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Build a brand, build a business – Part 2

January 24, 2017

…continued from Part 1 of Build a Brand, Build a Business

STEP 4. Your Role Statement

Now you’re armed with a definition about who you’re after, insights into how they think, and clarity about where you’re genuinely different, it’s time to blend it all together and distill it.

Ask each member of your team to complete the following sentence:

‘In the lives of our customers the role for our business/brand is to…’ (satisfy the chosen motivation by doing the competitive thing we do best.)

If it’s easier you can flip it: ‘… by doing the thing we do better than any of our competitors we can satisfy our customers’ key motivation.’

By condensing it into a single sentence you’ll have to make decisions about which motivation (isolated earlier) is the most powerful and which competitive differentiator is the most potent.

If it doesn’t lead to an argument you’re not trying hard enough…

The point about getting there is that you’re building a proposition that;

a) you know they want and

b) you know you’re best placed to deliver.

STEP 5. Your Personality

Having arrived at your Role (or Purpose if you prefer) it needs to be delivered in your own idiosyncratic way.

In a start-up the personality of the entity is likely to mirror the personalities of the founders. Nothing at all wrong with that. But in order for others to understand it in future it’ll need to be formalised and codified.

The best way to do that is to ask a range of people – the more the merrier, within reason – to pick out an image from a magazine that, on some level, captures the spirit and ‘vibe’ of your business. Ask them to explain what the picture means to them.

Most of what they say will be psychobabble. That’s good!

A random example would be a picture of a smiling young girl holding the strings of seven or eight balloons, with a sunny blue sky behind her.

To the chooser this might represent warmth, peace and calm in the background, with the balloons representing ‘diversity,’ and her youth a reminder that we’re a young, forward-thinking organisation.

Complete nonsense on the face of it, but potentially deep insights lurking within.

Note the common themes

Once a number of people around the business have done this exercise there will be some obvious themes emerging. These need capturing.

Having done so, take a flip-chart sheet of paper and draw two lines to create four quarters. The themes need placing in individual quadrants, whilst you choose a single word that best defines the theme. You’re looking for an adjective, as though you were describing a friend.

So, if ‘warmth’ was a theme, you’ll want to refer to that as ‘warm.’

If ‘diversity’ was a theme then you’d describe it as ‘diverse’ or ‘open’ or ‘tolerant.’

After all, you’re creating a personality here, so the words you use need to reflect that.

It’s likely that you’ll have more than four themes; well, time for another argument I’m afraid. It’s easy to write down lots of words that make you feel good, but when push comes to shove, which four are the ones that you’d kill or die for?

Don’t be frightened to end up with seemingly contradictory words. For instance, isn’t someone who’s ‘knowledgeable’ AND ‘curious’ more interesting?

Or ‘ambitious’ AND ‘grounded’?

Condense down to just a few words

In the end, you’re looking for a set of words that represent, like Berocca say, ‘you on a good day’.

In practice these words have a dual purpose: on the one hand they define your tone of voice and style so that all your communications conform to a standard.

But they’re also the filter by which you should judge the suitability of your next employee or business partner.

If, for example, you conclude that you are Warm, Curious, Knowledgeable and Determined, you should judge your web-site, press releases, trade show stand etc by them, but also seek to attract people around you – especially staff – who are equally Warm, Curious, Knowledgeable and Determined.

STEP 6. The Single Organising Principle

By now you should have, on one sheet of paper, a descriptor of your sweet-spot target audience, an understanding of their most powerful motivators, clarity on your most potent competitive differences, a single sentence that captures it all, and a set of four words which describe the style in which you’ll execute that Role or Purpose.

Having mopped up the blood and sweat that will have been expended to get there the last exercise is to condense all this down to two words.

Or, if it runs the risk of squeezing the life out of it, a VERY short phrase.

The point is to be able to collapse everything you’ve done above into a short, crisp, portable and memorable couple of words that, when you’re next having a debate about a decision you can drop them on the boardroom table to act as both referee and guide.

These words are rarely (extremely rarely) for external use. They’re for internal family use only. If you want a polished external version then by all means have a go, but I suspect you’ll need to refer to the pros for that. At very least you’ll have a razor-sharp brief for what needs to be said.

But, I hear you cry, this is all very well as best branding practice but the title of your piece was ‘Build a Brand, Build a Business.’

Quite right.

So here’s how this approach to brand building is also a recommended approach to business building.

Any business is predicated on three fundamental things:

  1. its culture,
  2. its product or service, and
  3. its reputation.

1. Culture

Culture is almost exclusively shaped by the founders and the people they surround themselves with. It changes a little over the years but the DNA is set at the birth of the business.

In this context ‘culture’ means the way we go about doing our business; what we celebrate, what we frown on and how we treat each other and others. It also includes your attitude towards money, corporately and personally.

2. Product or Service

The product or service is obviously crucial as it’s the part of the business that customers interact with most.

I’ve often been confronted by start-ups in the past who tell me they’re hell-bent on creating a brand, often overlooking the fact that if their product doesn’t perform they don’t stand a hope in hell.

There’s an old adage worth bearing in mind at this juncture: ‘nothing kills a bad product quicker than good branding.’ In short, if the product’s not up to scratch there’s no passing ‘GO’ and definitely no collecting £200.

It’s also true that all powerful brands around the world have an outstanding product at their heart; After all, Rolex make a pretty good watch. BMW make a pretty good car. And Chanel make pretty good perfume. So there’s no getting away from it.

3. Reputation

And, last but not least, a strong business needs to have not just a strong reputation, but one that’s truthful and appropriate. This matters for many obvious reasons, not least being able to charge a premium for your product, be able to attract the best staff, and receive the most favourable media coverage.

In this digital age people are increasingly aware of the importance of managing a reputation, but remember, what were once walls within a business have now become windows. So there’s no getting away with it.

Your Single Organising Principle aligns these critical aspects

The Single Organising Principle draws these vital parts of the business together around one, single-minded proposition. As such, it creates alignment.

Which in turn creates efficiencies as it helps everyone pull in the same direction, stopping wasteful, disparate actions.

Which ultimately leads to greater profitability.

If this much is true, sustained alignment over time is going to create sustainable profitability, the key determinant of shareholder value. So by embarking on building a brand and by embracing the disciplines of sustaining it, the brand owner is not merely building a brand, he or she is building a business. And a more valuable one at that.

About the author

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Robert Bean, author of ‘Winning in your own way – The Nine and a Half Golden Rules of Branding‘. Having worked for many years in the advertising industry, including time with BMW and ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ and Honda’s ‘The Power of Dreams’, Robert discovered that his real passion lay in Brand Development. So, in his mid-forties, he sold his ad agency and started his consultancy to help organisations get to the heart of what they really stand for.

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