No company sets out to fail but few really plan on being number one in their field. The reasons for this vary from brand to brand but it almost always boils down to a lack of innovation.

In the past, well-known companies could rely upon their brand’s major awareness image in their market. They could count on having a large presence at various trade shows to present a dominant position in the market. Their ad campaigns and direct marketing programs could make leadership claims. And with these marketing tools that used to be nearly enough to push a product into a crowded market space such as proofing, scanning or software and make it a success.

Today is different though. With the Internet came a level playing field. That means that whoever has the best most innovative idea usually wins. This is great for smaller and or newer brands that sell into their niche markets. But it’s not so great for better known companies with products that are not innovative because again, the best idea wins today, not the best known. Actually, becoming known for not having innovative products is a very dangerous place to be. Consider the U.S. auto industry, for instance.

The challenge for both is to have an action plan that starts with the key customer’s needs and builds every single brand message, image, campaign, interaction and services to drive that benefit to the ultimate customer. Anything less is mediocre and usually ends up in what sales managers call their “underperforming product.”

So the top three ways to build a successful brand strategy is to research, innovate, and implement based on your best customer’s needs. Ignore them at your peril.