Whether you’re a fledgling startup or a large multinational company, creating a distinctive brand can help you stand apart from your competition.
Successfully building your brand means more effective business development and enhanced ongoing relationships with your customers.
For Allison Evanow, founder of Square One Organic Spirits LLC, creating a unique, sustainable brand has been critical to carving out a niche in the highly competitive beverage industry. While Square One cannot afford big, splashy advertising, the four-person company does spend considerable time focusing on branding – and executing on branding strategies.
When building a brand, companies frequently examine the demographics of their target audience – gender, age, city location, etc. But Square One puts as strong a focus on psychographics, or the personalities, values, attitudes, interests and lifestyles of its target customers.
Whether you’re starting from scratch or rethinking an existing brand, take these basic steps:
Understand interests, attitudes and opinions
Three key variables – interests, attitudes and opinions (IAO) – allowed Square One to develop and maintain its brand based on psychographic segmentation. “You can use this information to figure out what type of branding and marketing you’ll require to reach that target segment,” says Evanow.
Connect IAO variables with demographic variables (such as age and gender) and you can develop a clearer, more accurate picture of your target customer. In Square One’s case, the goal was to engage upward-mobile professionals who had strong attitudes and opinions about the environment, green initiatives and organic food. As a result, the company sponsors a host of green-related events hosted by Grist, Greendrinks and other environmentally conscious organizations.
Build a brand using three words
Rather than throwing lots of words at customers, Square One uses three key words to describe its business and its brand: organic, spirited and innovation. These brand traits are reflected within the company’s name, the company’s first product and all of its marketing and promotional materials. “We’re tiny, but people remember us because of our brand essence,” says Evanow. “I can’t tell you how many consumers or restaurants and bars are usually jaded when they hear about yet-another-vodka coming onto the market. But we’ve overcome that because our brand is unique.”
Find middle ground
Evanow avoided the temptation to go to extremes when developing Square One’s brand. If she had tried to be all things to all people, she ran the risk of having an indistinct brand. If she had gone too far toward a niche positioning, Square One could have wound up spending too much time explaining its brand rather than selling product. “You need to stand for something that people can instantly recognize,” says Evanow. “In our case, we’re delivering an organic product that needs little, if any, explanation.”
Get close to customers
Square One constantly seeks customer feedback to get a clearer idea of how its brand is perceived. It uses a “brand ambassador” – a mixologist with an MBA – who understands both bartending and business. “He’s in the field, training restaurant staff and explaining why customers are willing to pay a little more for organic cocktails,” says Evanow. “He’s also soliciting feedback so that we hear what our brand means to customers.”
Square One focuses on face-to-face events involving “green” or organic products since those in attendance are most likely to be open to its brand messaging. For instance, the company sponsored the Trust for Public Land event series. The Trust for Public Land is a national, nonprofit organization that helps conserve land for people to enjoy as parks, historic sites and other natural places.
Develop consistent messaging
Whether you’re advertising on the Web, on the radio, in print or through events, your message and imagery needs to be consistent. Square One’s logo, for instance, reinforces the company’s brand across all media platforms. “Once you have a logo, make sure the media uses its specifications whenever they’re using it,” says Evanow. Then, once you’ve invested in creating this collateral, enforce its implementation.
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