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July 1, 2015

Whether you are selling a product or a service, your brand is the essence of who you are, what you do and why you do it. It’s your connection to your consumers and it conveys your promise to consistently meet their expectations. The job of every marketer is to create a brand that embodies their vision, mission and values; differentiates them in the market; and genuinely connects with their ideal customers.

The three components of a brand platform are position, message and visual identity. When used together, they create a strong, cohesive brand that is correctly positioned to align with the expectations and needs of target customers, is represented by a visual identity that aptly characterizes the promise it is making and is communicated in a way that resonates and engages them in an emotional connection.

Position

The first step in selling your product or service is finding the people who want to buy it. The process begins with developing a deep understanding of what problem you are solving and for whom. Keep in mind that customers are never just buying a product. They are purchasing a solution to a need they have. Once you understand the real problem–solution equation, you can start developing a persona around your target customers. Who are they? What do they like to do? What does their life look like?This will help in creating messaging that truly resonates with them.

The next step is an analysis of the competitive landscape. Who’s playing? What are they offering? Where are they dropping the ball? How is your solution different from what’s currently being offered? Once you understand who your target customers are, what they are really buying from you and the other solutions you’re competing with, you can create a positioning statement.

A positioning statement is one of the most important things you will write in your business. It expresses who your target market is, what they’re really buying from you, who your competitors are and what differentiates you from the pack. This sets the groundwork for your messaging, marketing strategy and future product development strategy.

Message

Finding success in the pet industry is all about emotional connections—the one between pet and owner and the one between owner and brand. Now that you have established who your target customers are, what they need and how you are different, it’s time to tell a story that establishes and nurtures the emotional connection that is required for brand preference.

At the core of your brand are the values that it upholds, the promises it makes and the connections it engenders. You must define the principles your brand is built on and create a personality that people can connect with. When applied to your messaging, this personality and tone will help convey the promise your brand holds.

Your messaging will consist of a brand story, a promise and a set of differentiating statements that allow you to stake a claim in the marketplace. Your brand story explains why you exist, what you believe in and why your customer should believe in you. This backstory should ideally begin with that first innovative spark that started it all and end with an aspiration of what you want the brand to provide in the future.

Your brand promise is a statement of what you will deliver to your customers time and time again and should be built from the positioning statement you have already developed. And your differentiating statements will round out your communications by defining what makes you unique from every other solution provider out there.

Identity

The notion to never judge a book by its cover should never be applied to the art of branding. Everything about consumer shopping and decision making in today’s marketplace is determined, at least initially, by first impressions. What does your visual identity say to a consumer who has zero history with your brand? Your brand’s name, logo, color palette, mood board and full visual identity have everything to do with how effectively you connect with your customers and how well you make a first impression.

This is where you wrap up everything you have created for your brand and tie it with a bow. Your visual identity should represent your brand’s values, position, promise and personality. Graphics play a huge roll in communication; do not overlook the importance of creating the right look for your brand.

A brand platform is essential to the success of any product or service. Invest in this foundation and at the end of this process you will have a brand customers can relate to and messaging that elevates you above the fray.

-Sarah Julian

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