Branding is—inherently—an exclusionary process. By saying, “These are the things our company stands for and the people we want to serve,” you are excluding those principles and people you deem to be a poor fit for your company.
That is … as long as you don’t fall into the trap of setting your brand’s focus too broadly.
Reaching out to a broad base might sound appealing—after all, going after more customers should mean more potential profits, right? Unfortunately, the opposite is often the case. When you try to appeal to everybody, you wind up appealing to nobody, as your ability to connect on a deeper level is compromised.
Here’s how to tell if your brand is too broad and, if it is, how to get back on track.
Measuring Brand Strength
Assessing the strength of a brand can be difficult, given the nebulous nature of brand sentiment and the challenges inherent in measuring those feelings. One general formula that can be used for guidance on this process comes from Hinge Marketing:
Brand Strength = Reputation x Visibility
Essentially, to have a strong brand, you must have both a positive reputation among your target customers and clear visibility with these consumers. If people think poorly of your brand, obviously, it can’t be considered strong. But at the same time, if people aren’t aware of your brand in the first place, it doesn’t matter whether your reputation is good or bad.
Looking at this formula, the problem with having a broad brand focus is clear. If you try to reach out and connect with too many groups, your visibility suffers due to a lack of resources. For example, if my company produces Widget A and targets it to 10 different industries, my visibility will suffer compared to a similar company that produces Widget B and sells only to one or two fields. By targeting too many prospective customers, my visibility decreases and diminishes my brand’s strength—all because my branding initiatives are too broad.
Without proper focus, you’ll never be able to attain the reputation or visibility needed to create a strong brand. So how can you tell for sure if your brand’s focus is too broad? Give any of the following techniques a try:
1. Check your website. If it lists more than 10 industries or target groups as your areas of “specialty,” there’s a good chance you’re overreaching.
2. Test your brand’s sentiment. Head over to Social Mention, and enter your company’s name, URL or tagline. If the metrics that display in the program’s upper left-hand corner show low strength, passion or reach, your brand may be too broad to resonate with your customers.
3. Ask the audience. Want to know what people really think of your brand? Head directly to the source! Either post probing questions on your social media profiles or invest in paid polling by market research agencies. If the responses you get don’t line up with your branding ideals, it may because you’ve cast your net too wide.
Getting Out of the Too-Broad Trap
Let’s say the worst happens, and these testing techniques uncover evidence that your brand has overstepped its bounds. Fortunately, if you find yourself in this situation, the fix is relatively simple (that is, compared to more serious branding issues, like destroying your reputation with poor service or becoming stale and outdated). What you have to do is get back to your core values.
Start by identifying your company's three most important guiding principles and the three most important characteristics of your target audience. Using the previous example, my widget company might be based on the ideas of “luxury,” “impeccable quality” and “top-notch customer service,” and we might target potential users who are male, aged 30 to 45 and with an average annual income of $75,000-plus.
Then, no matter what principles and characteristics you choose, make sure every public action you take—from the way your customer service reps answer the phone to the way your business blog posts are written—reflects these qualities. Monitor everything and make adjustments as needed.
By focusing on your core values and target audience, over time, your brand’s image will narrow correspondingly, leading to a stronger connection with the audience and industries you want to serve.
Sujan Patel is a passionate internet marketer and entrepreneur who started the digital marketing agency Single Grain and has more than 10 years of internet marketing experience. Patel is currently the CMO at Bridge U.S., a company that makes the complex immigration process easy and affordable. He is also a member of Young Entrepreneur Council, an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs.
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