Many people judge a book by its cover. Like it or not, your customers get their first impression of you the moment they see your brand. Whether you’re a lean startup looking to impress investors and grow fast, or an established business looking to increase your market share, your brand is an incredibly important part of your marketing strategy.
After years of working with clients on their brands, our team at Zync have noticed a few key factors that separate what’s truly effective from the rest. Nearly all of these can be distilled into three key lessons that can apply to any business:
1. Recognize your brand for what it is—a business asset.
Your brand is not just a name or logo, it is an exchange you have with your customers that impacts how they perceive every interaction they have with you. With this in mind, your brand’s name, identity, and communications shouldn’t be seen as a required business expense—but instead as an investment in a business asset that is going to pay dividends. You need to approach your company’s branding as part of a larger business strategy. What business objectives does your branding need to address? You can create a brand that will drive value for your business.
2. Carefully survey the branding norms in your industry—and then throw them out.
The key is to find a distinctive place in the consumers’ mind—a place you can own. While Uber and Lyft have very similar selling propositions, the way Lyft approached their brand was radically different—embodying a casual, fun, and relaxed persona in stark contrast to Uber’s sleek, cutting-edge exclusivity. This played a huge part in why Lyft was able to carve out a niche in the market for themselves. To stand out from the crowd, you need to know what’s in the marketplace already, find a differentiation point true to your business, and have the courage to do something different.
3. Don’t focus on what you offer—focus on what motivates people to buy.
Ask someone why they bought a Mercedes and they’ll give you a highly rational list of functional features (including a max speed which is impractical and illegal on public roads). In reality, the purchase decision is highly influenced by unconscious motivations rooted in emotional benefits. In a world of endless choices and substitutes, appealing to an emotional benefit that resonates with the customer helps them make their decision. To do this, you need to know more than just your customers’ demographic profile—you need to understand them. Only by understanding their motivations and needs—and any unarticulated desires—can you speak to them in a way that resonates.
It’s easy for organizations to define their brand on a whim based simply on the preferences of the leadership—or retain a legacy brand without recognizing the negative impact it has on customer perceptions and ultimately sales. Your brand can be one of your most important assets, but only if you approach it as one.