Emotion Through a Branding Statement

A branding statement is a marketing tool. It reflects your organization’s reputation: what you are known for, or would like to be known for. It articulates how you stand apart from competitors. And it should stir emotion. Today we’ll drill down into five steps to shed light on creating a solid branding statement, and how you can use this example branding statement to put a new glow on your organization’s image.

A branding statement is a marketing tool. It reflects your organization’s reputation: what you are known for, or would like to be known for. It articulates how you stand apart from competitors. And it should stir emotion. Today we’ll drill down into five steps to shed light on creating a solid branding statement, and how you can use this example branding statement to put a new glow on your organization’s image.

In my last column, Creating a One Word Brand Statement, you were given a road map of how to freshen your brand and organization’s image. It included how to research your audience, conduct a competitive analysis and interpret data, with the end result of identifying the one word that reflects your organization. The final step challenged you with a reality check to see if that one word was realistic.

Today we go on to the next level, outlining steps to identify your promise and benefits (both logical and emotional), validate your credibility and identify your uniqueness. Finally, I’ve included an example branding statement.

  1. Brand Promise and Benefits. What do you promise your customers will receive from your brand? Is there alignment in the promise of your brand and the actual benefit? One way to arrive at this is to write a list of your promises and benefits side-by-side on a document or whiteboard. See your brand features through their eyes. Then ask yourself, if you were the customer, what you would get out of your promise. Keep drilling down and asking “why?”
  2. Emotional Promise and Benefits. How does your customer feel when they see your brand? Ask yourself: “how does our brand make our customer feel?” Continue to ask the question, “why?” multiple times to get to a deeper emotional place. As a place to start a list of possible emotions, here are a few that your brand may mean to someone:
    • Trustable
    • Hopeful
    • Happiness
    • Sadness
    • Fear
    • Anger
    • Hatred
  3. Credibility. Your organization’s brand must be credible. The customer only cares up to a certain point about what you do, so you must be believable and the real deal. What can you learn from customers’ testimonials? Your customers can be an excellent resource for identifying your positioning through their testimonials.
  4. Find Uniqueness. You contrast yourself from your competition through quality, price, service, reputation, story, or something else notably distinct. If you aren’t positioned notably different on at least one of these, you will have a difficult time marketing your organization. It doesn’t have to be logical or rational. You need emotional differences. Your unique selling proposition paves the way to connect with your customers more deeply on an emotional level. Through positioning of your brand, or repositioning, you set yourself apart from your competitors. And importantly, you create an image that can be remembered more easily by your customers. It’s a point of differentiation that helps you stand apart.
  5. Branding Statement Template. By now you have pulled together a lot of information and you are ready to create a branding statement. Here’s a template to get you started:

(Organization or Individual Name) is (short description of who you are). The (Name of Organization or Individual) customer/patron is a person who (short description). They are (more description of customers) and (description of how product is purchased and consumed). The one word or words that our customers will cite most often about (Name of Organization or Individual) is (one word/sample of the top three words). We (promise and benefit you deliver) so they feel good about (themselves or other elements). Our customers believe in (name of organization) because (emotional promise or other reasons), and they differentiate us from (competitors or organizations in your category) because (testimonials or other customer feedback).

Remember: a Branding Statement is a marketing tool. It’s foundational to define your organization (or, if you’re creating this for you, as a personal Branding Statement). Below is an example for the organization referenced in last week’s blog that is creating a new logo and brand. It’s still a work in progress, but gives you an idea of how a Branding Statement might read:

Vocal Majority is an uplifting musical experience that stimulates the senses. It’s a non-profit whose performers are volunteers. The Vocal Majority patron is a person who has a deep love of family and harmony—both in the musical sense, and in the cultural sense. These are individuals across all ages that are loyal and return again and again to listen to our unique musical arrangements. They purchase tickets to experience us at live performances, and purchase recordings. The words that our customers will cite most often about Vocal Majority are harmony, excellence, and family. We transport our fans to feel good experiences about themselves, their families and our culture. Our customers believe in Vocal Majority because they tell us how we have touched their lives, and they differentiate us from other musical experiences because we perform not for money, but for the love of singing.”

With these steps, you’re ready to create your own branding statement. When it’s completed, distribute it to your staff, agency or creative partners, and by all means, make sure you consistently deliver what your branding statement says about you.

Creating a One-Word Brand Statement

What do your customers think of when they see your organization name and logo? Your public image is important and should be up-to-date and fresh, especially during times of swift technology, cultural changes, and new generations. Every organization should go through a periodic review of how it is viewed and how it wants to be viewed by customers, donors and prospects.

What do your customers think of when they see your organization’s name and logo? Your public image is important and should be up-to-date and fresh, especially during times of swift technology, cultural changes, and new generations. Every organization should go through a periodic review of how it is viewed and how it wants to be viewed by customers, donors and prospects.

While sitting in an organization’s Board of Directors meeting last month, the topic came up of the desire to create a new logo. It had been the 1990s when it was last updated, and at that, it still had visual remnants of a decidedly 1970s feel. It was agreed a new logo should be developed, but it was also agreed that before going too far, a branding statement should be created to guide along the process more efficiently and result in a better outcome.

If you’re like many organizations, you might not have a branding statement. This isn’t to be confused with a mission statement (which can too often be filled with empty language that rings hollow to customers and staff).

A branding statement is a marketing tool. It reflects your organization’s reputation: what you are known for, or would like to be known for. It articulates how you stand apart from competitors. A branding statement is often written by individuals to define and enhance their own careers. If that’s of interest to you, adapt these steps and you can be on your way to creating your personal branding statement.

Today we launch into steps you can take to freshen your organization’s brand and image. This first installment will lay out five research and brainstorming steps to distill your image down to a single word. My next blog post, published in a couple of weeks, will focus on how to succinctly state your logical and emotional promise, both of which must be formulated in order to create a hard-working branding statement for your organization.

  1. Audience Research:
    Are you confident you accurately know the demographics, psychographics, and purchase behavior of your audience? If you’ve recently profiled or modeled your customers, then you probably have a good grasp of who they are. But if it’s been a year or longer, a profile is affordable and will yield a tremendous wealth of information about your customers. Demographics (age, income, education, etc.) are a good foundation. Knowing psychographics (personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles) takes you further. And knowing categories of purchase behavior enables you to drill down even further.
  2. Competitive Analysis:
    You can’t completely construct your own brand identity without understanding how your competitors position themselves. A competitive analysis can be conducted along two lines of inquiry: offline, such as direct mail and other print materials, along with what you can learn online. If you have print samples, you can discern much about a competitor’s marketing message. But you may not be able to pin down demographics, psychographics, and purchase behavior by looking at a direct mail package. There are a number of tools you can use online to deliver insights about your competition. Here are a few:
    • Compete.com offers detailed traffic data so you can compare your site to other sites. You can also get keyword data, demographics, and more.
    • Alexa.com provides SEO audits, engagement, reputation metrics, demographics, and more.
    • Quantcast.com enables you to compare the demographics of who comes to your site versus your competitors. You’ll be shown an index of how a website performs compared to the internet average. You’ll get statistics on attributes such as age, presence of children, income, education, and ethnicity.
  3. Interpretation and Insight:
    Now that you’ve conducted research, you’re positioned to interpret the data to create your own insights. This is where creativity needs to kick in and where you need to consider the type of individual who will embrace and advocate for your organization. You may want to involve a few people from your team in brainstorming, or perhaps you’ll want to bring in someone from outside your organization who can objectively look at your data. What’s key is that you peer below the surface of the numbers and reports. Transform facts into insights through interpretation. Use comparison charts and create personas. Then create statements describing who your best customers are.
  4. One-Word Description:
    Now the challenging work begins. Distill your interpretation and insight into one word that personifies your organization. Then think deeply about that word. Does it capture the essence of who you are (or want to become) and what your customer desires? For example, a technology company might use a word like “innovative,” “cutting-edge,” or “intuitive.” Car manufacturers might use a one-word description like “sleek,” “utilitarian,” or “safe” to describe their brand and what they want their customers to feel when they hear a brand’s name. You might think that by only allowing one word, you are short-changing everything about your organization’s image. It won’t. Finding the one word that describes your organization’s image will force you to focus.
  5. Reality Check:
    So now you’ve identified a word to describe your organization’s brand and image that resonates with both your team and your customers. It’s time for a reality check. Can your organization or product actually support that word? Or if it’s aspirational—that is, a word that you’d like your image to reflect in the future—is it achievable? And if it’s aspirational, what plans are in place to take it to reality?

My next blog will extend the important foundational work you’ve done working through these five steps. It will discuss how to look at your brand as it appeals to both logic and emotion, as well as credibility, uniqueness, and ultimately an example branding statement that you can use with your team. Watch for it in two weeks.

As always, your comments, questions, and challenges are welcome.

Are You Mad About Your Internal Culture?

Sometimes we forget that great brands start inside. Before companies can show and tell the outside world about their awesome products and services, they must pay important and mindful attention to the team members who create and are responsible for engineering those amazing brand experiences. Internal branding can sometimes be overlooked or lower on a corporation’s list of active priorities than it should be.

And by mad I mean actually passionate about your work in a good way, in a can’t-wait-to-build-the-brand-in-some-new-way-today kind of way?

Sometimes we forget that great brands start inside. Before companies can show and tell the outside world about their awesome products and services, they must pay important and mindful attention to the team members who create and are responsible for engineering those amazing brand experiences. Internal branding can sometimes be overlooked or lower on a corporation’s list of active priorities than it should be.

As I lead interdepartmental meetings these days with my clients, I often hear comments like these from our face time “group genius” gatherings:

  • “We really should connect as a group more often.”
  • “I now understand your department better.”
  • To a co-worker: “I never knew what you did!”
  • “Oh, that’s why we do that! That makes sense now.”
  • “How come I never heard this before?”
  • “We need to tell the rest of the team this!”

Building passionate brand ambassadors and an engaging culture should be high on every brand leader’s “must do” list. Companies like Southwest Airlines and Zappos.com consider these internal branding strategies core to their successful business models. Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines, says, “our people are our single greatest strength and most enduring long-term competitive advantage.”

And these Zappos’ core values lay the groundwork for its notable and enviable culture:

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I’m blessed to work with clients like these who are positively mad about what they do! I recently had three experiences of working again with long-term clients. I hadn’t been on-site to their respective offices for almost a year. I smiled as I saw reconfigured offices to allow for more collaboration, customer comments boldly displayed on walls, brand storytelling by happy customers sprinkled throughout the entire office and profiles of customer segments/personas highlighted throughout the company. These brand leaders were so thrilled to show me how they’ve elevated the importance of internal branding and what it’s meant to their employees. Internal branding matters.

Sara Florin, senior director of creative services for SmartPak, the Zappos of the equestrian industry, was delighted to share one recent event she led to help the rest of this fast-paced entrepreneurial organization learn more about all that her talented department handles. Here’s how she describes it: “Our energetic, passionate creative department is constantly working on bigger and better ways to market our products, but not everyone in the company understands the scope or details of what we do. We wanted to take time to celebrate our accomplishments and show off our capabilities in a fun and formal way. Inspired by the hit show “Mad Men,” we hosted an open house and cocktail hour so we could show off our “mad style.”

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“We dressed up to fit the era, served 60s-inspired food and cocktails to encourage attendance, and set up displays of our recent work. With over 50 people from other departments attending throughout the hour, we were able to demystify the creative process and present ourselves as a polished, professional in-house creative team that could rival any external agency. And we got to have a lot of fun doing it!”

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Activities like hosting a “Mad Men”-themed party may not fit your brand personality, but why not brandstorm some ideas that might help your team members empathize more with all the various roles and responsibilities needed to create your brand experience. Identify activities that engage co-workers from cross-functional areas, inspire collaboration, and just plain add fun and playfulness to all the hard work in building remarkable customer experiences.

So go ahead, get mad … in a good way!

4 Predictions for B-to-B Marketing in 2013

It’s that time of the year when observers can’t resist making predictions about developments on the horizon. I hereby take up that tradition, offering up four random prognostications for where B-to-B digital marketing is headed in 2013. My topics include Facebook, content marketing, personal branding and data hygiene—certainly an eclectic mix. I encourage readers to add their own.

It’s that time of the year when observers can’t resist making predictions about developments on the horizon. I hereby take up that tradition, offering up four random prognostications for where B-to-B digital marketing is headed in 2013. My topics include Facebook, content marketing, personal branding and data hygiene—certainly an eclectic mix. I encourage readers to add their own.

Facebook Is Ready, At Last, for the B-to-B Prime Time
It took a while, but Facebook (FB) marketing is now ready for mainstream B-to-B, in support of branding, lead generation and customer relationship marketing goals for enterprises of all sizes. There are several reasons for this—FB’s universality being one of them. But the critical driver is the recent arrival of the Facebook Exchange (FBX) ad platform, which will allow banner ad bidding and retargeting to specific individuals, based on data matching.

So, while I used to argue that Facebook should be at the bottom of a B-to-B marketer’s to-do list, I am revising my view for 2013. Talking to my pals at Edmund Optics, where I serve on the board of directors, I am hearing confirmation of these developments. Edmund’s target audience is optical engineers and others interested in science and technology. Years ago, I would have advised them to ignore FB and focus on more targeted social networks.

But now, EO has turned its Facebook page into an effective environment for engaging these guys, with weekly “Geeky Friday” offers, and the enormously popular Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide at Halloween, where engineers were invited to design zombie-blasting tools using Edmund products. Facebook is now a top referring source for EO’s website, up 60 percent from last year. I stand corrected.

More and Better Content
B-to-B marketers were early to the content marketing game. In fact, I would argue that B-to-B has been a leading force in this area, in recognition of the importance of prospect education and thought leadership in the complex selling process. B-to-B marketers will continue to excel at creating valuable materials—digital, paper-based, video, you name it—to attract prospects and deepen relationships.

How do I know this? A new study from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, which says that 54 percent of B-to-B marketers plan to increase their content marketing budgets in 2013. Their biggest content challenge for next year? Ironically, it’s producing enough content.

Personal Branding as a Way of Life
Business people and consumers alike are realizing that their online personas have a growing impact on both their everyday lives and their professional careers. Rather than letting their personal brands evolve organically, individuals will make more proactive efforts to build and manage their images online, benefiting from the guidance of an emerging community of personal brand experts like William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson. This means establishing unique brand positioning and developing a set of active and consistent messaging across Internet media, especially social networks, to explain who they are and what are their capabilities. Personal branding is no longer just for celebrities or the self-employed; with the rise of social media, it is for everyone.

Renewed Interest in Data Hygiene
Whenever I give a seminar on B-to-B marketing, I ask attendees to take out their business cards and look at them carefully. Then, I say, “Raise your hand if anything on the card is new in the last 12 months.” Invariably, 30 percent of the hands go up.

The high rate of change in B-to-B—whether moving to a different a company, a new title, even a new mail stop—is obvious. But only recently has it begun to sink in that addressing people incorrectly, or campaigning with undeliverable mail or email addresses, not only wastes marketing dollars, but also means lost business opportunity. So enough about big data. The focus in 2013 will be clean data.

And if you want some tips on how to keep your B-to-B data clean, have a look at my white paper: “Our Data is a Mess! How to Clean Up Your Marketing Database.”

So, those are my predictions. I hope readers will add some of their own. What do you think we’ll be seeing in B-to-B digital marketing in 2013?

A version of this post appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Branding Is Not Enough to Make Social Sell

If you want to make social media sell for you take action on the mercenary truth: Branding is rarely executed as a consistent, reliable process. Branding (the meaning of which is still not universally agreed upon) is not enough to create sales. Nor is B-to-B branding—or its “social cousin” engagement—consistently able to produce customer behavior (e.g., leads). Direct response must be built in to the campaign for leads and sales to manifest. It doesn’t “just happen” thanks to our friends branding and engagement.

If you want to make social media sell for you, take action on the mercenary truth: Branding is rarely executed as a consistent, reliable process. Branding (the meaning of which is still not universally agreed upon) is not enough to create sales. Nor is B-to-B branding—or its “social cousin,” engagement—consistently able to produce customer behavior (e.g., leads). Direct response must be built in to the campaign for leads and sales to manifest. It doesn’t “just happen” thanks to our friends branding and engagement.

Customers Expect Proof, Upfront
People are buying as a result of content marketing efforts. True. But they’re buying when the business behind the content is willing to prove effectiveness of the product or service (in some small but meaningful way) prior to purchase. This is so important you might want to read it again.

Here’s the rub. In my experience, branding and engagement prove little (if anything) to me, the customer. Branding and engagement usually fail to solve a problem that brings me closer to the purchase as part of a clearly defined process.

Think about how you use Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. in your life. Do you buy based on what you see on social media? You’re probably not buying based on sentiment (how you feel about a brand) very much any more. In fact, you’re likely buying less based on how engaged marketers think your are, more based on what they’ll prove to you up front!

Prove It or Lose It!
Today, people are buying purely based on a brand’s ability to deliver some results before the purchase. Software? Give me a free trial—and don’t give me any talk about limiting functionality of the trial version. Financial services? Solve a problem for me relating to my ultimate need—to get my act together with college savings or retirement. Consulting? Show me, materially, that you’re worth your salt. You get the idea. And, no, this isn’t about “free” as a new business model.

Delivering results before the purchase demands a systematic, yet practical, way to court your customer—to prove to them that actually buying your product or service will certainly give them full results. They’ve got to be sure and nothing creates certainty like actual proof! So, how can you begin to take next steps?

“In most companies, at least historically, marketing and sales have been measured by, and hence driven by, different success metrics,” says Dan McDade of Pointclear, a B-to-B lead generation firm who points at the classic misalignment of sales and marketing as problematic.

“This condition has been simply accepted by or ignored by most senior managers. I know this seems harsh, but unfortunately it is still true today in many, if not most, organizations,” says McDade.

Reach Past Listening, Toward Useful Insights
Recognition of the misalignment is step one, and I’ll ask you to pair this recognition with a new perspective on social media. Start applying social media to uncover insights on customers’ micro-problems, goals or burning desires, then putting those discoveries to work through traditional lead nurturing.

Some argue the big opportunity social gives us is to create more engagement in hopes of creating preference. But successful social sellers use social media to create demand. In parting, which of the below seems more powerful to you?

  1. Listening for customers’ brand perceptions, sentiment, etc. and creating better ad messaging that creates more engagement (awareness leading to preference).
  2. Understanding customers’ problems or goals and finding creative ways to create organized, measurable response that helps customers “guide themselves” toward a purchase.

Thanks for considering.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: Ever Hear of Acoustic Branding?

Have you ever head of acoustic branding? It’s the idea of using music, sounds, speech and rhythms to bring a brand to life. I learned about it via an email I received this week from Wilbert Hirsch, CEO and cretive partner of Audio Consulting Group (ACG), which offers acoustic branding strategies. It caught my attention.

Have you ever head of acoustic branding? It’s the idea of using music, sounds, speech and rhythms to bring a brand to life. I learned about it via an email I received this week from Wilbert Hirsch, CEO and cretive partner of Audio Consulting Group (ACG), which offers acoustic branding strategies. It caught my attention.

Of course, it was a PR pitch. But what Hirsch said intrigued me: “More companies are looking for new ways to reach out to their customers. Although digital is the big hype, some businesses have realized that a mute brand stays unheard. Today, there are strategic and creative methods available to help design a living brand — one that communicates through more than one sense.”

I did a little research and found that in the ’90s ACG developed a method for companies to incorporate acoustics (music, sound and speech) into their brand identities, and then to develop strategies for implementation. Basically, ACG says that through an analytical framework, it can match a company’s values and existing visual identity with an acoustic identity. It also claims companies that have used its system have shown improvements of up to 30 percent in brand perception.

ACG says that acoustic branding can work with myriad touchpoints, such as advertising, multimedia, mobile, retail spaces, call centers, websites, podcasts and events. Its clients include UBS (Swiss bank), BMW, Autodesk and T-Mobile.

For Autodesk, for example, ACG developed an acoustic identity that resulted from a detailed analysis of the Autodesk brand and the specific needs of Autodesk University. The acoustic elements are now employed in relevant contact points — phone, video and walk-on music.

While I’ve never really sat down and thought about it before, I guess the music that brands play during trade shows or on their websites does have a sort of subconscious effect on me. What about you? Is this something you’ve experimented with or wish to in the future? Let me know by posting a comment below.