Article by Mary Ann O’Brien, CEO and Founder of OBI Creative
Brands and business owners find themselves swimming in uncharted waters these days. Not only has COVID-19 upended the sales cycle and messaging points for nearly all of us, but the wave of social justice initiatives sweeping the nation has made it more precipitous than ever for brands trying to maintain mindshare and effective positioning.
For the past decade, brands have been working hard to form emotional connections with consumers.
We’ve asked consumers to invite our brands in and form emotional, personal and intimate connections with them. We’ve taught them to think of brands as extensions of themselves. From the coffee they drink to the clothes they wear to where they shop for groceries, consumers have been trained to choose brands that align with their deeply held beliefs and that reflect their unique personalities.
And consumers have embraced this training. A majority of them want companies to stand up for the issues they are passionate about and are attracted to brands they perceive as transparent. Indeed, consumers aren’t just attracted to a brand’s products or services anymore; they are attracted to the brand itself.
A good example of this is Patagonia, which has made purpose part of its identity. This was reflected when it changed its positioning statement a few years ago from “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis” to “Patagonia is in business to save our home planet.”
Now that we find ourselves in the midst of social upheaval, brands that haven’t established an authentic identity are paying the price when the statements they make don’t ring true with what their customers think and feel.
Time to reassess the positioning statement
The time has never been more critical for brands to involve their target demographics in their branding decisions and marketing strategies. Hiring smart, talented professionals who represent your customer base can help your brand make the right steps in the weeks and months ahead.
Now is the time to reassess your marketing strategies to ensure they still create value for your customers in these unprecedented times. Since brand positioning embodies crafting associations in your customers’ minds that cause them to view your brand in specific ways, it’s critical to make sure your messaging, strategy and tactics position your brand as favourable, different and credible right now.
The very best brands are using their positioning to play an invisible hand in our lives and create value that can be felt and championed.
How can you do this?
3 ways to strengthen brand positioning
Strengthening your brand positioning starts very simply, by understanding what your customers want; knowing who you are and what you offer; and finding the intersection points where your interests and those of your prospects align.
Don’t assume you know what your customers want or where your interests and theirs align. Invest in research to reveal the answers. Don’t make the mistake so many businesses do – use the insights you discover in research to inform and guide your marketing messaging, strategy and tactics.
Create beautiful, authentic campaigns that attract your customers to you. Reinforce what makes your brand not just unique, but attractive. Keep saying, showing, doing and making the things that your customers can identify with and champion to others.
After knowing what your customers want, create value
You must give your customers a compelling reason to choose your brand. Go beyond solving a problem or overcoming a challenge if you can. Do those things, but do more than that. Continue to provide emotional value. Strive to inspire your customers. Forming this kind of connection makes your relationship stickier.
It’s harder for you to shepherd, but the payoff is worth the effort. Spend time digging deep to discover what your customers treasure and do your best to offer that.
Align operations with your positioning
You can have the best campaign in the world, but if your operations, sales, and service don’t embody your brand, you will lose your customers. Your brand identity and positioning should inform everything from hiring to training to logistics to customer service.
The best brands deliver a consistently satisfying experience to their customers at every single point along the customer journey. Every touchpoint matters. Every invoice, call, text, product package and service interaction is an opportunity to communicate your brand identity, values and positioning to your customers.
If you occupy an industry where everyone competes on price or features, stand out with a strong, clear identity statement.
You might offer the same widgets as your competitors but the experience you provide around and along with those widgets can make all the difference in the minds of your customers.
Who answers the phones at your business is just as important as your product or service quality in the minds of your customers. Make sure you live up to who you say you are.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to stand out. When you know who you are, and what your customers want, you can distinguish yourself with confidence, knowing your positioning will enable you to succeed.