MindFire Communications, Inc.
Know it. Be it. Say it.
March 29, 2011 | Lynn Manternach, Ph.D.

As a small business owner, it can be hard to decide how to prioritize your efforts when it comes to branding and marketing. Much of your time and energy is focused on your product or service, your cash flow, and where you will find your next customer. That means there’s often very little left for focusing on your brand.

Branding does not have to be complicated. According to Monica Skipper, the marketing manager for FedEx Global Brand Management, the essence of a brand is simple. "First know who you are. Second be who you are. And finally, say who you are.”

Know it. A strong brand is focused. You have to understand what makes your brand relevant to consumers. What makes your business special? Why do your customers choose your product or service over other options? What are the critical intangibles your product or service provides to customers and potential customers?

It is important to examine these questions from the perspective of your customers. The best approach is to ask them. Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what consumers say it is.

The answers to these questions help you identify your brand promise.

A good brand promise has three qualities:

1.    It’s extremely important to the target consumer.

2.    The brand’s organization is uniquely suited to deliver it.

3.    It’s something competitors are not addressing.

Spend some time thinking about what you promise and deliver to your customers, and why they choose to work with you over competitors. Distill this insight into as few words as possible. For FedEx, the word is "reliability.” Despite the complexity of their global organization, the brand promise and the focus of every employee at FedEx is reliability. That’s their benefit to customers.

Be it. You can’t say you’re reliable if you can’t deliver on that promise. Your brand means nothing if you can’t live it and act upon it.

Once the brand promise is in place, the hard part begins. You have to make sure you can consistently keep your brand promise. Everyone across your company has to be prepared to deliver on the brand promise every time – no matter what.

An authentic and powerful brand promise has the potential to transform an organization. It provides a singular focus for strategy and communications internally and externally. It helps employees understand the relevance of what they do every day inside the organization. And it tells consumers why your company, product or service deserves their loyalty.

Every time you keep your brand promise, you strengthen your brand. That’s what branding is all about.

Say it. After you figure out who you are and how to deliver the brand promise in every interaction with customers, you’re ready to talk about your brand.

Your brand promise is the filter through which every communication – both internally and externally – should be assessed. It provides the critical consistently you need to effectively build your brand.

Your key brand message – what you say – needs to remain consistent, but that doesn’t mean how you say it is always the same. Your tone and approach will change depending on who you’re talking to and in what environment the message is distributed. Despite that, the heart and soul of your brand message must be consistent.

You may start feeling like you’re telling customers over and over again who you are. There’s a fine line between consistency and redundancy, and when it comes to branding, that’s okay. Repetition is important if you want your customers to associate your brand with your brand promise, so don’t be afraid to repeat yourself.
Know it. Be it. Say it.

This article originally appeared in the Corridor Business Journal.

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