"Look what you made me do... look what you made me do..." The song oozes victimhood and a lack of accountability. Unless you watch the video, and then you immediately understand the level of sarcasm is off the charts and the hidden messages constant. But what if you never watched the video? Your opinion of a woman who built her empire on the message of being strong in who you are and your feminine power suddenly seems a little lost. This premise posed by marketing and communications leader, Brandy Hughes at the recent SuperNova South event really got me thinking about brand missteps that over time might lead to brand erosion.
This is the power of branding. And this is one of the ways companies and public figures commit brandslaughter. Inconsistencies across mediums or in messaging only need to be subtle for your customers to realize something is off. Even if they never pinpoint exactly what that something is. Brand consistency is the foundation of your "it", your "x-factor", your "undefined something" that keeps your loyal tribe coming back, for no reason other than because they really, really want to. They believe you are IT for them, your end all be all, and not only do they tell everyone who will listen, they also will never trade you off for another version.
God Only Knows, But You Should Know Too
David Corbin, mentor to mentors, expert and author, dug into research to understand the process behind brand loyalty, and the findings were definitely interesting. They asked participants to choose one category of three that identified how they felt about why they purchased from a specific brand. The three categories they had to choose from were 1) Features and benefits, 2) Relationship, and 3) God only knows. They followed this up with one more question, "Would you ever switch from this brand?" The first two categories overwhelmingly said 'yes' while category three wholeheartedly agreed there was no way in hell they would be choosing any alternative, and their loyalty tells us something very important. Relationships aren't enough. Offering the best features isn't enough. You have to be IT for your customers. You have to have the X factor, your undefined something, if you want the kind of loyalty you can't buy.
It isn't enough for only God to know. You have to know too. You have to define your undefined something so you can continue to repeat that feeling for customers as you grow.
Taylor Swift Can Take The Hit, You Probably Can't
Startups don't have the margin for error that a superstar like Taylor has. At this point, her team has probably reevaluated the algorithms, learned from this entire process, and moved on. Errors on this scale for a startup oftentimes are the beginning of a downward spiral that ends in failure. So let's talk about how you can build a foundation that will help prevent this kind of brand integrity erosion, before it's too late.
Establishing A Foundation You Can Really Build Upon
In order to do this, you have to reverse engineer your success. You do this by asking the right targeted questions that will create the ultimate vision of what your brand looks, feels, sounds, and acts like. You can grab some paper and do this right now:
What do I want people to say about me/my brand?
What do I want people to think about me/my brand?
How do I want my brand to make people feel?
What will my brand be? This question might create a paradigm shift for you because most startups are in the habit of asking 'what will my brand do?' The difference in doing over being, is that when you are constantly doing, you accidentally write a song with a message that is inconsistent with who you are trying to BE.
Who am I being while I'm doing what I'm doing? Does it connect? Is it consistent? If your hero in business were taking this route, would you remain loyal?
What is my 'undefined something' that truly sets me apart and establishes brand loyalty with my customers?
When I sell this business in x-amount of years, what will it be known for?
It's Okay If You Don't Know
If you are staring at those questions and wondering how in the heck you're going to answer number four or even all of them, it's okay. Now that you've set the wheels in motion, your brain is ticking away, digging through every file you've ever created, looking for those answers that are necessary to your success. It's only a matter of time now. Come back to the questions in a day or so and try again.
Your Brand Is An Asset
Assets are never standing still. They are either appreciating or depreciating. In order for your brand to be an asset that is continually appreciating in the value it brings to your business, you have to have the answers to the questions listed above. Establishing a foundation is the single most important branding step you will take. At the end of the day; the colors on your website, the cursive font you choose to pair with your modern font, or the logo you paid hundreds for, can't buy you loyalty or success.
I was so inspired by David Corbin and his passion for preventing brands from self-destruction which is so illuminating and enlightening that I couldn't help myself. I had to do another article on how to put measurement tools in place that will keep your brand foundation solid and make your brand an asset not a liability.