What separates your business from the competition? And how do you communicate it to potential customers? Craig Pethybridge of True offers his advice on how to build your brand and the importance of purpose.
What is a brand? It is often defined as a name, term, design, symbol, or other feature that distinguishes an organization or product from its rivals in the eyes of the customer. Craig Pethybridge is the Chief Creative Officer and co-founder of True, an advertising agency based in Auckland, New Zealand. He’s spent his career building authentic brands – working with ASB, Air New Zealand, Four Square and Southern Cross Health Society to name a few. And that’s only scratching the surface.
“It goes far deeper than that. A brand is how you act, how you speak, how you treat people, how you practise the values that are true to you, how you make your customers or your audience feel and yes, how you look. Brands are no different to people in that each one possesses a combination of traits that are uniquely theirs and just like people, when they get this right and remain true to themselves in the way they uphold and maintain their brand, they attract a wide circle of loyal friends and followers.”
Your brand is what sets you apart, and will be how consumers separate your product in the market place. Because of this, getting your brand right early on is very important. If you don’t, you risk just becoming another face in the crowd. Here are a few ideas to think about at the outset.
1. Your core purpose
Why does your business do what it does? The answer to this question is your core purpose, the guiding principle that gives your business a consistent identity. It’s the ‘why’ behind your business, the reason your products exist, beyond just a paycheque, and presents the values and beliefs to which your customers can relate. “This sounds a little lofty,” says Pethybridge, “but in fact it’s quite critical no matter if you’re building a one man band or have aspirations of creating a global empire.”
“Your core purpose isn’t what you do – for example if you were a lawn mowing business, your core purpose is not to cut lawns, it’s would be something deeper and more meaningful like bringing a sense of pride and pleasure to property owners. You can immediately see how this then influences how you do business and how your brand is perceived. You’re not just cutting a lawn and getting the job done, you’re doing that with a level of care and detail that results in positive emotions in your customers. This engenders loyalty and advocacy that is worth its weight in gold when growing your business.”
Making money may be your personal goal, but it shouldn’t be your brand.
2. Know your audience
When first shaping your brand, it’s important to know who you’ll be speaking to. Who is your customer? You can’t be everything to everybody, so get specific. If your product is going to solve a problem for married couples in their early thirties, or uni students flatting for the first time, then you’ll want to present a brand they can relate to and speak to them in a language that they understand. Pethybridge says the best way to figure this out is by paying attention.
“Be very aware of the world around you. Read a lot. Hang out in the places you believe your audience is. Talk to people. But most importantly listen. You have to be in tune with the needs, wants, trends and opinions of people in order to hone in on a particular segment that will deliver the greatest potential. Bigger businesses do this by using research agencies, but smaller businesses can also build a picture of who their target is by getting out themselves and talking to people, listening on social channels and paying attention to the audiences that follow influencers that might align with your product or service.”
3. Communicating with authenticity
It may have become a buzzword over the last few years, but authenticity works. Consumers are becoming increasingly drawn to brands that share their personal values and motivations, to brands with which they can relate. Communicating your purpose clearly and honestly is a great way to connect and build loyalty.
“Authenticity is being true to yourself. True to what you believe, to your values, to your skill set. Don’t try and be something you’re not, or sell something you don’t know or believe in, inside and out. This is the age of transparency. The rise of social media and the resulting intensification of public opinion means brands can’t get away with pulling the wool over their audience’s eyes anymore. Certainly, those that do are risking a lot. You can lose your market overnight by being disingenuous.”
Ultimately, knowing your brand is what separates one business from another, and can mean the difference between progress and stagnation.
“You can have to door-to-door salespeople selling exactly the same product and one will smash it out of the park and the other will fail to get across the line,” says Pethybridge. “Why is that? It’s your brand character, which is made up of all the things we’ve been talking about to this point. Get that right, make it authentic and you’re giving yourself the best chance to succeed.”
“But we should also never assume that we will automatically do things better than the competition. We have to work hard at what we do and know our competition as well as we know ourselves. This way we can always stay one step ahead of the rest.”