Organizations invest significant resources into branding. That doesn’t mean they are always successful. James Heaton, president and lead strategist of Tronvig Group, warns organizations to pause when they feel a sense of urgency to rebrand. Instead, he cautions them to be sure to address “the fundamental questions” about a company’s mission, objectives and opportunities as an essential part of the branding process.
To help companies ensure their rebranding process will succeed, he has created a workshop to help distill down the company’s brand story to a simple and singular idea. It encompasses a four-to-five hour meeting with an organization’s executives, key staff and vital stakeholders—the company’s brain trust. At the end of the session, the company has a complete brand pyramid and a brand value map that will help guide all subsequent work. We interviewed James to find out how you can learn from his expertise.
Tronvig Group is a marketing strategy consultancy that focuses on intensive engagements conducting “strategic therapy.” Based on your experience, why do organizations need that type of assistance?
Organizations are often overly focused on doing things.They tend to be so caught up in doing things that they rarely take the time to ask: why are we doing this? To what end? In the act of doing all the things that must be done, we can forget to stop and consider whether we are doing the right things. Myriad urgent issues keep us from the crucial act of introspection.
This means that during the course of a client engagement, there are an array of essential questions that we usually have to force the answer to: Who is our customer (guest, visitor)? What do they value? What is changing in our industry or in the behavior of our customers that will change the way we need to do business? What is our goal? How will we win by delivering greater value to our customers than can our competitors? How are our business practices and behaviors aligned to assure that we can deliver on our brand promise? Are they aligned to ensure we can win in our competitive sphere of action?
At best, most companies have only vague and uncertain answers to these questions. Without these answers, however, an organization inevitably spends a great deal of time and resources on things that do not yield their intended results. Visual rebrands cannot right these strategic wrongs. Business strategy must be tied to brand strategy and the brand must operate in support of action—doing those very few things that will have the greatest effect toward the achievement of our goals.
Organizations need this kind of assistance because it is arduous and often ineffective to self-medicate when it comes to strategy. Most companies just don’t set aside the time and resources to get this difficult work done.
What are other common mistakes organizations make regarding branding…and how can they avoid them, especially on the Internet?
- Thinking that branding is only about logos, identity systems, taglines, and other external things.
- Thinking that branding can be done by outside professionals while we simply carry on with our work.
- Thinking that branding will solve business or product problems.
- Thinking that branding is somehow discrete from business strategy, customer understanding, product quality, and everything else that a business must do to survive.
You often say, “no one buys what you sell. They buy what is of value to them.” How can organizations convey that online, where so much research takes place?
This is a paraphrase from Peter Drucker. It is a reminder of that natural human tendency to see the world from only our vantage point. It is natural to think from the company’s perspective. It takes significant effort to undo this tendency and replace it with a genuine response to what the customer needs. The corollary to this statement is also a paraphrase of Peter Drucker: If you satisfy your customers you fail. This is because you must deeply satisfy the customers for whom you are uniquely equipped to deliver value.
These issues are usually addressed only superficially. Drucker’s third question is of essence: What do your customers value? It behooves you to spend a lot of time working on deepening your answer to this question. This is the essential role of marketing—obtaining customer understanding so it can be acted on.
Many of your clients have said they no longer want to be “the best kept secret in town.” What are common reasons why so many businesses fall into that category?
If you are the best kept secret in town it means that you believe you offer value, but this fact is not well understood outside your organization. You are underappreciated. This has one of three causes:
- You have a product problem. You are not offering something that is genuinely of value to your customers. You only believe that you do. In this case customer understanding will inform you of the product modifications you need to make to provide the benefits that your customers demand.
- You have a marketing problem. Your offer is indeed of value to your prospective customers. But they are not getting the message because you have not effectively learned how to communicate your value or you are not marketing. This is a problem that can be addressed through activating an effective brand strategy with appropriate marketing support.
- You have a business problem. You are not able to deeply satisfy the customers that you have—or you are trying to be too many things to too many different customers, and as a result you are deeply satisfying no one. It is essential that you be able to deliver on the brand promise that you make. The brand promise itself must be simple, clear and resonate with its intended audience.
Tronvig Group has worked for clients in a wide variety of business and nonprofit categories. James Heaton has developed an effective brand diagnostic and marketing strategy analysis that brings clarity and insight to inform strategic decisions of all kinds. To read more of Tronvig Group’s insight on branding and learn about how they help businesses and organizations of all stripes, visit their website.
This is the fifteenth in a series of interviews with experts whose work relates to online reputation management.