Uh, Oh: Who’s Defining Your Brand?

When it comes to positioning your business, are you doing the equivalent of walking up to a car salesman and asking “How much do you think I should spend?” If you aren’t taking smart steps to ensure that you keep 100% control over your customer’s perceptions of you, you might as well be handing your wallet over to a car dealer and saying, “Why don’t you decide how much money I have left at the end of the month.

Let me be clear on this – this isn’t just an analogy. Positioning (a.k.a. ‘branding‘) absolutely determines how much money you have at the end of every single month. Here’s why …

Your brand = your steady cashflow.
It’s that simple. The reason? It’s not because of your fancy company logo (that’s not your brand). It’s not because of your wicked-cool website color scheme or hand-picked letterhead font (again, not the brand). While those things are components of your branding, they aren’t the cashflow-creating essence of a powerful brand.

What it’s all about, according to corporate boardroom refugee-turned-guerilla-marketer Ben Mack is this:

Brand = The likelihood your customers will buy from you again.

That’s Not What My Dictionary Told Me

Sure, you won’t find that definition in any dictionary, but when I read about it in Mack’s book Think Two Products Ahead, it made perfect sense. Your brand is the sum-total-experience your customers have with you – the experience that makes them decide not only to buy from you with excitement again and again, but to tell everyone about you as well.

And it’s all about the experience. The experience that locks them in, and guarantees that steadily increasing cashflow. But what does this have to do with a car salesman? Simple:

  • With a car salesman, either you set the price you’re willing to pay, or you let him do it.
  • With a customer, either you make it easy for her to be hooked for life, or you just hope she decides to.

And hope won’t pay the bills. You gotta make it happen yourself.

You Already Do Other People’s Marketing Every Day

Think of the products/services/websites that you go irrationally crazy about. That you gush over. (And you do). That you go out of your way to buy from. (Even when it’s less convenient than going elsewhere). Or the blogs you would read every single day even if the post was off-topic from what you’re interested in. Something, some “indefinable” something, makes you a passionate, raving fan customer.

Except guess what? It ain’t indefinable. In fact, somebody put a lot of thought into making sure it was defined very carefully – and that it was unmistakable for you to absorb. There were no mixed messages. The core ideas behind what the company/product/personality were about seamlessly meshed and supported each other to leave you with that critical take-away impression.

Starbucks CoffeeStarbucks knows this, and that’s why their average customer comes back 18(!) times a month to buy coffee that’s 3 times as expensive as anyone else’s. Not because their coffee is 3 times better, but because they delivered a consistently satisfying message that led that customer to associate strong industrial-strength loyalty to their brand. From their packaging, to their music, to their attitudes, to the writing on the cups … everything points to the same core experience that makes a Starbucks customer a loyal customer.

And the customer doesn’t have to think about it. they don’t have to figure out what the experience is – it’s handed to them. But are you doing this in your business?

How You Can Turn Your Brand Into A Profit Center

If you want to leverage the cashflow-building power of your brand, you’ve got do do three things.

  1. First, you’ve got to figure out precisely what it is you’re all about. What separates you from your competitors. What sums you up as a badass company/individual. In other words, what your customer needs to associate with you just by thinking your name. Look past your product, and look at the experience. In other words, coffee is generic, but you know what Starbucks is about. Fruit juice is bo-ring, but when I say “Snapple” you conjure up a unique set of associations. Decide what your brand’s associations should be up front, so your customers won’t be guessing.
  2. Second, look at every way you interact with your customers – from packaging, to websites, to emails, to follow-ups, and ask yourself if you’re reinforcing those rockin’ associations every single step of the way. If you ain’t, hop to it. Don’t leave your customers wondering how to know without a doubt who you are. Make it easy.
  3. Third, shell out $12 bucks and get Think Two Products Ahead, because it goes into all this in way more detail. Diclosure: That’s a straight link to the book, we have no financial interest in you picking it up. But you do. So check it out.

But Before You Do … Tell Me About Your Brand

How do you define your brand? What makes you Snappleicious? Take a second, right now, and let us know – especially if you’ve never thought about this before. Right this minute is a kickin’ place to start.

Dave

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Comments

  1. says

    Great question Dave. It’s difficult to define your own brand sometimes.

    If I had to define Zoomstart, I’d say it’s about creating zoom.

    And it’s about doing it by looking outside the textbook rules and using the things that really work in the real world. Things that, a lot of times are counterintuitive …

    The fastest road is the road less travelled. Because there’s not a ot of traffic on it.

  2. says

    Hey Shane, thanks for commenting.

    How do I know when I’ve created zoom? How would I know if other’s haven’t (and how would they know they saw zoom in me?)

    And most importantly … what do *you* want the customer’s perception of zoom to be?

  3. says

    Dave,

    “How do I know when I’ve created zoom?”

    Trust me … you’ll know! haha

    The idea of “creating zoom” is not concrete. It’s like your Starbucks example (great company to do business with) … it’s about building an experience.

    Starbucks does it by making your coffee, your way. Where I’m at, is like the beginning of that. Just two or three “flavors”. I’m building more. And ideas for more.

    And gotta say, I like the challenging questions Dave. We need them to stop and think about what we’re doing and what we’re building.

  4. says

    i’m about three weeks out from launching my online bag company, durtbagz. we have created funny traffic signs and put them on tote and messenger bags. the biz model calls for the signs to be created by the general public in a monthly contest once we’re launched. my goal with branding durtbagz is for people to never look at street signs the same way again. for example, i want them to look at an ordinary sign and think, “oh, that would be funny if instead of saying ‘fresh oil’ it said ‘fresh bread’ or ‘fresh puke’ or ‘fresh breath’.” they don’t just see a street sign, they see the potential for a winning sign at durtbagz.

  5. says

    branding is hard from the start you want to know how you are defining yourself and your website, how do we want to be seen on the internet.

    branding can be hard at first – just because you are just blogging or on the internet for fun – but we automatically brand ourselves once we join social networks – we are exposed to what we are doing simply by commenting, joining other groups, pictures etc, everyday there is a brand we call us

    its just we need to define ourselves more when it comes to onlines businesses

  6. says

    @erin -
    I loed the “Flying Pedestrian” sign on flickr.

    @Iantrepreneur -
    Let me propose that branding is hard at first only if you don’t step back an think of what you are about, at the core (and just as important, what you are not).

    If you’re tooling around on social networks, your personal brand is as loosely defined as you want it to be, but in terms of your business brand, every single thing you do either reinforces your brand, or dilutes it.

    Many people think it’s difficult simply because they haven’t defined what their brand is and isn’t. But once you do that, and the line is drawn in the sand, your decisions actually become easier because you have a framework to work within.

    So Ian … what’s your brand all about? :-)

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