This is a guest article by Denise Wilson
Discussions on brand building often focus on the tangible pieces: launching a website, defining a brand style guide, developing a pithy tagline, and having coherent talking points across the organization. These all represent important approaches to building your company or personal brand, but it’s often the intangibles that really define the heart of a brand.
Let me explain. Every marketing book or course on the market today discusses the importance of a USP or unique selling proposition. Your USP is what makes you different, how you stand out from the competition. Yet another underexplored but extremely powerful tool in your brand building arsenal is simply being the best at what you do – and making that part of the story that you tell in your marketing. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Sometimes you’re already the best, but nobody knows. A classic advertising success is the story of Schlitz beer. Schlitz followed a rigorous process of sourcing hops, cleaning their vats so many times during the process, and prioritizing quality controls and cleanliness throughout the brewing lifecycle. Many others did too – but these processes were old hat for brewers. They never highlighted them. It’s just what they did, and they assumed nobody would care. When an outside advertiser came in and saw the process, he said “Wow! We need to tell people about this.” Schlitz quickly rocketed to a top position in the beer retail market. Take a look at your own products, services, policies, and processes; where are you investing time to make sure you deliver optimum value to your customers? Share those details as part of your brand story.
2. Become the best by filling a gap in service. Zappos is now the iconic example of excellent customer service. One story which embodies their entire ethic is the following: a customer called to cancel an order due to a death in the family. The order was canceled, and the next day the woman received a condolence bouquet from Zappos wishing her the best. Customer service agents were empowered to make creative decisions that completely changed the dynamic in an industry where the biggest complaint was poor customer service satisfaction. Zappos’ model has been applied to varying degrees in other businesses and industries around the world.
3. Meet a subtle but critical need for your customers. Apple is a great example of this. While the functionality of products like the MacBook Air, iPad, and iPod are fantastic, one of the major factors that set them apart was their design. In an industry that often leaves aesthetics on the table due to a ruthless focus on performance, Apple’s investment in creating sleek, beautiful products that hipsters would be eager to embrace created a major advantage for them. When you consider your own products and services, what clear opportunity are others in your space missing in delivery or design? An ability to identify these and incorporate the answer into your own product development process can be a significant point of success. Make sure to capture those differences in your brand story, and use them in your marketing.
4. Compete for recognition and awards. On the surface, the pursuit of marks of excellence, industry awards, and press recognition can feel hollow and secondary to the daily issues affecting the bottom line. But respected endorsements that attest to your quality, whether from an individual or as part of an industry competition, can lend instant credibility to your brand. If you’re the best at a particular area in your business, don’t be afraid to go head to head with competitors to prove that. Tastefully but proudly display any recommendations, testimonials, and awards that you’ve received on your marketing collateral.
Denise Wilson writes for Cloverleaf Innovation, an innovation company and brand consultancy. She’s particularly interested in writing about branding and innovation for new companies.