This is the first in a series of 5 pieces on vital components of an effective marketing plan. A good marketing strategy begins with a clear and precise understanding of your brand identity. Attempt to build your marketing without getting this absolutely right and you risk expensive failure. 1. Nail Down your Brand Values What are the values that your organisation/business/brand treasures most? What values are so integral that, if removed, would change the brand completely? Examples could include innovation, localness, accessibility. Involve a wide variety of people in the organisation, and outside of it, too, in the process of identifying your brand values. You may be surprised to discover values inherent in your brand that you had never considered. Construct a long list with lots of input, but be sure to whittle it down to just two to four that you can focus on. 2. Set your Brand Personality in Stone Assigning characteristics to your brand that your customers can relate to means that you can communicate more effectively, engage more meaningfully and have greater impact. Think about your brand as though it were a person – what kind of person would it be? Chatty or serene, warm or clinical, fun or serious. Sometimes it helps to think about parallel category brands, e.g. if our brand were a chocolate brand, which would it be? Try that with cars, movies, singers, toys or anything that provokes your thoughts in the right direction! 3. Define your Offering Interestingly, this is where quite a lot of businesses have difficulty. They believe that they are selling one thing, while their customers are sure that they are buying another, e.g. some start ups think that they are selling technology when their market wants a service (ie they don’t give a damn about how it happens). This is a simple case of focusing firmly on the benefits of your brand, rather than on the features. What problem are you solving? Also, what is your competitive edge – what makes your brand offering different? 4. Get your Message Right Articulating your brand promise in a succinct way takes brain-sweat! You need to have first established your brand’s tone of voice, then speak in your audience’s language, rather than using your industry’s jargon. 5. Walk the Walk It is vital that you use the above brand identity elements in everything that the brand does or is associated with. This is how a good brand gets established and builds customer trust and loyalty. Your brand must live all of its values and promises e.g. if one of your values is innovation, then everything you do must be as innovative as possible, you should never copy anyone else in your category! When you have your brand identity pinned down in words then, and only then, should you begin the process of designing your logo and developing your corporate guidelines. You will benefit from a much stronger and more competitive brand that will be a real asset to your business. Thoughts?