A good number of companies do not differentiate between their corporate strategy and their product (or brand strategy) and that’s mostly because they do not see the need or the benefit of doing so. As long as product or service sales are growing, this sort of introspection and analysis seems like a lot of work with a questionable benefit. Well, it’s that type of thinking that often digs holes for companies that are extremely difficult if not impossible to escape.
Just think of a brand that used to occupy a leadership position and no longer does. Now ask yourself the question, “What went wrong?” Usually it’s one or a combination of the following:
- Their corporate image became associated with an “old fashioned” yesterday’s technology position.
- Their product no longer meets the true and relevant needs of its customers but they kept on pushing the product into the marketplace where it was ultimately labeled irrelevant.
- Their merger with another company turned out to be a complete disaster because the two cultures of the “merged newco” were totally different from one another and therefore their management styles, up and down the organization chart, didn’t get along and they couldn’t arrive at integrated decisions.
If you are in any type of management position you have been called upon to assess your organization’s position in the marketplace. This is usually brought on because the company’s sales begin to sag and the company has lost its momentum, perhaps its way. If you are in this position you need to ask yourself two quick questions:
- What is my Corporate Strategy? This is WHO your organization is. Its character, values, personality, mentality, and a host of other defining qualities that are associated with your organization. So simply, a Corporate Strategy is who your organization is.
- What is your Product/Service Strategy? This is WHAT your organization does such as its products, services, professional services lines, solutions to complex problems, or solutions to simple problems. All of these makeup what your organization does. So simply, a Product/Service Strategy is what your organization does.
The sum total of these two is the basis for your overall Brand Strategy. Odd as it may seem, many—maybe even most – have never asked nor answered these questions. So here are a few pointers for developing a winning brand strategy:
Know who you are. Like many world-class brands, they know when to be edgy, classy, or practical. Take a leading computer company who holds dominant market share, IBM. They continuously reinforce their dominance through promotion of their understanding of what their customers expect from them. This positioning has allowed IBM to maintain its leadership foothold for decades. Their products and services have changed but their leadership position has remained constant.
Know who you are not. Take a relatively unknown brand that wants to build market awareness and market share and makes claims like, “The Best Widget Ever Made!” Loud and grabbing of attention, you bet. Believable? No. The new entrant needs to make their business case and prove its value proposition before taking a leadership seat within its industry. Messages such as, “We are the best because our widget can take 1000 degrees…400 more degrees than any other on the market!” Now that’s a message that has traction, will get attention and be believed.
Know exactly what your customers need and make sure that is exactly what your brand offers them. Then make sure your organization keeps its brand promises, or better yet, exceeds them! This is one of the surest ways to build market share.
Because the marketplace is filled with brands of all shapes and sizes it’s essential to provide customers with a significant point of difference and relevance. Otherwise your product will be viewed as a weak alternative and you will not build market share for your company.