Friday, 30 January 2015

How to Grow Your Brand in Uncertain Times

Growing your brand

The Perfect Time for Brand Realignment

Written by Robyn T. Braley

Two years ago the price per barrel of oil fell. With a thud! The Canadian dollar took a steep dive off of the CN tower and seems to enjoy the view from down there. 

Some companies will make it because they are able to adapt and have sustainable resources. Others will be just plain lucky. 

But while the economy is a threat to some, it provides opportunity for others. I spoke at a recent Real Estate Leasing Conference met two developers who had traveled from a neighboring province to look for rental properties they could by at distressed prices. 

This is an excellent time to examine your brand to be ready for future growth. It is a time to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your brand in preparation for the eventual economic rebound.

What’s My Brand

A brand is what others think of your company, products or service. Do you know what they think?

Let’s create a television game show called, “What’s My Brand?” Three small business owners will be asked to write 3 one sentence descriptions of their company. Each sentence must be 15 words or less. 

Contestants will then be placed behind a curtain and have their voices disguised.
Customers, employees and other stakeholders who make up the audience will then be given the names of the selected companies and asked to write 3 statements describing their personal view of each company’s brand. 

The host will then ask each contestant a brand question based on the statements provided by the audience. They must answer in 15 seconds using 10 words or less. Questions might include;
  1. What is your company known for?
  2. What do your customers think your company is known for?
  3. What do employees say you can do to improve your brand?
The owner with the most audience statements matching their descriptions will win a free trip to Hawaii where they will experience world class brands like WestJet, Hilton, Hertz, Nordstrom’s, Starbucks and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.

Trapped in Your Head

You’d be amazed at how many small business owners haven’t gone through a branding exercise. The definition and meaning of their companies brand remains imprisoned in their minds.

To be honest, many of these people have enjoyed early success in living out their big idea. They just never get around to putting their brand descriptions on paper in a way that can be explained to others. 

As the company grows, that eventually leads to conflicts, misunderstandings and lost customers. 

What Does It Mean?

The word brand is thrown around in different ways and contexts. Marketers offer complicated explanations that often clouds the real meaning. So, this how I define it.

"A brand reflects the soul of an organization. It communicates vision, values and principles. It works from the inside out to connect with customers at an emotional level.

A brand defines the characteristics that set your company apart from the competition. It makes a promise that customers can believe in. It tells the story of who you are, what you stand for, and the unique selling proposition you deliver on.

When you think about it, successful brands are built around a central idea that is compelling. They offer real as well as perceived value to all stakeholders. A distinctive brand positions a company and gives it a competitive advantage.

A brand is your story. Whether you a small business, a fortune 500 company, a not-for-profit or a lone wolf entrepreneur Bootstrapping your company into existance, the success of your brand strategy will be determined by how well it tells your story. It must engage customers and compel them to buy what you are selling. 

More Than a Logo

A brand is much more than a logo. To torment our designers at Unimark Creative, I love looking over their shoulder when they are creating a new logo.

After a moment of feigned reflection I’ll say, “WOW, that is amazing art. But, does it have meaning?” Then I walk away having ruined their day.

Logos, corporate colors, websites, social media, sales strategies, customer service programs and every other brand delivery method “puts a face” on the inner meaning of your company.  

It Must Mean Something

Putting lipstick on a pig or a mask on a cow doesn't make apork chop into steak or vice versa. Neither the lipstick nor the mask will cover up the truth of what is on the inside. The pig will still be the pig and the cow will still be the cow.

I love the story about the dog food company that invested millions into a national marketing campaign. They hired the best research firm, the biggest advertising agency, a world class PR company and social media gurus. They implemented an amazing marketing program.

Sales continued to slump. The company increased the budget. Sales slumped further, so they increased it again.

In desperation the company flew all of the regional managers and sales champions back to head office. The president used glitzy PowerPoints and videos to explain the campaign and how it had been carefully crafted to guarantee success. 

It was implied throughout the presentation that the root problem was the sales team. They just weren’t doing their jobs! They weren't meeting their quotas. 

At the end of his talk, he threw out a rhetorical question with a threatening tone, “So, why isn’t this working?”

The room was silent. Noone wanted to be the one to go on record by stating the obvious.  

Finally, a salesman sitting in the back of the room sprang to his feet. His voice echoed through the hall as he shouted for all to hear. 

“Sir, the dogs won’t eat the dammed dog food!”

What’s in a Name

The essence of the brand – its quality, relevance, and value must be at the core. The ideal name will reflect the meaning of your brand.

When I mention Nike, Fedex, Starbucks, Disney, NHL, Sony, Walmart or IBM, most reading this will have an immediate image of what those brands represent.

Finding Truth

To determine where you want to go, you must know where you’ve come from. Analyzing your brand requires honesty and transparency. 

Leaders of successful brands clearly understand what their brand is, who their customers are and why it matters. They know their brands strengths and weaknesses. 
When analyzing your brand, warts and blemishes are often revealed along with those moments of extreme brilliance that moved your company to a new level. 

In the search for truth, it is important to recognize corporate failures so that the lessons learned can be instructive when shaping the future. Most often, careful analysis will also reveal many things your company has and is doing well in building its brand. 

Your Opinion Matters

Please share your comments below. What have I missed? What caused you to think differently?  

Robyn T. Braley is a writer, speaker and occasional media guest. He is the President of UniMark Creative which does website design, video production, media services (editorial and advertising), and graphic design. He speaks at business conferences and also blogs about branding. 


Related Articles by Robyn T. Braley

Why Your Personal Brand Matters! What You Need to Know
For Rotarians and other service club leaders – Explaining My Rotary Club’s Brand


  1. This is a wonderful blog about branding product this blog is so helpful because everyone can easily do publicity of their brands i appreciate your thinking and work thanks for sharing this blog and keep sharing

    Branding Agency In Singapore