Five tips to building your brand

Contributed and Published to The Globe and Mail.  2017

Building a brand is a strategic process. The objective is to create a positive market perception for your business. Here are five simple steps to follow.

1. Think long term. If you are success-driven, you imagine what your business will look like 10 years down the line. Your core brand positioning must appeal to the audience you are targeting today but be adaptable to your changing business and new audiences. Google, for example, was built upon a mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Although search remains its core offering, the brand encompasses the company’s growth and diversification.

2. Focus on what makes you different. This is probably the most important element in constructing your brand. What is it that truly makes your brand unique? Is it the quality of your offering? The innovative nature of your service? Apple, for one, has continually reinforced brand differentiation through its emphasis on product innovation, and the Apple logo has become a global symbol of creativity and success.

3. Build a solid brand foundation. Like a well-built house, a successful brand must rest on a solid foundation–the core business promises you make and keep to your customers. It could be a commitment to deliver a quality product or amazing customer service. If your brand pillars stay strong, your brand will flourish. The Volvo brand is synonymous with safety – a core element of its brand foundation. Volvo achieved this positive brand perception through significant investments in development of safety features. Can you remember the last time you heard of a Volvo recall?

4. Infuse your brand with your values. For your brand to connect effectively in today’s interconnected global village, it must clearly stand for something. Having consumers like your product or service is one thing, but giving them a reason to choose your offering is key. Whether your core values are rooted in your commitment to diversity, passion for continual improvement or social responsibility, they must resonate with your intended audience. TOMS was developed around the belief that it “can improve people’s lives through business.” Its buy-one, give-one (pairs of shoes) business model has made it a global beacon for best practices in social responsibility and charitable giving.

5. Live your brand everyday. Building a successful brand is something you need to invest in every day. If this means a pledge to delivering exceptional service, you need to invest in recruiting and training the right customer-centric people. Richard Branson’s Virgin Group typifies how a brand is sustained through the values of its founder. Branson lives his brand through action – be it his well-documented extreme adventures, his philanthropic investments or his thought leadership on business he shares via social media.

So now it’s your turn. Be bold, be disciplined, invest the time and resources to get it right, and always live your brand. And by the way, disparaging your competitors is not brand building.