Developing your Brand: The Power of Benchmarking

Posted by on December 22, 2008 in Marketing [ 0 Comments ]

This is our third and last installment in this DIY Series on Developing your Brand.  This three-step approach will help you define your brand if you have limited resources to consult the outside expertise of a brand strategist.  In the first posting we talked about where to start.  How do you begin to define a brand and where you find the definition for your brand?  In the second posting we looked at how an analysis of your competition can help you develop a clearer message around who you are and how you are different.  In this final step we’ll look at how benchmarking can help you discover an edge or an approach that reflects what you offer authentically and differentiated from everyone else in your industry.

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A benchmark is a standard by which something is judged.  In this last phase you’ll learn more about your brand by benchmarking brands outside your industry.  Here we begin to look to standards that are upheld by other brands that you admire to see what you can learn from them.  Whether a tennis racket manufacturer, clothing designer, a soap company or a car company, these brands can teach you something.

The process will require you to look at their websites, note the language they use to speak to customers, figure out what you like about how they present themselves to you and take note.  Similar to what you did in the competitive review make note of three key elements: content, visual language and the emotion.

Read what your favorite brand says about their product on their website and/or in their brochures.  Hear what they have to say on TV or in radio ads.  Note their language.  Is their message focused on their customer “we meet your needs” or on their product “we have the highest quality…”.  Understanding the content of their message will give you clues to how you may approach your brand.  If your favourite brands, outside your line of work, focus on customers then perhaps the way you communicate your message should do the same.

Visual Language:
Take note of how your favorite brands present themselves visually.  Are TV commercials fast-paced with dark and metallic colors?  Are print ads on bright white backgrounds with bold text?  Are websites filled with movement and color?  Take a look at two or three of your favorite brands from different industries, like a food company, a sports equipment company and a chocolate company.  What is similar about their visual language?  Note these similarities; it may inform how you want to present your brand to the world.  If the visual language is very different for each then note what parts of it you like the most.  Perhaps you like the vivid colors in one and the wide open space in another.  Then, ask yourself why do I like these visual cues in this context?  A pattern will certainly emerge.

Noting emotion is really about how you feel, not what you think they want you to feel but how you really feel.  This is where authenticity rings true.  As you engage with your favorite brands think about how you feel.  Do you feel trust, power, speed, confidence, luxury, serenity, or energized?  What kind of feeling is the brand eliciting in you?  Take a moment to note which of those feelings you want for your customers.  A respected market researcher, Frank Luntz said “80 percent of our life is emotion, and only 20 percent is intellect” – focus on the emotion it is what drives us.

Often when the vision for an organization is being held by more than one person, a team or a committee it is difficult to get agreement on where to go.  When I was hired to head up the brand revitalization effort for a large office furniture manufacturer, based in the US Northeast, I used this benchmarking strategy to coach the management team through a visioning session that would help to define precisely what they wanted for their brand.  This company manufactured office furniture that appealed to the broadest customer base.  It was not elite high-end furniture but it did offer a design and functionality that was loved by a majority of the marketplace.  The problem was that the marketplace felt this brand was getting stale.  In order to help the management team create a vision for the brand they could believe in we looked for a company outside of our industry that also appealed to the masses and offered nice design but had a brand that customers were drawn to.  We chose Kenneth Cole, a brand that was known by the management team and admired by all.  Kenneth Cole provides the latest designs to a majority of the marketplace and they’re appealing to the market.  Just what we wanted to accomplish for our brand.  We benchmarked their approach, language, even stores to get inspiration for what we could do with our brand.  Having a benchmark in mind kept our entire brand revitalization team focused on a singular vision.  In the end we accomplished the mission.  In the years following the brand revitalization the manufacturer experienced growth that exceeded expectations and developed a loyal following of customers who are in anticipation of future product launches.

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