Let’s start by getting this out of the way - yes, they do exist, those brand successes that come out of nowhere. The no-name products which acquire cult status all of a sudden within a particular scene, before going on to conquer the mass market. For a manufacturer this is about as likely as being hit by lightning, twice, in the same foot. What a future brand needs more than ever in our information-laden world is a strategy. Here are some of the key ingredients:
- Competitor analysis
It is so banal and nevertheless frequently overlooked – analysis of existing and potential future competitors. Particularly of interest:
- What visual style is used in packaging, advertisements, videos, POS material, etc.?
- What key messages and selling points are being used to promote the products?
- What media, sales channels and cooperation partners are involved?
Watch out here – this is not about classifying the products based on their objectively measurable characteristics. The only thing that matters is the image in the consumer’s head. The key questions:
- Are there positions in this matrix or space that are not only unoccupied but would also be attractive for the brand we are looking to build?
- Are the capacities needed to establish this position available?
- Does the company serve as a credible promoter of this brand or would it be better if it took a back seat?
Do you know how memory champions remember endlessly long lists of numbers? They give the numbers an identity, e.g. a “2” might become a swan, and then link them to create a storyline. People love stories. They have grown up with them, they provide a context for people and things, they explain backgrounds and entertain. The same holds for brand stories.
One fascinating example: TRX is really just a type of strap which can be attached to a door frame, among other things, to allow you to use your own body weight to exercise your muscles. So far, so good. Then you find out that Randy Hetrick, the inventor of the product, used to be a member of the Navy SEALs, an elite US Army squad, and invented this for use by soldiers in combat regions, where it has even been attached to a tank - and suddenly this strap becomes the ultimate product for a really serious workout. If you take a good hard look, you are bound to hit on a story for your company or product idea as well.
We live in a world of imagery. Attracting attention may mean being flashy or even completely minimalistic. In any case, your brand’s visual appearance is the vehicle with which you transport the desired positioning to your target group. Pay attention to every detail in order to authentically convey the image you wish to present - the wrong shoes can ruin even the prettiest dress.
At a strategic level, this is not about advertisement placement schedules, but the basic selection of channels. How will you mix owned, paid and earned media, i.e. your own media such as a website and newsletter, paid media like advertising and TV and media you have to earn e.g. in the press or on social media? When selecting, it is not enough to consider where you will reach your target groups, but also which environment is right for the image you wish to build of your brand.
But that comes right at the end, doesn't it? Sure, but which brand-building goals should be achieved in which time frame must already be defined when developing the strategy, along with the instruments that will be used to measure these. Besides hard sales figures, the brand triad of awareness, appeal and usage are obviously of interest as well.
It is hard work to define a brand strategy, but it is worth every bit of effort as it provides the necessary framework for all of the measures that follow.
About the author:
As a business studies graduate, Christian Ulrich started out as a consultant at Serviceplan for customers such as BMW, Head and Ray Ban, followed by stops within the industry as the head of advertising for investment funds at HypoVereinsbank as well as a global marketing head of the Fischer Group. Today, he is Consulting Director at “Die roten Reiter” as well as Marketing Director of Spielwarenmesse eG..