Foundational Branding: Steering the Ship
Operating a business is not for the faint of heart. You’ve got to keep the day-to-day going, all while maintaining a higher-level focus on the overall goals of the business. Brand positioning can help.
Steering the ship is a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. And if you’re reading this, that someone is most likely you.
There are a couple of major challenges in steering the ship. One is keeping everyone onboard going in the right direction. And the other is decision-fatigue. Business owners and leaders are faced with decision after decision until all of those decisions pile up and it’s tough to remember why you decided what.
So, ask yourself this: What are you basing your decisions on? How are you ensuring that your team knows what to do and say, and how to do and say it? Do you have a map that guides your navigation? Is there a beacon in the night that helps you steer?
For many businesses, decisions come down to someone’s personal preference at the time. This means that operational, marketing, and hr decisions are at the whim of whoever’s at the helm and are influenced by the latest and greatest advice they’ve heard. This is a problem. You see, consumers are drawn to consistency. And there’s no way to keep consistent when operating in this haphazard manner.
So, when things are inconsistent or are misaligned, that trust starts to disintegrate and customers or clients start to look elsewhere. While this might seem to be an operational issue, it’s a branding problem.
You see, in these instances, we can bet you that Foundational Branding, or brand positioning, is lacking. Foundational Branding includes a positioning statement, brand attributes, and visual direction. When these elements are set and based on who you are as an organization, and how you want to be perceived, they are powerful pillars that support everything you do.
You're no longer the only one who can steer the ship.
Let’s break it down.
The positioning statement is your one-liner. It's a piece of your brand positioning.
Why do you need a one-liner? Because not only are people going to ask you what you do, but people are also going to ask every single person who works for you what it is that they do. And people are going to ask your existing clients and customers what it is that you do.
Having one statement that every person can reiterate time and time again creates… you guessed it, consistency. And consistency builds recognition and trust. Recognition creates customer and trust creates loyalty. Yes, we know. We’ve said this before. But, you’re catching on, right? And that’s the point of consistent repetition.
Additionally, a positioning statement allows your prospects to easily comprehend what you do and how it can help them. Have you ever hopped on a website to learn about a company and bounced off feeling more confused than when you landed there? There you were, a potential customer, literally falling into the lap of the company, and they lost you, simply because they didn’t have a positioning statement in place on the website.
We’ve also said this before: If you confuse, you lose. The human mind is lazy, and it wants to get the information it desires easily and without any extra friction. A positioning statement tells a person who you are, what you do, and how you’re better than the competition, and it’s all conveyed in plain terms. Don’t make people jump through hoops just to figure out what you can do for them. Get your brand positioning in order and make sure you have a positioning statement.
Not all positioning statements are equal. A good positioning statement is clear and concise, but it’s also memorable. If the statement you set for your business isn’t memorable, no one will remember it. Rocket science, we know.
But seriously, if it’s not easy to remember, it will get messed up time and time again as your team and the public attempt to re-state it. And this will lead to an improper framing of your business, resulting in inconsistency, and ultimately the wrong message.
We Build Bold Brands. That’s our positioning statement.
And if we had it written on our hearts from the beginning, we would have been known for building bold brands years ago. Not for making business cards, creating marketing plans, printing direct mailers, managing ongoing marketing, creating email signatures, fabricating interior signage, making donut walls, etc. If we had crafted a positioning statement from day one, we would be so much further along today.
Now hold on a second.
All of the things that we did before setting our brand positioning and positioning statement were valuable iterations of the business. We learned so much about what we do well, and what should be left to someone else who does it well, too. We were also able to hone our branding skills along the way by doing whatever it took to work on the types of projects we wanted to work on. You don’t go from a singer with a dream and a guitar one day to performing at the Grammys the next. You have to (get to!) sing in a lot of Broadway bars along the way. Nashville reference, y’all.
As you come into your own and learn what your business does best, it’s time to focus there. It's a great time to make a stop at the brand positioning station and get things aligned. You don’t have to be on the Grammys stage to start focusing. You just need to have an understanding of where you thrive.
The focusing-in-work should start with the positioning statement. Having this in place will benefit all elements of the business; sales, operations, HR, and more. It brings a focus not just to your clients and potential clients, but to your internal operations as well.
Finally, as another piece of your brand positioning, create a small paragraph to support the positioning statement. We call this the persuasive paragraph. The persuasive paragraph is one bit of documentation that expounds upon what you do, why, and why you do it better than anything else. Having this persuasive paragraph nailed down is helpful to spin-off website copy, brochure copy, flyer copy, etc. It allows brand support content to be developed based on a center. It allows you to create all content in a more controlled manner.
The second element of Foundational Branding, or brand positioning, that really helps you steer the ship is a set of brand attributes. Honestly, these brand attributes are more for internal use than external communication with clients. However, you’ll see that while you might not plaster them up on your website, they will certainly influence what you do plaster up there.
The brand attributes are adjectives that describe who you are as an organization. Think of these as new school core values. They provide a basis for decision-making at both a higher-level and on the ground floor. Not only can you reference your brand attributes in determining how to steer the ship, but your team can reference the brand attributes in determining how to respond to a situation with a client or coworker, what to wear to work and what to leave at home, how to craft brand voice, and more.
Once again, you can loosen the grip on the wheel.
Brand attributes help guide decisions. They let your employees know at the door what they need to drop and what they should suit up in. They let you know how to act on behalf of the company. Without the brand attributes in place, there is really no basis for making decisions regarding what you will and will not do as a company.
Your brand attributes are adjectives that encapsulate your company’s personality.
And since people might have different views of what each of these adjectives means to them, the brand attributes must be defined based on who you are as an organization. For example, the term Nimble might mean one thing to employee #1 and something different to employee #7. And no, you can’t just flip through Websters and grab the definitions. You’ve got to describe each brand attribute so that there is zero question about how the word pertains to your business.
In sum, brand attributes are similar to brand values or core pillars, they are just a more modern take on the fundamentals. It's no argument that they are a crucial part of your brand positioning.
The third branding tool that business owners can use to steer the ship is visual direction.
The brand’s visual direction is the map, the blueprint, the beacon in the night, and the guiding light in terms of the visual display of your company. It is your directional board and everything you create should be able to be held up next to the board and fit.
There is nothing that should be mismatched or misaligned in terms of visuals that are released on behalf of the company. Ideally, this would pertain to anything that’s released either for public consumption or internal consumption by your team.
Practically speaking, having an approved visual direction in place that aligns with your brand position and brand attributes is an easy way for people who don’t have a design eye to determine if creative matches or if it is misaligned.
Brand Positioning is Crucial to Success
Without these three Foundational Branding elements firmly in place, there is no chance that you’ll be able to effectively steer the ship.
And if you can guide your business without a strong brand position in place, it will be because you are shouldering the burden. And this just isn’t sustainable. Admit it. Your shoulders hurt.
Instead, chart a course that will end in success. Use Foundational Branding to help steer the ship. You’ll undoubtedly see an increase in happy customers and loyal employees, and a reduction in the amount of stress put on the leadership team.