Focus on Branding NOW

Joe D

What is the secret formula for creating a global brand and becoming a segment leader?

All around me I see marketing budgets tightening, reductions in ad spending, sponsorships, banner presence. This is not the time to be cutting back, it’s the time to be moving out and moving up. Marketing is all about perception – Everyone in the adult world will be riffling through the next edition of Xbiz to see who is advertising; but most important, every industry owner and executive will be riffling through to see who is still spending money and considering how to work with them or emulate their continuing success. Ultimately then, those advertisers will have the best opportunity to attract the right attention and make the deals that will result in success out of a recession.

  • What is your target group?
  • What does your brand say?
  • How consistent is your message?

Unfortunately, marketing will always be a tactical mix of trial and error, there is no cookie cutter solution and every campaign must be as individual as the company launching. But there are some proven techniques and guidelines that can help you formulate your plan.

Branding expert Martin Lindstromtells us branding is all about focus. By focus, he means a lot of things, but he says the most important points are:

  • Your focus on a specific audience;
  • which is reflected in your focus on specific values;
  • which is reflected in your clear focus on a specific tone-of-voice.

While this sounds simplistic, he advises that defining your unique target group is fundamental in short and long-term branding and marketing strategy.

A favorite example is "how a famous vodka brand decided to take targeting to the extreme, by focusing on alternative audiences, like the gay community in the USA. By hitting this community in trendy bars in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, the product became fashionable, and so, a broad appeal developed, as more and more people were attracted to it. By now the vodka in question is one of the world's best-known brands, yet its branding inception was in a very alternative background.”

Once you’ve decided on your target group, consider the message:

  • What does your brand say?
  • What lasting impression should remain in the consumer's mind after exposure?
  • What are your brand values?

What does a brand evoke? BMW – Absolut – Sonoma Cutrer – Versace – Specific attributes and adjectives are triggered in your mind when you simply read the name or see the brand logo.

What descriptive adjectives do you wish to see evoked at the mention or viewing of your brand?
Focus on the attributes you want the consumer to conjure up and consistently reinforce them in every possible manner using every human sense.

Lindstrom calls it simply, communications consistency, and considers it one of the most important factors in a healthy branding strategy. He says being consistent means delivering your brand's message using a tone-of-voice that becomes recognizable as the voice of your brand: that communicates the brand's values to its target audience day after day, year after year, everywhere, anywhere! A good rule of thumb to consider is this: when you start feeling sick and tired of your own brand's message and voice, its connection with the consumer's recognition is probably just beginning. Remember, you are exposed to your brand thousands of times more frequently than your customers, so don’t let your own frequency of exposure affect your communications decisions.

Remember to produce a consistent message. Target the same group, every time. Communicate the same message, every time. Personify and transmit the same values, every time. Utilize the identical keywords, the same phraseology, the same overarching design elements and the same logo graphic – every time.

You’d be surprised how many companies fail on the consistency prerequisite, even big ones, so don’t dilute your brand trying to be all things to all people. Once you are solidly ensconced in the psyches of your target group your brand will expand from there.

Your graphic logo is just a supporting player in true brand strategy. Lindstrom says the "look" is a necessary element in the consistent communication strategy, but it's just an element. “If your brand possesses the most beautiful logo, and is associated with a perfect, distinctly identifying design, yet it has no clear audience focus, no value focus, and no tone-of-voice focus with which to deliver its well-honed message, I doubt you'd ever succeed in building your brand.”

In the current climate, think twice about reducing your marketing budget. The most successful companies are refining and increasing their marketing budgets as we head into 2009 because as I’ve been telling you for a couple of months now, 2009 should be all about market share. Follow these branding principles and investigate all the marketing possibilities available to you. Often, what’s old is new again ;-)

Sources and Additional Reading

Martin Lindstrom is an internationally recognized online branding guru. His latest best-selling book is available on his website, and an older publication which will always have traction is Clicks, Bricks and Brands, written in partnership with the 1-to-1 guru team of Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D. Visit: www.martinlindstrom.com

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