The Entrepreneur website defines a strategic brand proposition as “The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.” Which is, of course true, this only tells half the brand story – the visual or creative part. To us, a strategic brand proposition is just as important. It defines the culture and personality of a business, congruent with its vision and values. It is the expression of its virtues and views in the way it delivers work for its customers. It must fit in with the overall marketing strategy and business plan.
Strategic brand propositions
A strategic brand proposition – for a product, service or business – is vital. The creative elements provide a recognisable name/logo, but the strategic side drives a profound conceptual understanding of the essence of the company’s (or product’s or service’s) character. It can help to promote and clarify positioning and personality and provides a mechanism to identify the values that create meaning and resonance, to enable a business to stand out from the crowd. A poor brand identity can make a company’s marketing efforts more or less impotent – the good news is that the opposite also applies. Consider also the psychology of self-esteem at work. A proper brand will genuinely value the importance of its people. It can make employees feel proud to represent a business, and offer an attractive incentive for talented people to join – and to stay.
Firstly, it’s a misconception that powerful or clever corporate branding is the sole province of large corporations. Smaller businesses and SMEs can reap huge benefits from employing sound, well-considered branding practices – it is a huge point of difference that I all-too-often overlooked. It’s about far more than a logo or name – that is just one bit of the branding process. It defines your vision, your mission, your ethics, and morals, and represents the true character and personality of the business – as well as its potential destiny. Therefore, access for SMEs to utlise strategic brand propositions is considerably easier with the partnership of well-respected marketing agencies.
Firstly, identify where you sit in the market. Engage in a brutally honest analysis, and look carefully at your strengths and weakness, your opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis), and what challenges you face from both inside and outside the business. This is essential to enable you to position your brand in the marketplace. Then, bearing this in mind, consider your ‘vision statement’. This represents the future ambition of your company – where you want it to go, how you want it to grow. And it should be aspirational – why think small when you can think big?! Think about where you want to be in one, three and five years’ time – a statement is ideally required for the short, medium and long-term ambition of your business. Better to underachieve a huge goal than to overachieve a small one…
Corporate values are often also misunderstood. A value is a word or phrase which helps to sum up the character and personality of a brand. Why is this important? It is the values which drive the type of plan one is going to put into place to achieve your vision. It is the values which will help to guide the way in which a mission statement is generated. It is the values which guide the social conscience of a business, product or service.
For example, we all know of some companies that operate in a way that most of us would consider derisory – those selling PPI insurance, for example. Double glazing companies used to have a poor name, but most have got better now. These companies have values which most of us would not approve and would not wish to be associated with. We should look to companies which we admire to find values which inspire us and which we should emulate – because these values are what you expect from your staff, who are the ambassadors for your brand – which means you need to employ people who have the same values as your business. So you need to also make sure that the way you behave as a business is congruent with the values you wish to be associated with as an organisation. Customers will never forgive you for failing to deliver the values you claim as your own – especially in the world of social media, where everyone has the opportunity to easily express an opinion, and bad PR can spread like a wildfire.
Virtues and views
Views and virtues are statements about the philosophy of a business and are of a moral and ethical nature. They can provide your company with a brand position that will be significantly more attractive to customers than the rest of the marketplace. The views and virtues of a business are like those of a manifesto of a political party. Looking at your marketplace, and considering your values and vision, what do you stand for as a business that sets you apart from the competition? You can also deploy your views & virtues as a customer charter. This helps to develop and govern the way in which you wish to express the behaviour of the brand as a promise to the outside world. It’s a kind of ‘code of practice’ that the brand sticks to, thereby offering a qualitative benchmark and moral ground on which to work. And don’t just stop there – take a look internally too, and create an employee charter that embraces the ways in which the business treats its most important commodity – its people. If you successfully integrate a staff and customer charter into your business, you will be astonished the impact this will have on your business.
Once you have these elements in place – and not before – you can then create a mission statement – which serves to shape what you need to do at a top line level to meet your vision, and the way in which you wish to achieve it, as guided by your values, views and virtues. Think about the challenges you’ll face, and identify the strategies you’re going to need to put in place to overcome them. Keep in mind the need to achieve milestones along the way to achieving short, medium and long-term vision goals. Most companies don’t understand how to set a proper mission statement, and this is mostly because they don’t understand how it fits into the essential essence of the brand. A bad mission statement is worthless. A good one is priceless.
Consistent brand identity
Then you have a brand. It represents everything you want about your product or service and speaks directly to your customers and to your staff – who are your primary stakeholders (this will drip down to secondary and tertiary stakeholders). It’s aspirational, noble, and visionary – yet accessible. And now you need to develop all the elements you need in place to make your brand come alive. Every item of sales and marketing communication you create must deliver a consistent brand identity. Bring your brand plan in line with your business plan and your marketing plan, and ensure that all staff are aware of what these are and what strategies are in place to deliver them all. A brand is many different people, united in one vision. Guide that vision and make sure it is always in focus. A brand breathes life into a business; it is the heartbeat of a company. It is far, far more than just being a quirky name or a funky logo.
Keep up to date
The world of strategic brand propositions change all the time. To keep up to date with all the latest news including strategic brand propositions is almost impossible, but you can keep on top of things by following us on social media – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. If you would like to have a conversation with us about strategic brand propositions, please contact Stephen Brown at Abacus marketing agency London on 020 3858 7836 or [email protected] – you can also visit our website at www.abacusmarketing.co.uk to find out more.