It's My Brand or Yours — an Overview

Why do you want to develop your Brand? Because if you don’t, your latent image serves as your brand. Everyone has an inherent brand. A brand is a proper noun that reflects the perception of how an audience: market, client and customer, thinks of that proper noun.
Everyone and everything can be said to be a brand. You have an opinion about everything that comes in contact with you, and you selectively filter, categorize, and accept or reject these brands as you come in contact with them.

When we think of brands, we think of the big recognizable brands. We see the importance of their name recognition and the value they have to influence buying decisions.

Do you prefer Coke to Pepsi, Lexus to Cadillac, or more recently, companies make branding decisions that significantly affect the market perception of their company such as Nations Bank changing their name to Bank of America upon Nations’ acquisition of BA. SBC acquired AT&T to gain the global status and stature of the AT&T name and its expanded market recognition. Currently, how will the acquisition of EDS by HP benefit each?

Individually, we all carry our own brand, but we also reflect the brand of the company for which we represent. We can see the importance and influence a brand has in our everyday dealings with recognizable companies such as New York Life, Mary Kay or Toshiba. These companies’ branding identities are well recognized and are enablers for their representatives, helping provide them instant recognition and credibility as they approach their markets. These representatives still have to live up to the position their brands offer.

We all need that same branding leverage.
Most of us start out as generic brands. In the past when a client asked me, “What kind of business are you in?” I’d answer, “I’m in the graphic design business.”
“What kind of design do you offer?” “All kinds, you name it, I can do it, would be the answer.”
“Who do you do it for?” “I can serve any client!”

My thought was that I am a well-rounded designer, but the reality is that all graphic designers say the same thing. So rather than offering a unique, quality service, I offered a generic, quality service. The same service all other competent graphic designers offered.
Was there a difference between what I had to offer and what others had to offer? Yes and no.

As a generic brand, without any factors to differentiate Graphic Designer, my value was dependent upon the “lowest common denominating price.” In my case, mitigated by quality, but still positioned within a large field of competitors.

Rise Above
With everything being equal, a primary branding objective was to escape from being a generic brand and become a differentiated, value-based brand.
There are three levels of branding:

  • Generic Offering of a Product and Service
  • Value-Added Services, the extras that come with your products and services that set you apart
  • Customer Affinity, their recognition of your benefit to their own sales and marketing efforts

Levels two and three begin with identifying intangibles in your market and then delivering those solutions and benefits as a wrapper of your products and services:

  • Understand your customers needs and build an advisory role that helps create a position of dependability and indispensability for your services
  • Identify additional things your customer needs related to your product/service
  • Proactively suggest how your products or services might benefit a future need
  • Simplify your clients interaction with you and your product or service
  • Think long-term rather than short-term
  • Build relationships with your customers based on their needs

With these, your brand builds value and allows you to price based on the benefits you offer.

Your customers and clients have to believe in the added-value you offer is better than your generic competition.

Let's say that you have assessed your market and have these capabilities, but your potential clients or customers don't realize that you offer these advantages. How do you convince your existing and new markets of your value?

Positioning
Positioning is how your customer thinks or perceives the value you offer, and how that value will help them to:

  • Achieve their sales goals
  • Improve their market position
  • Improve their stature within their company
  • Delivery self-satisfaction in making the right decision