John Cinquina, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member from Perth, is the CEO of Red Meets Blue Branding - a brand strategy agency - and author of Build Great Brands. We asked him about the importance and strategy behind structuring your brand for growth. Here's what he had to say.
"Growth" is the buzzword in business today. It seems we are obsessed with it, whether we're startups, owners, board members or marketers. As I meet and work with organizations from different industries, I have observed that often in this pursuit of growth, we forget to invest into the foundations of our brands; before we know it, we find ourselves in a situation where our brand is doing more hindering than helping.
As we grow, we may work hard to ensure our HR structures can support more staff or we might allocate time and energy into our product innovation cycle. When it comes to our brand, however, it's usually done on the fly under tight deadlines and feels very ad hoc. Over a period of time, we'll find ourselves with a group of brand assets that don't align and messages that contradict one another. What was once relevant is no longer, and we begin losing market share growth because the brand is not working as intended.
In my experience, there are five steps to structure (or restructure) your brand for growth.
- Set clear objectives for your company and align the brand goals. Brands are most powerful when they are aligned with the goals of a company. Hold a strategic meeting with key stakeholders in your organization and clarify the plan for the coming 12 months, as well as three, five and 10 years out. Consider the markets you might operate in, the size you expect to be, your product or service diversification plans, and the opportunities you foresee. You may have answered these in the past, but this time, discuss these variables within the context of your brand. Define what role the brand will play in helping you reach these goals and targets. Brands can only be successfully tied to company growth when we understand what success looks like.
- Consider your brand architecture. Amending the structure of your brand later down the road is costly, painful and disruptive to growth. Brand architecture allows you to not only align the brand with company goals, but to consider how you'll structure the brand to grow with the company in the future. A conversation on brand architecture should consider the name of your company, whether you envision the need to re-brand at any point (and if so, why?) and whether you predict sub brands in the future or sister companies being created. If your future growth road map involves acquisition, or being acquired, diversifying into new industries or expanding geographically, the way you structure the brand now will have an impact down the line.
- Walk through a brand-positioning process. A brand positioning process is designed to identify your market audience and how you compare to competitors in your space; it defines how you should position your brand to differentiate and succeed. Case studies tell us that great brands seem to be driven by broader and more authentic purposes, rather than mere clever catch phrases and visually stunning material. Great brands identify what they stand for and who they are and use those things to speak with a strong and consistent voice in the market. With a clear direction on company objectives and robust brand architecture to get you there, brand positioning dovetails nicely in generating a brand purpose, set of brand values, tone of voice statements, key selling propositions and a brand story. Best of all, brand positioning fuels better innovation that's creative, aligned, intuitive and organic.
- Conduct a touch point audit and innovate the experience. By auditing all the touch points in which a user experiences your brand, you are able to build a picture of your brand experience and where it's mis-aligned with your new position in the market. I find that mapping out the customer touch points sequentially can help me understand how to improve the overall experience for a brand by only tweaking things along the way. It also drives strong brain storming at a team level, and these exercises can be powerful in a group environment. The statements you develop during your brand positioning process can often fuel improvement ideas.
- Re-assess and optimize. A great brand structured for growth, like most things in a company, should be assessed periodically and regularly. Only you can determine how often you believe that needs to be, but it's worth determining what works for you. This will help determine where to refresh, tweak and measure. By measuring success, revisiting goals and discussing improvement strategies, you may find that even small tweaks can go a long way. For some, it's quarterly, for others annually, but I'd encourage anyone to find the right rhythm. In doing so, your brand will become a powerful investment producing strong returns. As we change and evolve, often our brand must as well. If done iteratively, it causes less disruption and unlocks better performance.