So what exactly is a brand? A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. It’s a gut feeling because we’re all emotional, intuitive beings, despite our best efforts to be rational.
—Marty Neumeier, The Brand Gap.
One of the hidden superpowers of branding is the opportunity to use it as a feedback loop on how your thinking about your brand (which is one thing) aligns with what your customers think it is—or more accurately, how they perceive, experience and consume your product or offer in the marketplace. As Marty Neumeier and others have said many times, your brand is not a clean outcome of the actions you take to develop a name or logo or tagline, but rather the perception or feeling that emerges from all the experiences that people have had and will have (some of which may include your logo, tagline, etc.) with your company, product or service.
Brand Positioning, or simply positioning, is the internally focused work of understanding your business, product and target consumer, and then articulating that understanding—first internally and then externally—for the purpose of shaping how your brand is understood, articulated and shaped by your customers and others. That process—hopefully guided by a professional—always comes down to your ability to answer the following four questions:
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- For whom?
- Why does it matter?
To be clear, these questions will be answered whether you consciously attempt to engage in the process or not. Even if you’re five or ten years down the road, what you consider as your Brand Position may actually be based on assumptions long held or things that you backed into—or got backed into as your organization evolved and grew. The positioning of your brand is core to predictable success. Why? Your positioning is inseparable from your Business Model—your core business strategy.
So how IS your positioning a feedback loop?
Since your brand is felt rather than received, there are any number of ways to assess the position of your Brand in the marketplace. Here are a few:
- How are actual sales relative to goals?
- Are your customers who you expect them to be? Or is your target market campers but your actual customers hunters?
- What are people saying about you on social channels? Does their perception of the brand match yours?
This is not an exhaustive list. A gap in any of these can indicate a breakdown in the execution of tactics—but it may also signal a deeper issue with the brand positioning. The key is to seek measurable expressions of how your market is perceiving your product or offer as an opportunity for learning and growth (in this case, growth in sales, not personal growth). If you find that your brand is not well positioned, then we would recommend that the first thing you do is to work on that—and don’t do it alone or with your crack team of insiders. We are all blind to our own blindnesses and the perspective of (expert) outsiders is invaluable.