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What Really Sets Your Brand Apart?

Despite promoting many a proud collection of capabilities and achievements, the distinctions between competitors in most industries is still extremely narrow. That’s why I suggest a different approach. Discover what I mean. -more-

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Is Competitive Camouflage Hurting Your Business?

10 Communications mistakes that camouflage brand value

You would think that as business gets more and more competitive, business managers would realize they need to create a bigger difference than ever between themselves and their rivals. So it's easier for potential customers to recognize and choose their unique solution.

Mistakes That Camouflage Brand Distinction

Unfortunately, I observe far too many brands and companies unknowingly engaged in marketing practices that camouflage the core differences between themselves and others.

The fact is there are many challenges to good marketing. And if you're not careful, the very tools you could be using to set yourself apart may actually be applying the camouflage that's hiding your greatest value.

Here are ten common brand communications mistakes. How many of them do you make?

Mistake 1: Following the Crowd

Do you talk about the same set of features, use the same type of photography, give the same kind of examples and make the same exact media choices as your competitors? If so, you can't expect your audience to perceive your brand or company as significantly different or better than anyone else. You look the same. Sound the same. Are the same for all practical purposes. And without a recognizable difference to motivate a change of behavior, your audience will continue to purchase the same brand they always have. Want to find a way to change the conversation from a comparison of indiscernible details and low cost to one of recognizable difference and lasting value? It's time to stop following the crowd and establish your own brand clearly and distinctly.

Mistake 2: Overemphasizing Cost

Is your first marketing priority producing your promotional tools as inexpensively as possible? Do you spend more energy and effort trying to control cost than you do planning how to convey your brand message more convincingly? If so, it shouldn't surprise you that your sales force has difficulty getting appointments with prospects, overcoming competitive comparisons and making sales without discounting price. Fast, easy and cheap seldom attracts much attention. Inspires much interest. Or generates much confidence. Imagine, instead, if prospects responded to your brand message because it connected personally with their issues and interests. It illustrated and explained the unique solution you provide with authority. And it conveyed a powerful benefit with creativity and appeal that made your advantages easier to remember and your value worth the asking price.

Mistake 3: Focusing on Features

If you find yourself always concerned about what your competitor will introduce next - a faster speed, a bigger size, a higher power level or an easier process - and if it will make your product or brand obsolete, then you've built your marketing strategy on an unstable foundation. It's focused on narrow, short-term features that change with each new product upgrade, and that constant shift in message emphasis keeps you from establishing any lasting separation from your competitors in your audience's mind. About the time they begin to sense you have a valuable advantage, the story changes and the blend of competitor communications again makes your unique benefit harder to identify. Why not end the tireless search for the next great product quality to keep you ahead of the pack and start emphasizing an enduring, comprehensive benefit that all your individual attributes combine together to fulfill.

Mistake 4: Talking to Yourself

Who is the real audience of your marketing messages? Do readers and listeners sense you are addressing them personally, or do your communications speak in third person with glowing praise of your own accomplishments? Do you create connections with prospects by speaking to their needs and presenting solutions in terms they use to evaluate options, or are you really just talking to yourself? Failing to focus your message toward your audience is another way to make yourself invisible to them. But speaking actively and directly to their interests, issues and applications makes prospects take notice. And maintaining that type of ongoing dialogue builds highly distinctive credibility.

Mistake 5: Interrupted Communication

When was the last time you communicated with your target audience? Are you using spaced repetition to keep competitive messages from obscuring your value to key customers and prospects? Or have you stopped reinforcing your brand message for an extended period of time? Allowing other priorities to erode your brand's top-of-mind awareness with contacts? Giving up hard-earned levels of product knowledge, credibility and trust to natural forgetfulness? And increasing the investment required to regain lost competitive clarity, advantage and preference? A better plan would be to establish a strong, appealing brand, reinforce it with coordinated consistency and then ease up some on media breadth or extend the timing some on repetition to moderate costs without doing dramatic marketing damage.

Mistake 6: Inaccurate Expectations

Does the experience you promise in your communications match the reality customers encounter when they initiate a purchase? Do your people and processes seem focused on delivering that promoted value? Demonstrating that same responsiveness and attitude? Providing the expected level of quality, usability and durability? If so, that consistency can dramatically highlight your brand's difference. If not, it will just contribute more confusion to the camouflage between you and your prospects. The best thing you can do for the marketing of your products and services is to build a strong brand aligned with the core values your organization provides, communicate it with consistency internally and externally and structure everything you do to fulfill it.

Mistake 7: Message Instability

Would you classify your approach to the development of marketing communications as constantly evolving with the changing trends of style, expression and delivery? Always introducing new imagery, formats and media to maintain audience interest? Would you also concede that this emphasis on staying on the leading edge can sometimes mean message consistency gets left behind? And a mixture of different brand promises, design variations and sales strategies can confuse the clear communication of exactly who you are and what you offer. That's because frequent changes defeat recognition and message reinforcement, leaving you constantly starting over to build credibility and trust. The secret to getting and holding interest is to develop your unique brand promise into a solution worthy of attention and then using consistent, coordinated communication to build its value and appeal over time.

Mistake 8: Promoting Broad Generalities

Do you work hard to keep your marketing communications broad and general so they can be used with the widest range of audiences? Including all your competitive advantages in every ad, video or online promotion so there's something for everyone? Unfortunately, the truth is that while that sounds really good in theory, it isn't very effective in reality. A strategy designed to appeal to everyone usually ends up attracting no one. It's too general for any specific audience to recognize it's addressing them. Too broad to permit a specific demonstration of application. Too vague to build a convincing case for comparison. A strong brand, on the other hand, provides clarity and value. It generates significant interest and it engages serious consideration by highlighting specific results and examples. If you want to make your communication as effective as possible, it's best to keep it as focused as possible.

Mistake 9: Presentation Preoccupation

Are you always searching for the next great presentation gimmick? The coolest special effect for the big trade meeting? The highest lead-generating incentive program to motivate dealers? Or the latest technology for online or mobile integration? If so, you could be spending so much time on the way you present your message that the content of the message itself suffers. And as a result, its effectiveness is reduced. Because even though a great presentation attracts a lot of attention and favor, it doesn't do its job if it fails to motivate its audience to take action. In contrast, even a basic presentation built carefully around introducing, demonstrating and maximizing the uniqueness of your core brand value keeps the audience focused on how those characteristics benefit them and are most clearly delivered by you. It's then a classic win-win.

Mistake 10: Lack of Coordination

Are you trying to let a number of deserving employees all play a roll in company promotions? Does each department want to deliver a different message to a different audience to drive a different objective? Are you hoping they can all have their say in your communications and feel good about being heard and involved? If so, then you've probably got a communication nightmare on your hands. Too many needs. Too many contributors. Too confusing and uncoordinated. It camouflages the real value you have to offer and keeps slow-developing prospects from recognizing the thread of consistency they need to start building trust in your product or service. It would be better to start with your brand promise, select a specific audience by the situations you introduce, develop a case for the offer one key department wants to deliver, explain how you are the best option to realize that benefit, ask for an appropriate response and move on to the next department's objective in a similar disciplined and coordinated approach.

The reality is there are many enemies to the development of a clear and distinct brand identity for your business. Your own brand communications shouldn't be one of them.

To discover more about creating marketing communications that remove competitive camouflage and deliver the benefits of strong brand development, contact Cornerstone Brand Communications today by e-mail or phone 903-534-5220.