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How to carve out a solid position in the marketplace
April 10, 2017 | Chris Stoltz

chris stolz, branding, mindfire communications

Standing out in a crowded market can be quite a challenge. This is especially true in a parity market where everyone seems to offer and claim the same things. However, if you can identify and develop a strong brand identity, you’ll soon be on your way. You just have to keep in mind certain branding essentials…

What’s your one thing?

When you think about who you are as a brand, step back and take a bird’s-eye view. In the end, what are you truly about? It’s not specific features and benefits. Paris is the city of love. Paris is not the city of 130 museums, hundreds of historic sites, restaurants, shopping and accessible public transportation.

What is at the core – the essence – of your brand?

It’s critical that your brand focuses on one thing. Porsches are sexy, Volvos are safe, and Minis are fun.

In the world of travel, Paris is romance, Bahamas are pristine beaches, and Disneyland is magical family fun. Could you find romance in the Bahamas or family fun in Paris? Absolutely. However, if you focus on too many things, you focus on nothing.

Spend some time considering what is your company’s one thing. This may be difficult with so many ways to look at what you offer, but it can be done.

Be authentic

If AT&T or Comcast came out and said they were the friendly companies, would you laugh, groan or roll your eyes? Probably all of the above.

Your brand must be something you can honestly say. This can be quite a challenge when you’re trying to, say, respond to negative market perceptions. Could BP come out and say they care about the environment? Could a car company with recalls claim quality? Nobody’s buying nonsense. You can’t merely tell people what you want them to think.

It can also be tough when trying to find your brand differentiator. You may think you’re different for one reason or another, but many times people don’t see it that way. Banks say they’re friendly, hospitals say they care, and bakeries say they’re fresh. Well that’s nice. I’m so glad that bakery wasn’t selling us three-day-old bread. Some things are basic and required just to be in the market – it’s the price of entry.

Be strategic

In an ideal world, your market position will be unique and relevant. Not to you – to your consumers.

Consider the taxi market. Taxis have been around for a long time. For most of us, riding in a taxi has never been a pleasant experience. They’re dirty and mundane. They’re hard to find. And calling for one has never guaranteed much. Despite this, taxi companies probably thought they were doing just fine. That’s how you ran a taxi business. Or they simply didn’t care what people wanted. They never bothered to be unique in the market.

And then there was Uber. Cars are clean. You can easily grab one with just your phone. It knows exactly where you are, and you know exactly where it is. Unique and relevant – to consumers.

Don’t be vague

There are probably thousands of companies out there who claim they offer, “a vast array of solutions for all your needs.” There’s a massive problem here. What exactly are your solutions? You could be a chiropractor, a financial advisor or an ice cream truck driver for all we know.

And what exactly are my needs that you’re handling? I have some yard work that needs done. My car sort of needs to be washed. I need to find a good IRA. If you actually told me what I get out of this, maybe we can work something out. Be as concrete as possible with features and benefits.

Shaping your brand

It may be your brand, but you don’t own or control it. It’s in the mind of consumers – it’s their perception of you. Just like we have a perception or image of Louis Armstrong, Michael Jordan and O.J. Simpson. However, you can take steps to influence your brand: action and branding. And you need both.

First, take action. Do you want to be known as a personable insurance company? What steps, programs, protocols and services do you have in place to ensure you seem personable? What things are making your company seems anonymous, cold and uncaring? A consumer’s direct experience has the biggest influence on brand perception.

No amount of branding will help you if you’ve got it wrong. Make sure your internal team fully understands your brand and does everything possible to keep the customer experience in line with your brand promise.

Next, enhance your branding. Have you ever seen a lawyer wear sweatpants? Or visit their office, only for it to turn out to be a trailer? Have they ever handed you a flier off their copier listing their services? Very unlikely. Why? Because you’d have serious concerns about their competence as a lawyer.

Wearing a tie has never made anyone think better, yet they are still worn. Appearance is everything. Anyone can say they’re a professional, capable lawyer, but non-verbal cues tell people all they need to know.

Branding is the creation of non-verbal cues that convey who you are. Logos, typefaces, colors, graphic elements and graphic styles all play a part. Even brand personality, how you talk and act, makes a huge difference. Think how different the personalities are of Robert De Niro and Will Ferrell. It’s all in how they talk and act. Think of how different the personalities are of Apple and Microsoft. Friday’s and McDonald’s. Bud Light and Guinness.

Creating or honing a brand identity can be tricky. However, if you really think it through, be honest with yourself, and keep these points in mind, there’s no telling what’s possible.

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