Five areas of brand investment to position yourself as an industry leader
You can’t quite stumble your way to leading your industry and making your brand a household name for millions of people. It requires a dedicated strategy that is consistently executed (with minor adaptations) across every facet of your organization and the interactions your brand has with consumers.
The qualities that make an industry-leading brand must be embodied top to bottom. When that cohesion is experienced, customers begin to believe in your brand.
In turn, that belief (and the brand strategy platform that earned it) affects every part of your business.
So what are the steps your brand can take to reach similar heights?
#1 Research your market, customers and competition.
It’s the obvious first choice, but it must be said: You need to understand your market, customers and business before creating the meaningful brand differentiation that sets apart industry leaders. But the analysis you perform needs to go much deeper than firsthand experience, institutional knowledge and industry reports.
What you’re primarily looking to evaluate are:
- How your competitors are currently positioning, messaging and expressing their brands
- How customers perceive your brand relative to your categories’ brands
- Your business’s equities, strengths and plans, both now and in the future
With this upfront discovery, you can build a brand strategy platform that will differentiate you from everyone else and influence your ongoing efforts to attain industry leadership.
#2 Build your strategic brand platform.
Simply put, without a strategic brand platform, your brand won’t achieve industry leadership. Your platform enables you to deliver a consistent, seamless brand expression and experience throughout every engagement with customers (and employees). This is because it defines the essential elements of your brand that drive your decisions and everything you do.
A brand platform defines your:
- Brand aspiration—This is what your brand aspires to be and achieve (beyond becoming a successful industry leader or making money). What do you hope to bring about via your brand? Are you looking to help people form connections? Or reimagine how your industry operates? Your aspiration affects:
- Business experience (Bx) and employee experience (Ex) strategies
- Brand messaging
- Brand campaigns
- Brand position—This is what you want your brand to stand for in the minds and hearts of your customers and employees. This is also what drives the brand—the core of all operations and the primary influence for your brand experience. For example, Starbucks positioned its brand as “the third place”—the place between home and work. This position required their locations to be commonplace, decor to be warm and relaxing and their baristas to always provide a sense of comfort. Your position affects:
- Bx, Ex and customer experience (Cx) strategies
- Brand architecture
- Brand messaging
- Brand campaigns
- Go-to-market strategies
- Brand promise—This is the value or experience that customers can always expect to be delivered. Your promise affects:
- Brand and product messaging
- Products and services
- Sales activities
- Market-facing campaigns
- Ideal brand experience—This is how you envision how customers and employees feel when interacting with your brand. The experience you want to craft affects:
- Cx vision and experience principles
- Touchpoint strategy and design
- Products and services
- Employee behavior
- Expression attributes—This is how your brand looks and sounds, expressed through:
- Brand identity
- Visual design
- Brand tone and voice
- Brand campaign expression
Ultimately, every element of your brand is affected by your brand platform. It serves as your compass throughout day-to-day operations and long-term planning. Without one, you’ll find it impossible to navigate to industry heights.
#3 Don’t forget about workplace culture—employees are your greatest asset.
If any group of people knows whether your brand and reality are in harmony, it’s your employees. And when serious misalignments occur, employees will struggle to embrace or deliver on brand strategy in their daily workflows (either from confusion or frustration).
Unfortunately, few developments are more harmful to brands, as employees are either directly responsible for or influence virtually all interactions with customers. If your employees don’t deliver the expected brand experience, customers start questioning your authenticity and if your marketing is merely an attention grab.
That erodes customer trust, and people generally don’t seek out inauthentic brands.
Nailing the external presentation and perception of your brand first requires aligning it with your workplace culture. If your brand is authentic and your brand strategy pervades everything you do, then you’ll gain trust when they see your messaging and employee-delivered experience are aligned.
#4 Consistently deliver Cx across all channels.
The modern customer journey is non-linear, meaning that you never know when or where your brand will engage with people. So, you have to be prepared at all times, on all channels, to consistently meet customers’ brand expectations and ensure your strategy is reflected throughout every engagement.
From the ads and posts customers see while browsing social media to product packaging they see post-conversion, your Cx must share the same elements and attributes.
Again, this is why a brand strategy platform is essential.
#5 Develop your go-to-market strategy.
At the final step, your brand is prepared to launch. But you’ll still need to plan the various ways that launch, and later brand reinforcement, occurs:
- What campaigns will you run?
- On what media platforms will you show up?
- How will you (mildly) adjust your messaging to reflect the campaign and target audience?
This last step is also cyclical. You’ll need to track your brand via traditional marketing metrics and relationship measures to gauge the effectiveness of your brand and go-to-market strategies. Based on the data you collect, you’ll then continually refine your go-to-market strategy to best ensure success on each successive campaign.
Don’t just position yourself as a leader—become one.
Any brand can become an industry leader via these five steps.
When you build from the ground up with initial discovery and creating your brand strategy platform, you provide yourself with a solid foundation to continually build from. From there, it’s about ensuring the brand strategy platform guides all your endeavors and remains consistent across business strategy, Ex and Cx. That cohesion is the difference between claiming you’re an industry leader and becoming one.
In the end, industry-leading brands are the ones people believe in. Just remember that the belief comes first.
Starbucks Stories & News. Reimagining the Third Place: How Starbucks is evolving its store experience.