A Simple Approach to Branding Strategy Based on Leadership Brands Model

This model is an extension of Aaker’s model for leadership brands, mentioned in his book “Brand Leadership” (by Joachimsthaler & Aaker, 2001).

Leadership brand types

First, let us define leadership brands. A leadership brand inspires employees by setting high expectation levels. It also provides additional benefits to consumers – both emotional (empowerment through brand association) and functional (high quality standards). In the table below, I will demonstrate how leadership brand types position themselves and what their USPs are generally based on.

Click here to view this table as an image file. 

Type of leadership brands What the brands do Brand message Reason why for the consumer Examples
Power brands Own (or claim) a category benefit that is functional and in constant improvement; the product itself is at the core of the strategy. It works better I want to get the job done Gillette (“Better Blades = More Outstanding Shaves”)
Explorer brands Use people’s desire to grow and explore their potential, focus not on the product but on the context of use. It gives you new possibilities I want to improve and grow Adidas (“Through sport, we have the power to change live​s”)
Icon brands Symbolize some cultural aspect that customers share emotionally, create a “brand world”. Join our journey I want to be a part of it

Disneyland Paris (“A magical experience”)

Identity brands Build a connection through user imagery, helping
people express who they are, often strongly personified brands.
This is us I want to be like you Birkenstock (nature-oriented, conscious lifestyle, healthy -“Consciously healthy shoes)
branding-strategy-leadership
Leadership brands types

Branding Strategy Examples

Here is how you can use this model for building a branding strategy.

  1. Analyze your competitors. Is there a predominant strategy they are using? A lot of times, companies go by the “industry standard”, thus selecting the strategy common in their niche.
  2. Investigate if you can use another strategy to differentiate from your competitors (provided you have the resources for that).
  3. Do market research (e.g. focus groups) to verify if your strategy resonates with the target customer.
  4. Launch the brand, monitor and evaluate the results.

Let us take an example of a B2B market for industrial cooking ovens. The majority of producers and distributors base their branding strategy on the “power brands” method, featuring qualities of their products and what they deliver.

A somewhat fresh approach would be to use “explorer brands” strategy. For example, talking about how the food industry professionals can benefit and produce better quality food for the end consumer. For example, Baxter markets its ovens by stressing how the ovens can be used to produce the desired result: “We understand that advanced technology is there for one thing: to help you create an authentic experience for your customers”.

An even more daring strategy would be to use “icon brands” strategy.  One of the leading brands in this segment, Rational, is deploying this strategy. Although it features the products on its website, it rather focuses on being passionate about food production and experiencing the world of professional cooking. MAM brand (pizza ovens) clearly uses the Italian origin of its brand as its USP, featuring Italian lifestyle and cooking and stating “Italian product. Italian technology. Italian taste” on its website.

It is also thinkable to come up with identity brands strategy in this segment (e.g. personifying the brand or centralizing the brand around the personality of its founder or a brand ambassador). For example, BULL Outdoor Kitchens uses the logo featuring a bull, thus personifying its brand “Don’t underestimate the power of the BULL”.  This makes the brand stand out from the competition and creates a strong image in the minds of customers.

As follows from these examples, you can use the leadership brand model to create or to optimize your branding strategy, independently of the market segment you are operating in.

 

what is a uspIf you have any questions about branding or building a brand, do not hesitate to contact me!

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The Why and How of Effective Personal Branding

If you think that personal branding is only important for Hollywood stars and CEOs of Fortune 100 companies, think twice. Because the chances are that YOU can greatly improve the effectiveness of whatever you are doing through a smart personal branding strategy.

Why personal branding?

A strong personal brand will:

  • Help you find a perfect job if you are unemployed
  • Win more projects and customers if you are a freelancer
  • Promote your company if you are an employee or a company owner
  • Attract more attention to a good cause if you a volunteer

Building a personal brand

Building a personal brand is similar to building a product or a company brand. It begins from investigating the needs of your target audience and ends with concrete activities to promote your brand.

personal branding strategy

Environment & target audience

The main goal here is to match your core values to the needs of the target audience. In personal branding, authenticity (being who you are) naturally plays a more important role than in product branding.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I good at?
  • What are my advantages as a professional?
  • Who are my competitors?
  • Who are the leaders in my field? How did they achieve success?

Then turn yourself to your niche:

  • Who are they?
  • What are their interests and needs?
  • What channels of communication do they use?
  • Who can become my partner or maybe an advocate?

Here you can find a more detailed explanation about investigating your target audience.

Branding strategy and USP

After you defined the direction you will be moving in, you need to get to grips with the branding strategy.

Margaret Mark  and Carol S. Pearson came up with the theory of brand archetypes, which is briefly shown in this table. This is something you should probably keep in mind when crafting your brand.

brand archetypes mark pearson

For example, if you are a trainer, you can select the archetype based on the type of sports you teach: a hero (high-impact training); a caregiver (restorative yoga classes); a creator (contemporary dance classes); an explorer (outdoor activities) or even an outlaw (extreme sports).

However, you can select the archetype based on other criteria (the point is being true to yourself). You can also combine several archetypes to create a unique brand personality.

Another way to convey the uniqueness of your brand is to use the following:

  • Rituals (things you habitually do).  Example: Winston Churchill smoking pipes.
  • Attributes (things you own, wear or carry around). Example: Black sweater and jeans of Steve Jobs.
  • Mystery (biography gaps, rumors, dissonances).
  • Background story (events or circumstances that led to personal enlightenment, “turning point” events).

Brand positioning

Brand positioning means working on concrete visual, intellectual and emotional qualities of your personal brand.

During personal contact, you have several ways to influence how you are perceived by your target audience.

Visual cues

Those include facial expressions, body language, clothing style, hair and makeup, body shape, etc.

Verbal effect

Rhetoric, intonation, choice of words, correctness of speech, negotiation and presentation skills.

Communicative effect

Empathy, tactfulness, “tuning in” with your audience, making a positive impression, conveying the expertise, answering the needs of the audience.

In addition, you should create a consistent “personal identity” (“corporate identity” in company branding). In other words, select personal colors, fonts, create a logo, a signature, a motto, etc. Those are used to “anchor” the brand in the minds of your target audience. Use them consistently in:

  • Social media profiles, personal blogs;
  • Business cards, printed materials;
  • E-mails, letters, etc.

Brand promotion

The final step in personal branding is to start promoting your brand.

Below you will find an overview of promotion channels.

pronoting personal brand

 

Social Media

What is important: Relevant channels, consistent presentation, authenticity, truthfulness.

What it can bring: Networking, strengthening brand image, opportunity discovery.

Events

What is important: Selecting events according to your niche, connecting with target audience, considering active and passive participation as well as organizing and hosting events.

What it can bring: Publicity, networking, expertise demonstration, opportunity discovery.

Partnerships

What is important: Partnering with influencers and thought leaders from your niche, selecting advocates for your personal brand, meaningful partnerships, authenticity.

What it can bring: Publicity, reach, strengthening brand image, expertise demonstration.

Advertising

What is important: Selecting relevant channels, consistency, authenticity, communicating value to the target audience.

What it can bring: Publicity, reach, strengthening brand image, opportunity discovery.

PR

What is important: Working with relevant mass media, focus, regular updates, observing code of conduct.

What it can bring: Publicity, reach, strengthening brand image, expertise demonstration.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and this topic certainly deserves a deeper dive in one of the follow-up posts.

As you can see, personal branding is a highly important matter, especially in times when a lot of us need to re-orientate and apply creativity in achieving our goals more effectively.

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4 Most Important Strategic Marketing Steps

In this post, I will outline the most important steps in creating your marketing strategy. This checklist enables you to create a successful marketing plan.

In this post, I will outline the most important steps in creating your marketing strategy. If you start with this checklist, the rest of your marketing strategy will fall into place more easily.

Marketing Step 1: Who am I?

The first and foremost thing to do is to define your company. This includes the type of the company (a start up, a small local business, a medium-sized company, etc.) and the line of business you are in (banking, catering, consulting services, retail, etc.). Also, think about your branding strategy, i.e. how you want your customers to perceive you. You can use different brand-building models. One very well known model is brand identity prism. At this point, you do not have to worry about brand appearance (logos, colors, etc.). Instead, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • What does my company (brand) do?
  • What impression do I want to make as a company (brand)?
  • What is the personality of my company (brand)?
  • What relationship does my company (brand) have to the customer?
  • What kind of people are my customers?
  • What are my company (brand) values and principles?

For example: Tuscolo is a small local chain of Italian restaurants that serves real Italian food in a friendly and familiar atmosphere. It incorporates tradition and creates authentic Italian experience through its interior, service and food presentation. It caters for families, couples and groups of friends and colleagues who want to enjoy good food in a relaxed setting.

Marketing Step 2: What is my offering?

Decide, what products and/or services you are going to offer. Do not think in terms of what you can possibly offer. This will produce difficulty in creating a well-defined product portfolio and diminish any marketing efforts.

So, how do you define your offering? On the one hand, there should be a market for it (do some market research or ask your current customers and business partners). On the other hand, this should be something you can do or produce really well (see Step 4). Additionally, think about what is feasible to offer at the current company state. Then, you will also need to define the key features and properties of your products or services.

Marketing Step 3: Who are my customers?

The next important element of your marketing strategy is customers. To make things easier for you, you can use the following plan. Firstly, think in terms of generic target group definition – such B2B or B2C customers and the geographical area you want to serve.

Add parameters such as the size of company and the line of business (for B2B) or age and gender (for B2C). Secondly, specify this by segmenting within your target group. E.g. large vs medium-sized companies, retail vs wholesale, etc. Third, dive deeper into the definition of each segment and develop customer personas. In case of B2B, that would be profiles of individual decision makers. Try to understand their motivation, their needs and wants, how they communicate and what they expect from a product or a service.

Marketing Step 4: What is my USP?

USP or Unique Selling Proposition is the cornerstone of every marketing strategy. It is what sets you apart from competition. Basically, it is the reason Why for your customers. You can develop a generic USP for the company or think in terms of USP’s for separate products or USP’s for different customer segments.

For example, you own a bookstore specializing in nonfiction literature located close to a university. The first customer segment is students. The USP for them is low prices/discount schemes and fast in-store delivery for the books they require for their courses. Another customer segment are university researchers and professors. The USP for them is different: a large range of specialized books in several languages available upon request and courier delivery services. You may have more segments and USP’s:  people living in the vicinity of your shop (you have a good coffee bar), hobby researchers (your employees take time to provide advice on a variety of subjects and make literature recommendations), etc.

Generally, you should not jump into doing anything or start spending marketing budget before you have made these four steps and created a solid foundation for your marketing strategy.

strategic marketing steps

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Elements of a Marketing Strategy – Part 2

This is the second part of my post on important elements of a marketing strategy In these posts, I would like to share a more general view on marketing, without getting into detail on the tools and strategy implementation.

marketing strategy
Elements of a marketing strategy

Company

One of the most important steps in creating a marketing strategy, in addition to defining the products you offer and your target customers, is defining who you are. In other words, your company identity and how you want to communicate it.

Branding

Remember that your company is a solid part of your brand. Do not neglect corporate identity elements, such as logo, colors, fonts, etc. Once they are set, use them consistently in the marketing and sales materials, as well as internal documentation.

People

This is arguably the most important company asset and should be part of your marketing strategy. This aspect, is, of course, not just limited to PR efforts for senior management. A lot of tech companies employ “product evangelists” to personalize their marketing. Apart from this, sharing personal employee stories, e.g. on social media, may contribute to the positive image of your company and create more trust.

Mission and vision statements

Although they may seem unimportant at first, a well-formulated set of values and a common vision can become a driving force for company development. They can also be the “glue” that holds different people together.

Although it may sound ironical, it is equally important to define who you are not. Trying to serve more customer segments and flexibly adapting your company image accordingly will confuse your customers. In the worst case, they will start distrusting you.

Competitors

Someone once said that companies should stop concentrating on beating the competitors and instead focus on delivering value to their customers. Although I share the same view, this doesn’t mean that you must disregard the competition.

Learning from competitors

Learning from competitors has two sides to it. On the one hand, you can benchmark the strategy of your more experienced /successful competitors. On the other hand, you can also learn from their mistakes. Take a critical look at:

  • Structure and design of their websites
  • User journey on the website
  • Selection of social media channels and shared content
  • SEO strategy (backlinks opportunities, keywords, etc.)
  • Content types used for content marketing

Direct and indirect competition

In order to understand who your competitors are, you can think in terms of competition levels (e.g. a model by Lehman & Winter).

You probably concentrate on your direct competitors (product form competition), however, try to think of competition in a wider sense. Product category competition includes similar products that can differ in functionality or design. Generic competition is the next competition level that includes products that can be used as substitutes but do not offer the same features or benefits. Budget competition comes from products allocated to the same part of consumer budget (e.g. “entertainment”, “housing”, “education”).

competition levels marketing
Marketing Competition Levels (Lehman & Winter)

Marketing tools

I put marketing tools at the end of this list on purpose. If a company lacks experience in marketing, they tend to concentrate on the tools too much. It is not uncommon that they ask such questions as: “Shall we use Google AdWords?”, “What do we write in our blog?” before they defined who they are, what products they offer and who their target customers are. (I talked about this in one of my older blog posts on mistakes in marketing).

One well-known model for marketing decisions is 4 P’s by McCarthy (Product, Place, Price, Promotion). If we adjust this model to online marketing, the promotion will include:

  • Advertising (Google AdWords, display, etc.)
  • PR (Social Media, blogs, guest articles, etc.)
  • Direct selling (e-mail marketing)
  • Promotion (e-coupons, free trial, etc.)

You also need to make decisions on how to position your product, what pricing strategy you will choose and what your sales channels will be.

All in all, when crafting your marketing strategy, you need to go through several distinct steps and plan carefully. Also, remember that once the strategy is selected, you need to follow it consistently. Making too many changes and adjustments along the way will inevitably result in time and budgetary losses.

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Elements of a Marketing Strategy – Part 1

marketing strategy

The diagram above demonstrates elements of a marketing strategy. Below, I will explain it in more detail.

Product or service

Although it may sound strange, the first obstacle in creating a marketing strategy is to define what product or service you are going to sell. Sometimes companies are too quick to change or switch their product because they try to please the end customer. This can cause contradicting marketing messages and result in marketing campaigns being ineffective.

USP (Unique Selling Proposition)

USP is the unique benefit resulting from the product or service that makes it stand along against competition. What is that that you can do better than others? For example, the USP of Ryanair is low-cost flights.

Features

Features are what your product or service is comprised of. In order to sell a product, it is not necessary and sometimes even counterproductive to include a large number of features. Rather, the features should match the requirements of the target customer (see below).

Use cases

Writing use cases for your product or service is an excellent exercise that helps you to get ideas for promotion. Here are some examples of use cases for an app for sending appreciation badges within a company:

  • New colleagues can introduce themselves by sending short messages to the team members.
  • Colleagues can congratulate each other on a completed project or on other occasions by sending a badge.
  • The app can be used after meetings or training for sending feedback and thanking the organizer.

Target group

Achieving product-to-market fit is one of the cornerstones of successful marketing. However, not only the product part is important but also defining and selecting your target group.

Segmentation

You can segment both outside and inside your target group. Segmenting the market in general (see market segmentation) orientates you what segments you will target and what not. Once you selected your target group, you will unlikely be homogeneous, so you need to segment further. Typical target group segmentation for a B2B product can include such criteria as:

  • Users vs decision makers
  • Company size
  • State-owned vs privately-owned companies
  • Geographical segmentation (country, location)
  • Field of business

Personas

Personas help you to define in detail who your customers are, to understand what language they speak, what motivates them and drives their decisions. Customer personas are more detailed and granular than segments and may look like this: “Male customers, located in the US, aged 20-30, working as software developers, interested in hacking, having “geek” mentality. Their main focus is not on the career but on improving their skills. They visit hacker blogs and websites, spend a lot of time online and participate in forums and closed communities. Their challenge at work is time pressure, the necessity to learn new skills fast and requirements changes in the course of projects.”

Market

While the target group defines who your customers are, market defines how many there are of them and also how many you can realistically reach.

Size

No matter how good your product fits customer needs or how elaborate your marketing strategy is, without a proper market size your product is not going to scale. Market size can be defined in several ways, e.g. total potential market size (the total number of potential users for your product), total existing market (what share of market is already being covered by the competition), the size of the market you can serve (for example, if your product does not scale very well or because there are strong competitors in the market). Estimating market size will be based both on research and assumption, however, this is an important step in creating marketing concept.

Market segmentation

Here you can look at the existing market (competition, customers) or make assumptions about a market you can create. Creating a new market means that you have to generate the demand by educating potential users about your product or service instead of fighting the competition. Bear in mind that this approach has both advantages and disadvantages: you will not have direct competitors, but at the same time, you may face indirect competition by substitute products (see Part 2 of this post).  It also takes a lot of time and effort to explain to potential customers why they need your product or service, so your sales materials and pitches have to be carefully crafted.

In the second part of this post, I will explain how company image influences your marketing concept, what you can learn from your competitors and why marketing tools are the final step in crafting your marketing strategy.

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