A well-built brand has value. An effective message has impact. And it all starts from having a clear center or core.
Finding your Big Brand Idea
Your brand is like your personality, who you are. The big idea behind your brand should drive the development and communication of who you are as an organization, both inside and outside of the organization.We love how Beloved Brands (Graham Robertson) summarized this into the diagram below:
If you are “stuck” trying to figure out your brand, Robertson recommends that you start by answering this question: “who is your consumer’s enemy?” This provides a focal point for you to place yourself in your consumers’ shoes, and gives you ideas to set up the brand promise. Robertson laid out a few great examples. Here are two of them:
• Apple: Using a computer can be Frustrating. Things don’t work and we feel overwhelmed and incompetent. Then, Apple comes along and attacks Frustration by making everything about technology so simple. Apple is about simplicity, not technology. Apple makes people feel smarter. Apple makes it easy for anyone to download songs, edit photos and simply use technology right out of the box. Apple’s brand promise is “we make it easier to love technology, so that you can experience the future.”
• Starbucks: In the 70’s, people love to take some time in the morning to sit down and enjoy their coffee and morning newspaper. Today, one generation later, the idea of taking time out has become even more attractive, as we face our new enemy – our crazily hectic lives. We rush to ferry the kids to school, rush to work, rush to finish that urgent project, rush to our meetings and errands, and basically rush to juggle everything before we collapse exhausted in bed at night. Starbucks attacks our hectic life with “me-time” that we can escape to. We can indulge in customized drinks and snacks, relax in a comfortable setting, and be served by people who know our names. The Starbucks brand promise is “we give you a moment in your day where you can just escape and spoil yourself”
So, what’s the one paragraph that summarizes your big brand idea/ brand promise?
Where Should you Focus?
You probably have many strengths and value propositions, and we can understand if you feel reluctant to “give up” your long list of offerings to focus on just one thing.
Let’s quickly review the 2 ideas here:
• Focus on the 1 thing that gives you a competitive advantage: When choosing your focal point, go for the 1 distinct thing that will give you a competitive advantage (is it your impeccable service, your speed, or something else that sets you aside from your competitors?). Use that to rally your troops and align your messages.
• Use the Halo Effect: Standing for 1 thing doesn’t mean you will lose all other appeal, because people will associate that one thing with many other things. The trick is to position yourself as the expert at the hardest task in your service – once you are perceived to be best-in-class in that task, it is implied that you also possess skills and strengths in related areas.
Here are 7 questions to help you crystallize your positioning statement:
(i) Who: Who are you?
(ii) What: What business are you in?
(iii) For whom: What people do you serve?
(iv) What need: What are the special needs of those you serve?
(v) Against whom: With whom are you competing?
(vi) What’s different: What makes you different from competitors?
(vii) So: What’s the benefit? What unique benefit does a client derive from your service?
Read more about the Hedgehog Concept here to identify where to focus your business.
Presenting it as a Compact Idea
Let’s say you have found your key idea. How do you actually word it into something that is simple, compact, yet sticks? Here, we shall focus on the first of the 6 SUCCESs principles from Made to Stick (read our book summary here for more details), and that’s the principle of Simplicity.
For an idea to be compact, there must be a lot of meaning packed into a succinct message. Here are some tips on how to do that, summarized in this graphic:
Let’s take Disney for example. Disney’s brand promise is “Entertainment with Heart”, and they stand for wholesome entertainment filled with magic and wonder. For decades, the brand has touched our hearts and made magical experiences come alive for people. This core guides them in everything they do, including their internal communications. Let’s zoom on the employees at Disneyland, who are called “cast-members”, and how this idea fulfills the “Simplicity” principle.
Schemas are a collection of properties related to a concept, category or object. In this case, the use of “cast members” immediately brings to mind all the feelings and imagery that we associate with the world of movies and big stages – glamour, excitement, mystery, romance, dreams and possibilities….For the staff, it’s a reminder that they are professionals who are here to create an experience for their audience/ fans.
Generative analogies not only brings understanding to a new concept, but also become platforms for new ideas, perspectives, and creations. As “cast members”, Disney’s team can let their imagination run wild by creating their own lingo, settings, plots, awards etc. that are aligned with what their company’s brand stands for.
What a simple yet powerful concept!
By contrast, when Subway tried to be creative by calling their staff “sandwich artists”, the concept didn’t work because it wasn’t aligned with the core of their brand and business. Subway promises fresh, healthy food made your way. Nothing about “sandwich artists” relate to this brand promise, especially when the sandwich-making process is more instructional than creative.
Finding and Presenting your Core
Well, finding the core of your brand, and developing a simple yet effective and sticky idea/ message around it is not easy. And the process certainly doesn’t happen overnight. We trust that the ideas in this article can at least help to get you started on the process.
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