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  • Writer's pictureJohn Bell

5 Questions to Define Your Business Brand

Having a relevant brand that’s well supported by marketing, sales, and customer experience can not only improve the value of your business, it can also drive bottom-line growth. Brands like Eldora Craft Chocolate understand this. Too many small and mid-size businesses ignore developing their own brand, unconvinced that it matters to financial outcomes.

Meanwhile, a massive branding industry continues to lead companies through complex processes to help them define and express their brand. I spent almost thirteen years at Ogilvy brand-building for some of the best-known brands around the world and another few dozen years at companies, big and small, who had drunk the Koolaid on brand value. Experts will often talk about brand stories or purpose (e.g., “What is your ‘why?’”), careful analysis of your customer target, what celebrity the brand resembles, and more. Lot’s more. It’s very easy to make branding complex.

But it can be simpler.

For small and mid-size businesses who want to build their brand (and, therefore, their business) thoughtfully and with intention, here are 5 questions that will help you sort out what your distinctive brand is all about.

What is your “unique value proposition?”

As the phrase suggests, this is all about the differentiating value you create or deliver to your customers. Value is always in the mind of the customer, and by answering this question, you force yourself to see and feel your customer’s POV. This includes understanding pain points which are inherently emotional and not simply a rational need. Los Poblanos, a historic inn, restaurant and organic farm, delivers a unique Southwestern stay in a family business set among 25+ acres of lavender fields and cottonwood trees. It is authentic and rejuvenating like no other destination south of Santa Fe.

The trickiest bit in answering this question is understanding the customer's needs and POV and being brutally honest about what you deliver that is unique and different from other choices on the market. This simple diagram is helpful. Focus on the top half of the lozenge in the middle, as that is what is distinctly yours.

What benefit does your customer gain from your product or service?

For local startup, Build With Robots, their signature product, Breezy One, delivers safer, healthier buildings like schools and arenas through autonomous, disinfecting robotics. The benefit is greater health and peace of mind. The cool robot is how they do that – “Protect With the Push of a Button.”

Not ‘what does your product do’ but ‘what benefit does the customer experience? Particular foods satisfy cravings. Certain cars get you there safer. Some eCommerce stores give you confidence your product will arrive at a time and place. This is another question best answered with insight from your customer, a recurring theme in most of these questions.

Shopify simplifies the difference between a feature, an advantage and a benefit (FAB) as follows:

“For example, one FAB for a headphones brand might be:

  • Feature: cushioned ear pads

  • Advantage: more comfortable use

  • Benefits: longer, more enjoyable listening sessions”

What differentiates you from your crowd of competitors or adjacent brands?

It's tough to differentiate yourself in a local pizza market. Still, here in Albuquerque, two brands stand apart and for very different reasons. Dion’s is the accidentally great pizza that is easy and tasty – every time. Most people miss the accident – the story of two guys trying to open a Greek restaurant who couldn’t afford the sign for “Dionysus” and made a pizza joint called "Dion's" instead. They are the go-to for most families across the region. Their story and their clean and easy consistency set them apart—that, plus the fact that they employ the sons and daughters of so many Burqueños. Meanwhile, for Farina Downtown, it's all about the burn. They make the fancier, thin-crust pie in town (think “artisanal” with organic ingredients). For the few of us here who grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, it really does measure up. The menus tell you not to be freaked out by blackened crust – the burn is the point.

Like the UVP, this question begs you to be honest about what your product or service delivers that is different from the brands around you. How does Airstream remain differentiated from Winnebago? Sure, the classic product design is at the heart, but not only do they deliver a higher-end product in its signature silver “loaf,” but they offer a distinct community and high resale value. Marketing activities like partnering with Mercedes Benz help reinforce that differentiation.

How will customers and prospects recognize you instantly?

No, a brand is not a logo or a color scheme. But we live in a cluttered visual world where billions of visuals are shared online every day. Having a distinctive and recognizable name and visual dress that is used consistently, no, relentlessly, is an important part of building brand value. If you find yourself making excuses for your logo (e.g., “My husband created it,” or “we just never thought about it and used what we had.”), especially when you drop it into a field of competitors, then stop and take stock. Eldora Craft Chocolate is a local ABQ brand that produces award-winning chocolate bars. No matter where you find them in stores across town, you will quickly spot them with their distinctive typeface, package designs, and gold and dark brown colors.

How would a customer describe the experience or benefit they received from using your product or service?

It always comes back to the customer. What will they say about you? At Poblanos, people rave about the food and always mention sitting outside at the edge of the lavender fields as the Sandias transition to their signature watermelon color at dusk or the peacock waltz through. Heidi’s Ice Cream Shop opened recently in an unusual location. The store sits in the front of the packing plant for Heidi’s Raspberry Farm jams, a growing local brand. They are an oasis within a strange industrial neighborhood, and they leverage that vibe with its cement floors and view to the packing floor. The signature raspberry is perfect, and the Brown Butter Piñon is rich, rich, rich.

For me, it is not only the best-tasting ice cream around, but it's the real experience of the hidden gem that keeps me coming back and sharing word of mouth. “Best” is a theme. Just look at their Yelp page:

“Best ice cream in Albuquerque, great atmosphere and customer service. If you are a fan of Heidi's jam or just ice cream in general, you have to check this place out.”

Be Intentional

Whether you are trying to grow revenue or the value of your company, Chris Shipferling in Forbes highlights the benefits:

“It’s true that recognizable brands can charge premiums, whereas less-established companies cannot. Moreover, in my experience, brand equity empowers founders to negotiate for a higher purchase price, which translates to increased value from a merger or acquisition.”

If you want to grow the business value created by your brand, be intentional about earning a place in customers’ minds and start by asking yourself these five questions.



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