three other companies or brands do you also consider?
- What one reason, above all others, do you think causes people to buy from one of our competitors?
- Do you think there is high or low awareness of our business or brand in the marketplace?
- Do you think there are clear and distinct differences between our offerings and those of our competitors? If so, what are a few of the distinct differences that make our offerings unique or more desirable?
- If you were to compare our business to a car, what car would it be, and why? What car would you associate with each of our three top competitors?
- If you were to compare our business to an actor or actress, who would it be, and why? Who would you associate with each of our three top competitors?
If your business is small and you have casual conversations with clients and prospects on an ongoing basis, you can ask the questions in informal face-to-face meetings. If your customer base is large or geographically diverse, you may need to pose the questions through written or phone surveys.
As you launch your research, first provide your own answers to these questions and collect answers from your key management team. Then put those answers aside while you pose the questions to employees, business associates, customers, and prospects. The differences between how you and others see your business and brand may be surprising and will lead to an honest assessment of the brand you currently have in your own mind and, more importantly, in the minds of others.