It takes time and thoughtful planning to build a great brand. The BMW-owned MINI is an example of careful brand planning long before the car was first sold in the US, making the marque appear to spring to life, fully formed and cool. Other brands take years to come into their own. Starbucks opened its first store in Seattle in 1971. As of October this year, there are thousands of Starbucks locations in 62 countries — all remaining true to the brand’s look, feel, taste, and gathering place. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that the Starbucks brand came into its own.
Regardless of how they start, all great brands are built on a well-conceived brand platform. To build yours, start with these five steps:
1. Start on a solid foundation of understanding.
What’s true about your organization should form the rock-solid basis of your brand. Take a good look in the mirror and determine just who you are. How do you conduct business? Do you try harder like Avis? Are you great in service or production? Are your tools as tough as Sears Craftsman? Is the company a time-defined leader or an upstart start-up?
2. Support your brand with your strengths.
Every company has its own immutable and distinctive strengths. It could be your people or your products, your knowledge, or your expertise. Chubb Insurance is strong on experience and service. Trader Joe’s stores pride themselves on discovering interesting foods. Whatever your strengths, they form the pillars to support all your branding efforts.
3. Examine your personality.
Your employees each have their own personality. But a company itself needs its own unique personality. Identify the three or four attributes that characterize your organization and describe them in human-like adjectives. Ace Hardware stores chose “helpful.” United Airlines has reclaimed “friendly.” These will guide everything you say and do with your brand.
4. Stake a position.
With a world of many competitors, you need to help your customers understand where you stand relative to the other brands. What makes you different? Why should someone do business with you? Consumers only have so much room in their brains in some categories. In the 1970s, the classic 7-Up lemon-lime soda brand positioned itself as the Uncola to take on Coke and Pepsi.
5. Keep your promise.
All of your work should rise up to one big idea. It’s what your product or service promises to deliver to your customers and employees that touches their hearts and souls. Tide laundry detergent promises to get sheets “whiter than white,” which isn’t about color but the satisfaction and purity that comes with cleanliness. The web site Pinterest is a tool for collecting and organizing things, but the root of it is really about sharing. Once you’ve made your brand promise, you must hold true to that promise in all your communications and consumer interactions.