Chapter 11 Building Your Brand FunnelTM (your perception plan!)
In the world of marketing and brand development, there are a hundred different models used by companies around the world to create, build & manage the way their brands are perceived.
They all have certain elements in common, though, and these are the elements that you need to understand and focus on to build your own brand equity.
1. It all starts and ends with the Brand Capsule. The true essence of a brand, distilled down to three or four words. Every true brand has a capsule, and we know many of them without even realizing that in fact, the words themselves represent the truth behind the brands. For example… If I say the word ‘Nike’ to you, chances are you will say “Just Do It!”… Or you may even make a gesture with your hand that resembles a tick mark, or swoosh… and that would be enough for someone to understand everything you need him or her to get about the brand. What about Coke? “Happiness”. Mont Blanc? “I’m a success!” It works the other way around, too. “The Safe Car” will always be Volvo. Remember, this does not mean that BMW, Mercedes, Lexus or other car manufacturers are not safe – it’s just that their brands stand for other things in the consumers’ minds… So, what is your capsule? Start thinking about those few words that might be the essence of YOU. If you can’t identify it in a positive and unique way, chances are no one else can, either. You will see why this is really important as you read on.
2. Arguably the most important element of a perception plan is the Brand Positioning. This is how brands build their uniqueness, and make clear how they stand out from their competition. The Brand Positioning answers four major questions:
a. Who is the product for? (Your target market…)
b. What type of product is it? (How is it categorized?)
c. What benefit does it offer? (What itch do you scratch for them?)
d. Why should anyone believe you? (No, really!)
In your case, you need to really define your audience – based on a deep understanding of their needs – and then figure out your true uniqueness. This is the thing that makes you special, your gift, your talent… but in order to build and sustain meaningful relationships with your target audience, this uniqueness has to be meaningful to them – a true benefit to them. We will talk a lot more about this in Chapter 13, but start thinking about what makes you unique. And if you can’t think of at least one thing, don’t worry … it’ll come to you! Or we will make one come true before this book is done
3. The product is the third piece of the perception plan – the tangibles that the brand delivers. Coke will always own the stylized font that its name is written in, the red colour in which it is written (called Coca-Cola Red!), even the shape of the bottle is instantly recognizable, even if the bottle is nothing more than a pile of broken shards… So – what are the tangible reflections of you? The way you dress, obviously. Hair & make-up, yes. Accessories, perhaps even more so. Pretty much everything about you that another person – particularly your target audience – can sense with one of their five senses. So that includes your choice of soaps, shampoos, fragrances and so on. Think about how your tangibles are building or hurting the brand that is YOU.
4. The fourth piece of the puzzle that is a brand’s perception plan is – it’s heritage. Where does the brand come from? Where are its roots? So, when it comes to brand YOU, this hardly needs any explanation, right? Well, its not that simple, because sometimes we tend to play down what makes us unique so that we can fit in better, and nowhere is that more true than in our heritage. How many Hispanics speak ‘American’ with a stronger accent than others because they believe it’s the only way to fit in? What in your background makes you unique? Is it your ethnicity? Your language? Skin colour? The way you were raised, or where? Until you are ready to embrace that which makes you different – and hence unique – you are missing out on a great opportunity to brand yourself even more strongly.
5. A critical – and sometimes ignored – piece of the Brand FunnelTM is the Brand Personality & Values. Think of your favourite brand. Now imagine that brand is a person, and about to walk through the door. What do they look like? Male or female? Old or young? Educated or not? Urban or rural? Give them a personality and values, just like you would a real person. Now, take a step back and look at yourself. What are the top three personality attributes that you display, or are well known for? What values do you hold dear? These are not superficial things we are trying to get to here… these are the bedrock of your personality, the things that you can not, or choose not to, live without. Go deep. These are those aspects of you that you are not going to be YOU without. Conversely, these things make YOU… YOU.
6. So, looking at the areas above, we come to the Key Differentiators of a brand. These are the things that make any brand unique, and they can be drawn from any area of the above five. In fact, if any brand hopes to succeed in the long-term, it needs to know what those differentiators are, and learn how to leverage them to the max. So… what your key differentiators? Which of the five areas of the Brand FunnelTM make you unique?
Are you ready to start building your own Brand FunnelTM? Let’s get started!
Chapter 12 The Brand Capsule (the top-of-mind idea you own)
Let’s get into it.
If you were to sneak in to your target consumer’s room in the middle of the night and wake up that poor, sleepy and bemused person and yell your name in their face – what will they yell, mumble or slur back at you?
Think about that for a minute. (By the way, please don’t actually try this exercise on any of your stakeholders – it’s a theoretical exercise ☺ I suppose you might try it with your spouse or significant other, but you do risk being sent to the doghouse or worse…)
So, you yell you name at that them. What do they say back?
Your capsule – the essence of what they remember, believe and think about you – is what they spit back. It’s what they can access right away, and play back at you. It’s unvarnished, boiled down, the essence of what you represent to them.
It’s easy when we talk about brands, right?
“The cool computer.” Apple
“The real cola.” Coke
“Internet search.” Google
But does it work that well when we talk about people as brands? Let’s take a look…
Mohammed Ali (Cassius Clay) “Floats like a butterfly”…
Pele “The greatest soccer player ever”…
Steve Jobs “The creative genius behind Apple”…
Richard Branson “The maverick CEO of Virgin”…
But these are world famous celebrities, you say. How can I hope to emulate these guys? Well, take a look around your circle of friends and family, colleagues & co-workers.
They all have certain views about you. Do you know how they see you? I mean really know? The challenge is – each major group of stakeholders will have a different capsule for you – if they have one at all. BTW, they probably will have one, but it may not be the one you imagine, or wish for.
E.g. To your spouse or significant other, you might be
“The best hubby ever”, or
“The best mother to my kids!”, or even
“Bob the Builder”…
And how about “My cash machine” ☺
To your kids, you might be
“The best dad/mom ever”, or
“My dad the math expert”, or
“My mom the best cook”, or
“My dad the car nut”…
To your co-workers, you could be
“The accounting whiz”,
“The go-to guy in the team”, or
“The royal suck-up”…
And to your boss, your capsule might be
“My wing man”, or
“My go-to guy for any client issue”, or
“The top ranked sales rep in the country”…
Do you see how challenging this is? Trying to come up with a capsule that you can own is very difficult – and it needs to be ownable because otherwise your replacement can very easily step into your shoes – literally & metaphorically. The challenge is that while your capsule may be different – or at least appear to be – for each one of your stakeholders, it needs to be rooted in a set of values & beliefs that is consistent, and credible and again – ownable by you.
Now, while you think about your capsule – those critical two or three words that represent the essence of YOU – let’s move on and figure out how we are going to differentiate ourselves in the mass of humanity that we are competing with. We will come back to the capsule later, once you have gone through the rest of the process.
Remember, this is a process, and you may need to go through the cycle a couple of times to get to a point where you have something that you are comfortable building the rest of your life on. It will pay off.
On to the next step – developing a brand positioning that will set you apart and set you up for success.