Branding questions

At around this time of year I like to encourage my clients to take a look at their brands and ask themselves a few questions. These days I’m obviously more interested in their enterprise than their product brands, because my business is to build employee behaviours that deliver the brand promise. But sometimes a company has a product or service brand that accounts for most of its revenue, or has the most impact on its market perceptions. So that too becomes a valid focus for this exercise.

The kind of questions I like them to ask produce a reality check on their brand’s current  health and relevance. This permits the planning of small adjustments. Small because strong brands tend to be built through evolution. Invoking revolution, by contrast, often creates a disconnect with loyal customers.

These are all simple questions that don’t overcomplicate the task. But simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy to answer! Here are four of the most useful questions for you to try:

1. Which brands do you admire?

This question sets the scene for some productive self-examination. You don’t need to look for brands with similar products, services or customers. Just reflect on brands you have noticed recently, and why. Consumers are doing the same!

2. Who is your ideal customer?

Your perception of the kind of customer you really need changes with time, so it’s something you should stay on top of.  Ideally you are looking for some kind of value exchange from customer relationships – the traffic shouldn’t all be one way. Established brands sometimes find they are expending effort on customers who no longer fit their business purpose.

3. How do you make your customers feel? When your most satisfied customers talk to your staff, what do they say? Are they relieved, delighted, impressed or reassured? Try to look for emotive words that go beyond ‘satisfaction’, then play them back to your employees to encourage more of the same. The most frequent positive emotion your customers associate with your brand represents the very heart of its identity. 

4. What’s your (updated) story? Storytelling is an important component of branding. Combining both your company history and illustrations of the role you play in your customers’ lives. Every year that story changes, so it’s important that you update the narrative. In this way your narrative continues to match whatever your customers and your employees have experienced as they shared the journey.

Remember to celebrate achievements because – in branding, as in life – you cannot build upon success that has not been acknowledged.