A brand. Your organization has one, whether you know it or not, and whether or not you’ve ever thought about it or tried to do anything about it. You may not have a logo, a slogan, or other elements that we typically associate with branding, but you still have a brand, and it is communicating about your organization or community constantly.
For better or worse, your brand consists of the constellation of perceptions, attitudes and thoughts that arise in the minds of your target audiences when they think about your community or organization. If we reflect on great consumer brands we’re all familiar with – Coca Cola, Harley Davidson, Apple – it becomes clear that a brand is about much more than a trademark or tagline. By illuminating the characteristics of a product, the kinds of experiences we expect to have with it, and even the social implications of buying and using the product, great brands help us understand how products relate to, and even shape, our own personal identities.
So what do your prospects and stakeholders think and feel when they think of you? Do they think of you at all? If you are lucky enough to get your ad or homepage in front of your prospect, you will have a few precious moments to make an impression on them. Taking control of your brand and making sure it is telling the story you want to tell is the best way to make the most effective use of that chance.
While business development and talent attraction are certainly different from selling soda pop, all brands tend to function in similar ways. You can use these strategies to build a better brand for your organization or community.
- Great brands communicate your key value proposition. A logo can have a stunning, dynamic appearance, but if it isn’t telling your prospects a credible story about why they should give you a second look, it’s not good branding. That’s why a branding project should start with a clear understanding of who your prospects are, how you want their behavior to change, and what you can offer to encourage them to make the decisions you want. I am fortunate that the great research team at Ady Advantage provides me with the kind of solid economic, demographic and opinion data that helps me understand our clients’ strongest competitive advantages and which prospects are most likely to be attracted by them. This kind of research is the basis for positioning messages that will drive the rest of the branding process.
- A logo and a tagline can’t do all the work of branding by themselves. Instead, the brand elements become the focal points around which you can build a network of positive ideas and associations. This requires consistent communication over time. Another thing great brands do, then, is provide guidance to help you tell your story consistently in every element of your marketing, from collateral materials and website design right down to your business cards. By repeated exposure to your consistent messaging, your prospects will develop the kinds of responses that will firmly establish the value you offer them. This is called building brand equity, and it’s the name of the game.
- Perhaps most importantly, great brands differentiate. Both a site selector researching business locations and a young professional looking for a new home have many thousands of options competing for their attention. Why should they look at you instead of your competitors? It’s crucial that your brand and the story it tells about your community help you stand out from the pack as being different and better. This can be at odds with the temptation to go with something safe or to imitate brand elements from other communities. And it can be a challenge to find your unique story. But your brand can only be effective if it helps you be distinctive.
Great brands aren’t created; they are discovered and revealed through the process of understanding your prospects and the value you can offer them. Our experience and knowledge of how companies and individuals make location decisions enables the team at Ady Advantage to help our clients discover their own great brands. We’d welcome an opportunity to discuss your brand with you!