Brand Strategy Before Business Strategy

Brand Strategy Before Business Strategy

Until a few years ago, my answer to the common question on how business strategy and branding strategy are related was that the business strategy comes first, because that is a ‘long term plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal or set of goals or objectives’. Making money is usually the main such goal. A business strategy is the management’s game plan for strengthening the performance of the enterprise, including creating the business model and identifying the main customer target audience. Being only a brand advisor, I simply wanted to show a lot of respect for the other parts of the business.

Over the past few years, I have changed my mind about what comes first. I now promote the idea that the brand strategy comes first, and the business strategy or plan, including goals of performance and the business model, comes second. The reason for this change is that, in my practice and experience, I have seen too many businesses fail. Not because they haven’t been able to come up with a very good business model and strategy for making money, but because they haven’t been attentive enough to customer needs and customer perception.

In other words: an enterprise must address these wider and underlying customer needs, and come up with an idea, a concept and a customer experience that leads to a high level of customer acceptance. This acceptance, enthusiasm and loyalty results in a long-term relationship between the customer and the brand of the enterprise.

This last part is what a brand means today. If you research, develop and launch a business that does all this, you are almost guaranteed a success. There is a risk that setting up a business and trying to make money with a smart business model becomes the end in itself. Technology and development follows, with a little bit of made-up customer trailing behind, as opposed to thoroughly researching the customer experience.

Instead, begin with understanding the true customer experience. Who are the customers and users? What are their deeper needs? How do you ensure your customer experience has less friction and is more enjoyable when compared with existing alternatives? And how would that be perceived as different? Only when you understand the customer experience can you consider the technology and, finally or in parallel, look at how to combine the whole thing into a business with a good, smart business model.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Thomas Gad, excerpted from his book Customer Experience Branding, with permission from Kogan Page publishing.

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Why Influencer Marketing Is Still Important For Brands

As mobile marketing is becoming more center stage for brands it’s more important than ever to stand out to your personal brands’ audience in a remarkable way. Connecting with the right people in your industry is just the beginning to building an effective strategy that is authentic, and able to solve the most pressing problems.

How can your brand gain more visibility through meaningful connections? By establishing relationships with individuals and business leaders. With communication and conversations your brand could generate more sales when recommended by a trusted source.

As a personal brand interacts online there are a few simple strategies to follow when attracting the right people to your brand.

How to Leverage Influencer Marketing

Word of mouth recommendations are brought about through a good image for your personal brand, which is built over time through daily interactions. Use these tips to attract the right people to your business:

  • Keep visual marketing in the forefront – Because of the instant nature of this type of media it’s much easier to connect with industry leaders with the right storytelling methods. Search for and use the top trending content that fit into your niche — The more original your own brand content is the more likely this will also get noticed with the right keywords.
  • Organic methods on social media still work – One of the best ways to connect with others and to find out more about what your audience is in relevant groups on social media. The key to success is to focus on those that have a large and active membership with a high level of engagement. It is important to include helpful information in order to to generate more interest such as videos, tips, questions, ect.
  • Publish live and pre-recorded videos – Video marketing is a great way to cross promote your content and double your visibility on other platforms, including your blog. Do your research and look for categories that have a lot of engagement and shares. Pay attention the the latest trending topics, as these can especially change with each season.
  • Daily activity and interactions – Use creative methods to stay in communication with your audience such as email updates, automation, and offline meetings. This sends a message that your brand is both professional and trustworthy to your influencers. Invite others to your webinars, podcasts, and live events including specific hashtag chats on Twitter in order to establish your brand as a leading authority.

Forging the right relationships online takes time, diligence and patience, but in the end will create more opportunities for your personal brand. In an environment that is highly automated personal connections are becoming more valuable, and can help your brand rise to the top of the visibility scale.

The post Why Influencer Marketing Is Still Important For Brands appeared first on Personal Branding Blog – Stand Out In Your Career.

Leading Brands Remove Life’s Frictions

Leading Brands Remove Life's Frictions

Macro friction is at the category level. Micro friction is at the brand level. As in economics, friction can be categorized into macro and micro. Macro friction sits at the category level. It’s the gap between the way things are and the way they should be in an entire industry. Removing it helps people have better vacations, gain better control of their finances or become better musicians. It helps people become a better version of themselves. Removing macro friction creates an emotional connection to a brand.

By contrast, micro friction sits at the brand level. It’s not the big-headline, empowering stuff. It’s the difference between the way things are and the way things should be in how brands sell and support products. It’s anything that makes it hard to make the right purchase decision or get the most value out of products that are already purchased. Removing micro friction creates a rational connection to a brand.

To understand the difference between macro and micro, let’s look at Uber, since it’s a brand we all use and understand. The macro friction is that millions of people need a more convenient tool for short-range travel. So they created a safe, easy, reliable way for people to get a ride. Both drivers and riders simply need to use a straightforward mobile app. That’s what removes macro friction. They elevated an entire category.

Yet, it’s the micro friction aspects of the experience that are equally powerful. It only requires one click to provide your home address or share your music playlist with the driver. You never need to take out your wallet to pay, and you don’t need to calculate the tip. What I find truly fascinating is that both drivers and riders are extremely nice to each other because they are policed by the five-star ratings.

It’s the granular micro friction–fighting tactics that make it such an appealing experience. The user base for Uber is so passionate that the only advertisements you see for the brand are to recruit drivers to keep up with the consumer demand. That’s the power of removing both macro and micro friction.

Let’s Dive Deeper Into Macro Friction

Patagonia removes it by fighting the ironic aspect of the category, which is that manufacturing products to enjoy in the great outdoors actually harms the great outdoors. Take, for example, those amazing board shorts that dry within minutes of getting out of the ocean. Mother Nature didn’t make those shorts. When Patagonia makes those, it creates by-products, some of which are harmful to the environment.

So how does Patagonia manage this friction? Not by refusing to make board shorts, but by empowering intelligent choice. It created a tool called the Footprint Chronicles that shows customers the entire supply chain for its products so that customers can find out how Patagonia products impact the environment and what Patagonia is doing to improve. This empowers customers to decide if they want to buy or not, without the hype or obfuscation of marketing messages.

This isn’t simply a campaign. It’s part of a platform. At the moment that I sit writing this, the first panel of their current website’s home page isn’t gear or apparel. It’s a book called Patagonia Tools for Grassroots Activists: Best Practices for Success in the Environmental Movement. In their retail stores, they have bookshelves dedicated to similar content. They also produce documentary films that they promote through every possible channel they own and screen in their stores.

They use every touchpoint between the brand and the audience to hammer home a single point: We need a healthier environment. Patagonia is clearly passionate about the great outdoors. That’s core to their culture. But it’s also good business, because removing macro friction creates an army of evangelists that carry the brand forward much more effectively than paid advertising.

When I go fly fishing, it’s shockingly consistent how heavily the guides are covered in Patagonia labels. By definition, those guides are the most influential people on the river. And you’re damn right that people are influenced to purchase what the guides wear. Interestingly enough, as Patagonia became a massive success, other brands misinterpreted the results and tried to be green, too. That’s not the point. People don’t expect that, and they don’t reward it. They don’t wake up in the morning expecting brands to hug the trees and save the manatees. Coke is out saving polar bears, but no one actually thinks Coke really cares.

Rather, this is a relationship story. Brands speaking to the audience in a way that’s never been done before. Enriching people’s lives in a relatively small but authentic way. Patagonia’s key competitor, The North Face, demonstrates this point brilliantly. It competes in the same exact category, but it tackles a completely different source of macro friction. The North Face realized that to fully enjoy the outdoors requires intense training.

They have Mountain Athletics, which is a series of training events led by experts that take place rain or shine. They have a speaker series where the audience gets inspired by tales from some of the world’s great adventurers, and they fund nonprofits to enable the next generation of outdoor explorers. Some of North Face’s content and tools have changed over time. I was enamored with a series of North Face training videos that feature the world’s best athletes in sports such as rock climbing and skiing. Apparently, they didn’t catch on as the brand hoped, so the videos are less prominent. But that’s the beauty of an empowering platform rather than a campaign. The core philosophy lives on in perpetuity while the individual activations morph and optimize.

The key to removing macro friction is that it elevates the entire category, regardless of whether the people using the content are customers of the brand that created it. Patagonia’s environmental platform helps anyone interested in the health of the planet. The North Face’s performance platform helps anyone interested in outdoor fitness.

It certainly appears unfocused to invest in content that could be used by a competitor’s customers, but the point is to prove at an instinctual level that the brand truly cares about its positioning and its customers. You can find macro friction in any category. It’s why products and services are developed in the first place: to solve problems and fill a need. But consumers want more than products now. They want experiences. Not arbitrary experiences. Not simply fun or entertaining experiences. They want experiences that move their lives forward, one small step at a time.

Only Half The Equation Is Removing Macro Friction

Admittedly, it’s the fun half. Removing micro friction is the more rational but equally important component of the equation. Micro friction sits at the brand level. It is anything that impacts someone’s ability to purchase or use a product.

It’s everywhere. It’s the plastic packaging that requires a machete to open. It’s the instruction manual that requires a Mensa genius to comprehend it. It’s the airline boarding pass that requires a magnifying glass to find the gate number. It’s the telephone support that leaves a caller on hold indefinitely. It’s the person behind the counter who doesn’t smile when asked a basic question.

Fighting micro friction has increased in importance because the relationship between brands and consumers has become increasingly complex. Not long ago, there were primarily two key touchpoints between a brand and its audience: advertising and retail. Brands like The Gap could develop a clean, organized, bright retail environment with relatively cool products and dominate the competition.

Now, there’s an almost infinite number of ways that brands touch consumers, and most of them are digital in nature. This digital-centric relationship has created exponentially growing sources of micro friction. It can be found on the website that isn’t optimized for mobile, in videos that take too long to get to the point, in the hidden ratings and reviews, in the confusing error warnings, in clumsy checkout processes, in pop-up windows, in failed log-ins, in malfunctioning voice recognition replies, and thousands of other places that create stress.

The Frictionless Revolution

We are witnessing entire industries being revolutionized by brands that remove macro and micro friction. Take restaurants for example. The macro friction is that food should nurture, but oftentimes it simply makes us unhealthy. So brands like Sweetgreen offer completely organic meals that are served as quickly and conveniently as fast food. But it’s the micro friction–fighting tactics that bring the macro friction platform to life. There is virtually no friction in the entire experience.

The containers are completely recyclable. You can’t buy bottles of water, but they’ll give you a cup for free water. There’s information about calorie counts and food sources. You don’t even need to wait online. Their mobile app enables users to place orders and pick them up at predetermined times with complete meal customization.

One might think this is some elitist brand that doesn’t represent mainstream users. When I sat down to conduct research with customers at one of their locations to discuss this exact topic, a maintenance worker from my building walked in to pick up the lunch he ordered on his app. I’ll take that as a pretty strong data point coupled with some ironic timing.

Consumers have too many options to have patience with a bad brand relationship. If they run into headwinds, they can quickly shift to a different brand or merchant. It only requires one simple click for users to abandon a brand and less than a minute at the keyboard to complain about their experience to millions of others.

Removing either macro or micro friction will make a good brand. Removing both creates a passion brand, one with a user base that is not only loyal but actively proselytizes. It doesn’t work to fight one without the other, because each depends on the other. Removing macro friction without addressing micro friction will make the brand seem inauthentic. Removing micro friction without addressing macro friction will fail to make an emotional connection.

People are bombarded with brand messages every moment they’re awake. Decisions are made in seconds. People read social posts, not Shakespeare. All this has changed the way brains function.

Human beings are not patient. They don’t need to be. There are too many new startups that focus on removing friction through digital tools. There are too many competitors in any category. Removing macro and micro friction is not only about creating a passion brand, it is critical for survival. It doesn’t matter what category you are in, Uber is your competition. Customers have no empathy for your brand. They only have heightened expectations.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Jeff Rosenblum and Jordan Berg, excerpted from their book Friction: Passion Brands in the Age of Disruption, published by powerHouse Books

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How To Create Names Like Facebook, Instagram & Snapchat

Instagram and Snapchat are identical constructions. Each simply substitutes new words from an accepted utility name: Instant Message. Insta & Snap are synonyms for Instant, and Gram & Chat are substitutes for Message.

Since Instant Message is already a universally adopted name, you know that Instagram and Snapchat will be accepted as well. If what you’re naming doesn’t map to a two-word generic, break it down into one first.

You can do this by re-purposing an unrelated, well-known compound word, as in Apple’s Wi-Fi base station being called “Airport” – a port accessed through the air. It’s easy to remember and readily embraced because everyone knows the word Airport already.

Proposing a name like Airport to a committee will be met with immediate pushback such as, “Everyone hates the experience of an airport” or, “Last time I was there they cancelled my flight, I had to sleep on the floor and I missed my child’s birthday” or “The first thing I think of is stress, long lines and bad service”- as if any of this will make the name less successful, which of course it doesn’t.

As soon as the name Airport is applied to a Wi-Fi device the primary definition disappears, your audience puts the clever double meaning together in their heads in an “aha!” moment, and they smile at the warmth & humanity you’ve brought to the game. Airport contains all of the ingredients of an unforgettable, best of breed name.

Because this simple concept is inherently difficult for bureaucracies, names like Airport are rare indeed – but they do happen.

Managing Brand Perceptions

Managing Brand Perceptions

The word ‘branding’ no longer properly describes what practitioners of branding mean today. Nor does it describe what they want the word to stand for.

It’s the etymology of the word branding that gives the wrong impression. It comes from the language of my ancestors, the Vikings in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. The Old Norse word ‘brandr’ (meaning ‘to burn’) referred to the practice of using a hot iron rod to impress the owner’s markings or symbols (brands) on cattle, slaves, timber, crockery and more. This practice goes back as far as at least ancient Egypt.

What started as symbol of cattle ownership, warning potential thieves to keep their hands off, evolved over time into a sign of social, political and commercial inclusion. It became a marker of relationships, not just with the owner or producers, but also between people. Depending on context, brands can indicate practices, status, reputation and experiences. They can show relationships between producers, customers, consumers and opinion makers. They can describe quality, availability, price and service, as well as policies, personas, values, beliefs and the general allure of any political, social, commercial or cultural enterprise.

In addition, branding can be activated by a mix of production, service management, media choice, content creation, public relations, logistics and information technology, including social media.

In 2000 I founded the Medinge Group, a think-tank, with some of the world’s leading new thinkers in branding. One of the first things we did was challenge the word branding, only to conclude, a few sessions later, that we could not actually find a better word to describe what branding stands for in our modern minds, despite all the wrong connotations. The good thing is that our brains recognize the word branding through pattern recognition. The history of a word is less important than what you make it into. In this sense, it’s just the same as any brand that gets its value from what you make of it.

Managing Brand Perceptions In People’s Minds

During all the years of my practice, by far the best definition of branding I have used is ‘managing perceptions in people’s minds’. It tells us where the effect of branding takes place – in people’s minds – and it tells us what that effect is – managing perceptions.

A good way to understand what branding does is to consider the opposite: what happens if you do not use branding at all? The amazing thing is that branding takes place anyway. But instead of the brand owner or manager intentionally guiding people, people use their imagination to fill the empty space, this vacuum of information, with their own ideas and fantasies.

This is always the case in situations when there is no available information; the empty space is filled with speculations, and the ideas based on them. People start to speculate, and share their speculations with others. Sometimes, outside commentators try to help by producing statements and comments, still without access to precise facts or real insight into the thinking of the decision makers.

I have never met, or heard of, any brand builders who found the right branding by launching their products with no planned branding effort. I have met their opposites, though, who complain that their brand is not perceived the way it should be, or that their brand is not in the forefront of people’s minds as it is supposed to be.

Managing is a key word in explaining what branding is all about. In most companies, there are many different management processes: human resources management, finance management, production management, procurement management, etc. Since branding is one of the most important processes in creating value, both in terms of equity and of the business’s result (profit), it should definitely be considered an important core management process. Unfortunately, in many companies, it is not.

Sometimes this is the result of a traditional point of view. Branding is considered part of the marketing process, and yes, of course, it is an essential part of marketing. But there is much more to branding than just marketing; it is traditionally the basis of the company culture. Branding is usually where the company’s vision, mission and values are stated. It is, simply, a sub-set Branding of management strategy in any kind of enterprise, not just commercial. Favorite alternative phrases for branding include ‘company DNA’, ‘company soul’ or brand essence.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Thomas Gad, excerpted from his book Customer Experience Branding, with permission from Kogan Page publishing.

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Take Control of Your Personal Brand’s Search Results

What is a simple, but effective way of taking control of search results for your name?

These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at

1. Claim Your Business on Reviews Sites

Most often when you search for a business name on Google, Bing, etc. the first thing you see is the business’s website and a few important links from that website. You’ll also notice many review sites below the main website links such as Trustpilot, Glassdoor and the BBB. Make sure to sign up and claim your business on those sites to help control what shows in the search results. – Jared WeitzUnited Capital Source

2. Turn on Google Alerts

Use Google alerts to notify you whenever your name shows up in search results. Then if your name shows up for a negative incident, you should first send a takedown notice and then potentially do damage control by sharing your side of the story or also creating content to override and drown it out. – Cody McLainSupportNinja

3. Optimize Your LinkedIn Account

LinkedIn profiles typically rank high in search results, so you want to make sure your profile is as complete and as polished as possible. Specifically, create an eye-catching headline and summary. Make sure your profile includes at least a few recommendations. It also helps to personalize your URL (make sure it includes your name), and set your entire profile to “public.” – Shu SaitoGodai Soaps

4. Take Blogging Seriously 

The thing about Google is that people don’t often look further than page three. If you want to control the search results to your name, you want to focus on creating blog articles and images that are on the first few pages. Create an in-depth “About Me” page as well as blog posts while researching keywords to focus on writing content people will be searching for. – Jared AtchisonWPForms

5. Create Detailed Profiles on All Relevant Social Media Platforms

Have a comprehensive profile on social media to dominate search results for your name — sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr and Flickr. If you have a common name, include your middle name. This all may be simple, but it will require time and effort invested, good SEO and backlinks to rank these pages. – Diego OrjuelaCables & Sensors

6. Start Guest Posting on Credible Sites

Guest posting on credible sites and publications will allow you to take control of search results for your name. The guest posts you write for credible sites will rise to the top of search results so that when people search for your name, they’ll see that you’re associated with the best, most high-quality sites. – Syed BalkhiWPBeginner

7. Discover How People Are Finding You

Do prospects search for your product or service by its name? Or, do they search for their problem and possible solutions? If you want to show up in more search results, create content that search engines determine to be relevant and useful. – Stanley MeytinTrue Film Production

8. Spread Your Digital Footprint With Backlinks to Your Website

When anyone searches your name, ideally your website shows up first. A few ways to assure that happens: buy the domains for your name, backlink all your social media sites to your website, backlink your name and get some coverage via podcasts, blogs, radio and other outlets and have them backlink your website and name to your main site. This will ensure your website ranks for you name. – David EhrenbergEarly Growth Financial Services

9. Use a Tool to Monitor What’s Being Said About You Online

Use a tool to monitor what’s being said about you online. While you can’t control what other people say about your company, you can control how you respond and handle the situation. If someone left a bad review of you somewhere online, you can discover it and reply to them in an attempt to reach a resolution. – John TurnerSeedProd LLC

10. Google Yourself in Incognito Mode

First, you need to see what comes up when you search your name. Sign out of your Google account or open an incognito window and search for your name. Look through the results and see what comes up. You might find that years ago you’ve created online accounts that you no longer want to be associated with. When you do discover those unwanted results, delete those accounts or remove your info. – Chris ChristoffMonsterInsights

11. Be Selective With Your Media Interviews

To effectively manage your public image, including the search results for your name, be selective about the media interviews you give. Work with bloggers and reporters who understand your accomplishments, ambitions and values so they can articulate those well. It’s easy for audiences to misinterpret things, so just be mindful about how others present information about you. – Firas KittanehAmerisleep

12. Flood Google with Information

To own the SERP for searches of your company name, you must flood Google with information and make it believe that you should be at the top. Do these by getting PR, creating profiles on high authority sites like Crunchbase or Wikipedia, publishing guest posts, adding schema to display the Knowledge Graph and creating a Google My Business listing. – Colton GardnerNeighbor

13. Turn to Professionals for Help 

If your personality attracts more and more attention and it’s not always positive, the good news is that you can fix that. There are lots of strategies you can use to take control of search results for your name, but the most effective ones take a lot of time. If you don’t have any, hire a reputation management company and let them take care of all this for you. – Solomon ThimothyOneIMS

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“Vanillacide” Defined

From the book “Shoot the Puppy: A Survival Guide to the Curious Jargon of Modern Life“, by linguist Tony Thorne, Head of the Language Centre at Kings College London:


Meaning: how radical concepts are destroyed by too much consultation

I first heard this bizword when I shared a microphone recently with a Californian, Steve Manning. The occasion was a BBC radio discussion of the ongoing craze for re-branding companies, something Steve, boss of the US naming agency, Igor (as in the doctor’s assistant in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein), is an expert on.
Vanillacide is an updated version of the old notions of death-by-committee, or the death-of-a-thousand-cuts by which new and creative proposals are diluted and diluted until they become universally acceptable – and wholly unoriginal.
Agencies like Igor pitch new names to companies looking for a change of image. In Steve’s own words, ‘The best way to get 100 people to sign off on a name is to come up with something that has no meaning and offends no one – the surest pathway to vanillacide.’
This example of what used to be called a ‘portmanteau word’, known to linguists as a ‘blend’, is formed by bolting together the suffix of ‘suicide’ (if you think of it as self-destruction) or ‘homicide’ (if you think it’s a crime) and the slang use of ‘vanilla’ meaning insipid, conformist or harmless, which probably began with the gay and feminist movements in the late 1970s.
It’s not only progressives such as Steve Manning who perceive a general tendency in global corporate capitalism towards a deadening uniformity. Insider ironists now refer to ‘blanding’ and ‘blandwidth’. Timid, over-systematised decision-makers are accused scornfully of ‘blanding out’.
Doubts about conformism coincide with growing doubts about the value of using focus groups to test new names, products or services. There is, however, a trick for getting round the play-safe herd instinct displayed by committees or focus groups: it’s sometimes referred to as ‘wild-carding’ and consists of giving your client a list containing your favoured suggestions, plus at least a couple of ultra-radical, even crazy solutions.
In rejecting the most extreme, they are likely to ‘compromise’ on something that is still fairly daring. It might not work for everyone, but the Californian corrective to vanillacide is to junk consensus-seeking and embrace go-with-the-gut antimethodology, or, to use another trendy biz-term, ‘corporate voodoo’.