5 painful reasons why most companies can’t build a strong brand

1. They don’t actually deserve to

Branding is all about positioning yourself in a special place away from the competition, and the hard fact is that most companies don’t deserve to be there. If you ask them for their mission it will be something completely generic “We intend to be the leading company in our market”. In other words, they don’t actually have one. If you ask them for their unique point of difference they will talk about the same things as everyone else, like great customer service or reliable quality. In other words, they don’t have a USP either.

It’s not good enough to 3% better than the competition. You’ve either got to be 300% better or offering something else entirely, and not many businesses fall into either category.

2. They’re lazy

Marketing is not complicated, but it is hard work. Unfortunately it tends to attract the “creative”, lazy types that want to sit around on bean bags and throw pieces of paper into mini basketball hoops whilst waiting for a moment of inspiration.

One of the things that most commonly gets ignored by companies is market research. I don’t really blame them. Cold calling competitors, digging into website data, conducting surveys with customers – that’s all really hard work. It’s far more fun to have a quick brainstorming session over a round of frappuccinos and attempt to come up with something completely brilliant that by chance nobody else has ever thought of. The only problem is, that definitely won’t happen.

3. They think branding is all about what they communicate externally

Culture is everything. Absolutely everything. It determines the people you hire, the work they create and the impact that word has on the outside world. Everything begins with culture. The single most important thing, therefore, that a brand can do, is crystallise it.

A brand is not a snappy strap line or a pretty logo. It’s what goes on in the office at 3:00 on a Wednesday afternoon when the manager is out. It’s every phone call, every meeting, every gesture, every pixel on the website, every moment of every interaction between every person that ever comes into contact with your business.

If your brand isn’t real. If it isn’t lived and breathed by every member of the team, you will be found out.


4. They misunderstand what it is they’re actually selling

The conversation goes something like this…
Me – “What do you sell?”
Business owner – “I sell product x”
Me – “But what I mean is, what truly motivates the customer to buy it?”
Business owner – “It’s the best in the market.”
Me – “No, what I mean is, what is driving them deep inside to make this purchase?”
Business owner – “Like I said, it’s the best in the market. It’s fast, accurate and completely reliable”
Me – “Don’t worry about it.”

Don’t get me wrong, functional benefits are really important. For some businesses they truly are the entire basis of their brand. However, for most companies they have their limitations:
– They assume a rational decision maker
– They rarely provide a compelling point of difference
– They are too easy to replicate

What is (usually) far more powerful is to understand the emotional and self expressive benefits of the thing you’re selling:
Emotional – does it make them happier, give them peace of mind, inject a bit of excitement into their otherwise miserable lives?
Self expressive – does it allow them to make a statement about themselves? Does it make them look smart or cool among their buddies?

5. They don’t track performance

In 2016 everything is trackable. Again, the only barrier is effort.

Unlike 30 years ago when you might have poured half your annual marketing budget into one big ad campaign and crossed your fingers that it was going to strike gold, your goal now is to do lots of little things over and over and get that little bit smarter each time. Luck should be taken out of the equation. However, that requires discipline and data. Nowadays the data is always there but unfortunately the discipline is rarer than ever.

Nothing should EVER be done without its impact being measured. Every blog post, every tweet, every email, every ad campaign needs to be reviewed afterwards to see how well it achieved its goals. It takes just seconds and will make every future blog post, tweet, email and ad campaign infinitely more worthwhile

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