I recently did a podcast with Shannon Peel of BrandAPeel on the subject of branding, and it reminded me that there are shortfalls (with solutions) in the way branding is currently done that need to be covered once again.
I’ve written on the problems that I see with organizational mission statements and generally with relying on general aspirational statements of intent to define what people/organizations do and the value they create for others.
What Google says
If you Google ‘examples of brand statements’, this is the type of information you get.
“I help individuals reassess their life choices to discover their true paths to success.”
“I develop sustainable business models and marketing strategies to fuel small business growth.”
“I help manufacturing organizations improve their processes to reduce waste and grow profits.”
“Let’s build job free income.”
“Helping you build a big brand with your small business.”
“Chipotle provides premium, real ingredients for customers looking for delicious food that’s ethically sourced and freshly prepared. Chipotle’s dedication to cultivating a better world by cutting out GMOs and providing responsibly raised food sets them apart in the food industry.”
“Starbucks offers the best coffee and espresso drinks for consumers who want premium ingredients and perfection every time. Starbucks not only values every interaction, making each one unique, but the brand commits itself to the highest quality coffee in the world.”
“Disney provides unique entertainment for consumers seeking magical experiences and memories. Disney leads the competition by providing every aspect of related products and services to the world and appealing to people of all ages.”
These statements address what the brand owner intends to deliver: entertainment, coffee, food ingredients, brands for small business, job free income, improved processes, business models, marketing strategies and ‘true paths to success’.
As a consumer, however, what these statements DON’T tell me is how each brand is different from their competition, and why I should buy their brand and not their competitor’s. My eyes glaze over when I read these claims because for most of them I could substitute their competitor’s name in each statement and they would be valid.
In other words these (and most other) brand statements focus on what the brand owner intends to produce with no comparison with the other choices available to the targeted consumer.
Disney’s reference to ‘leads the competition’ and Chipotle’s to ‘sets them apart in the food industry’ are modest competitive references but they are so vague they don’t offer any concrete and meaningful comparisons to their competitors.
In fact the use of terms like ‘premium real ingredients’, ‘best coffee’, and ‘highest quality’ I find to be high level aspirations that offer little clarity and an abundance of ‘fog’.
How do you create an effective brand?
There are two basic principles I’ve used to develop brand statements that resonate with customers and position the organization as compelling and unique among alternatives.
#1. Create a tight strategic fit for your brand
Your brand must be tightly bound to the Strategic Game Plan—SGP—of your organization, it cannot be allowed to ‘float free’ to be on its own.
You need to be able to ‘see’ the organization’s strategic intent when you assess their brand statement.
If you can’t interpret the strategy being pursued by the brand, it means the brand is too cloudy and vague; it lacks strategic relevance.
Successful brands have a direct ‘line of sight’ to the strategy of the organization.
My SGP process makes it easy to establish the strategic imperatives the brand must serve.
By answering three questions it’s done.
HOW BIG do you want to be? — defines your growth objective for the ensuing 24 months.
WHO do you want to SERVE? — identifies the customer groups you intend to target to generate the revenue from the HOW BIG question.
HOW will you COMPETE and WIN? — defines your competitive value proposition.
Questions #2 and #3 are particularly useful in establishing strategic context for a brand. They not only define the target for the brand message—WHO to SERVE—they also describe how the competitive encounter will be played—HOW to WIN
My next point examines the importance of question #3–HOW to WIN—more closely.
#2. Declare the differences that define you
The second principle to follow to create an awesomely effective brand is define in the brand statement the difference between you and your competitors.
It’s interesting to me that most brand pundits ignore that people choose one organization or individual over another based on the differences between them, not by the absolute singular claims they make.
Declaring “I develop sustainable business models and marketing strategies to fuel small business growth.” may accurately describe what you do for small businesses, but it says nothing about how you are special or unique among your competitors and hence why I should pick you to help my small business and not any one of them.
An amazingly effective brand shouts out how you are different from everyone else.
Your unique qualities need to be woven into the brand statement, otherwise the recipient of it is left to their own devices to figure out why they should choose you out of the herd.
The ‘HOW will you COMPETE and WIN?’ question addresses this challenge unbelievably well because it involves the creation of ‘The ONLY Statement’ for your organization.
I invented The ONLY Statement precisely for the purpose of declaring how an organization—or an individual —was different from their closest competitors.
“We are the ONLY ones that…” declares what separates your organization from the crowd around you and hence why customers should choose you.
And, furthermore, it is the key to directing how your brand statement should be written in order to have a tight strategic fit.
So if your organization had an ONLY that read:
“ABC Ambulance is the ONLY First Aid Advocate that provides safety solutions anywhere, anytime.”, the brand statement possibilities are straightforward.
In the First Aid Advocate example, their brand statement could read:
”ABC Ambulance provides safety solutions anywhere they’re needed, whenever they’re needed, and we’re the only organization that does.”
Or, the brand statement could incorporate ONLY directly:
”ABC Ambulance is the ONLY First Aid Advocate that provides safety solutions anywhere, anytime.”
My last word
Brand statements are not just about YOU!
In a world where people have so much choice of who to do business with, who to hire for a particular job, which charity to give their donations to and which causes to support, your ‘ask’ of them must paint you as the ONLY choice.
If not, your declaration—brand— gets lost.