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Defining your Brand; are you looking in the right place?

Having worked in the area of Brand for several years, I’ve seen how many different businesses choose to approach this most basic of strategic questions; what is our Brand, and how do we define it for our audience?  For some, it becomes a genuine quest to define their passion and motivations so that their business can truly express and embody this; for others, it’s a search for the perfect strap-line and a meaningful logo to appeal to their target audience.  However you choose to approach it, today I’m going to let you in on a secret:

Your Brand is not defined by how you have decided it should be perceived and experienced by your target audience. Your Brand is defined by how it is actually perceived and experienced by your actual customers.

There. I’ve said it.  The Emperor has no clothes.

That’s not to say that the process of Brand Development is not important; it unquestionably is. In fact, the larger your business, the more important it is to ensure that your Brand is articulated and instilled into your business at every level.  Corporate Values and Policies can and should be enforced, Corporate Cultures can and should be nurtured, and Marketing & Advertising can and should be targeted.  But to large extent, that is where your sphere of control ends.  Your Brand is not necessarily perceived as you have defined it should be, and your audience isn’t necessarily who you want it to be.

Consider the sudden popularity of Burberry in the early 2000’s.  I can only imagine the horror of the Marketing Teams when their products were pictured worn by the latest cast of Big Brother, or when their signature print became synonymous with ‘Chav’ culture[i].  Nightclubs banned Burberry caps due to the stereotype of the wearers, and in 2004, Burberry stopped making them.

Infographic from Wall Street Journal.

Stories abound of competitors’ PR teams purchasing the products of their rivals and gifting them to ‘off-brand’ celebrities to avoid their own Brand being tarnished.  Their traditional customers shied away from this perception, and retailers claimed that sales were reduced by up to 40%[ii].  And the story didn’t stop there. Prada were reported to have stopped selling black trainers in the UK due to the same issue; the ‘wrong’ people were wearing them.

“When you are a brand appealing to many people around the world, it’s impossible to control what gets into the imagination of people,”

Prada spokesman[iii].

Your actual customer base can truly play havoc with your Brand Strategy.  Highly elitist examples I’m afraid, but the same principle applies when a politician wears the latest pair of trainers or claims to enjoy the hipster band of the moment.

In truth, for everyone other than your Marketing Team, your Brand is defined by how your business and services are perceived by your entire audience.  It’s an individual’s experience with an individual staff member in an individual interaction. It’s their perception of your media and social media presence, and their perception of the quality of your product. And these individual perceptions compound.

Your Brand is what your customers thinks it is, not what you want them to think it is, and the only way to define and understand that is to engage with them.  Not by measuring ‘satisfaction’ or expecting their favourable answers from a series of defined questions, but by simply asking them, “what do you think?”

The answers may paint a complex picture, but it will be an accurate one, and one with which you can engage and influence.

If you can do this, perhaps you can control your Brand after all.

Staffino provides real-time, unbiased insight into the hearts and minds of your customers, though a unique approach which lets you engage with them directly about the issues they care about most.

Used by 70 organisations in over 2,000 locations, Staffino is a comprehensive, cloud-based Customer Insight platform, both easy to use and quick to set up. It provides usable, targeted data on how your customers feel about your organisation, by making it easier for them to tell you, and easier for you to understand.

For further information contact [email protected]