Thursday, December 2, 2010

20/20 Brand Vision

You've got to get this right...

Branding is not your logo. Brand strategy is not a marketing plan. Brand vision isn't what others think of you.

Brand Vision is having a clear picture (shared with your employees) as to the company you WILL BE 10 years from now.  That leads you beyond a single product line or a cool new package. It transforms your business into thinking strategically, and not just as a collection of tactics.  You can say "yes" or "no" to new opportunities because you will have a simply defined benchmark from which to judge.

"We'll be the household name in backyard gardening."
"Our products will be synonymous with luxury."
"We will become the most trusted brand in local marketplaces."

No where is there is a "HOW?" That's brand strategy, not vision. But, if you and your team are not in agreement with the larger goal, you will constantly work against each other vying for an uptick in sales off of tactics that are hit-or-miss at best.

Take the second sample above (synonymous with luxury)... were this company offered the opportunity to merge with a larger, but low-price competitor, should they take the deal?  The answer should be, "No."  How could the cut-rate competitor add to their vision? However, if a new product area opened up in a high-end market, should they consider entering it , — even if they don't have much experience? The answer should be, "Yes." They may still not choose to do so, but the exercise remains consistent. 

Think of Apple. iTunes saved it. Apple has stood for "cutting edge technology with stunning aesthetics" in everything they do. They now own music downloads as a by-product of the introduction of an entirely new category. If they only saw themselves as a computer manufacturer, they would have never worked on the R&D of transforming Flash drives into music machines. The scope of the product lines Apple works on are quite diverse, but their brand vision remains true. We all can learn from this - regardless of budget.

So where do you begin? Here's the exercise:

1) Who are you now? In short, how would your typical customer describe you, what you do and what you do for them?
2) What should they be saying about you?
3) What kind of company/brand will you have in a decade? Again, in short, not specifically a marketshare question, but an emotional one.  Who will you be?

Once answered — and they're not easy to answer... you'll be well on your way toward saving your company years of frustration and even more wasted investment.  The more fractured your brand is, the more you have to spend to keep it a float. The cool part is, the more cohesive it is, the farther (whatever money you spend) will go towards achieving your goals.