5. Whoa! What was that?! (Staying Aligned with Your Brand)

IMG_1945In my last blog entry, I talked about the importance of knowing why you do what you do (so you can adapt your product to changing markets). Now, assuming you have a handle on what you are selling and why you are selling it, we have to acknowledge that just saying you have widgets for sale won’t necessarily get you business. The marketer in you knows that you need to have a unique identity to make you stand out in the market.

I’m going to digress here for a moment on unique value propositions (UVP) because, while it isn’t explicitly on my top 10 list, it underlies some of the other points and would certainly be #11. It is important that your UVP is something that is of value to your customers but not claimed by your competition. That sounds completely logical, right? For this reason, your UVP should NOT be: “quality,” “family-run,” “X years of experience,” etc.

I will come back to this topic later, but if you are stuck on this point now, I recommend you read Creating Competitive Advantage by Jaynie Smith.

Assuming, then, that you have a strong UVP in mind, the big tripping point is living up to that UVP. The marketing news is littered with stories about companies who make one claim in their marketing, but fail to live up to that claim in delivery (for a great article on this, I recommend this blog article from Harvard Business Review). How does this happen?

I love marketing — you know I do — but this is where the clever marketing needs to be built around what you actually deliver, not the other way around. It is tempting to come up with a clever tag line or UVP concept, then try to retrofit your delivery to match it. The problem with doing this is that you might be flying in the face of your culture and your existing BRAND.

There. I said it. Your BRAND. Whether you market yourself or not, you have a brand. If you market yourself, you have some control over what that brand looks like; if you do not market yourself, you are at the mercy of what people say about you. In fact, contrary to popular belief, companies are not really in control of their brand. They work hard to inform the market but, since the birth of the Internet, the market is in charge — they decide on your brand, and they will happily (and en masse) skewer you if they detect you are being dishonest.

So, it is important that you have a UVP that is in alignment with who you really are, and that it is in alignment with your culture and brand.

For a quick read on what makes brands fail, I recommend this article from Hinge Marketing.

For more reading on alignment of marketing, delivery and even marketing delivery (e.g., if you are a web-design company, your website should blow me away), I recommend Meatball Sundae by Seth Godin.

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