Branding Basics: Step Five

OK, you’ve identified the market. You’ve scoped out your competition. You’ve found a niche – or a position – you feel you can occupy and defend. You’ve identified or invented your significant differentiator. You’ve established you internal vision and guidelines.

It’s time to construct your brand platform.

The brand platform defines the position the company wishes to occupy in the collective minds of stakeholders, and provides focus for the development and delivery of the messages to obtain that position.

This document allows brand management, together with executive managment in most organizations, to consider the many elements that can influence, and finally delineate, a brand’s uniqueness, credibility, robustness and longevity. These elements will help establish a brand that is different from competitors, perceived to be of value in the marketplace, and provide a structure for consistent, cost effective messaging to all stakeholders.

Here are five elements – planks – that need to be placed into the brand platform.

* Company vision/mission/core values/description of corporate personality. Also, provide a description of the business model, including distribution channels, pricing and marketing/sales structure.

* Stakeholders: State who these groups are, their relevance and importance in the brand picture. Be sure to include market segments as defined previously. This should include their preferences and prejudices concerning products in the category in which you will compete. Also, some idea about the emotional “triggers” that might help prospects embrace the brand and resonate to its messages can be included here.

* Positioning: Define the specific business or product category in which you will compete, and define that desired and unoccupied position in the collective mind of your most important stakeholders within that category. Also describe industry infrastructure, practices, legal/legislative climate, technological trends, and barriers to entry.

* Competition: Identify and then describe the positioning, strategies and SWOT of the major players.

* Differentiators: Describe both strategic and tactical differentiators you plan to exploit, i.e., business model and practices, product/service attributes, product/service delivery, product/service messaging, unique value propositions.

Once the information of the individual planks are written, a management review and brainstorming session is appropriate. Considerations of internal and external factors will be integrated and balanced. Here you’ll integrate the information into a brand strategy, a strong unoccupied position, and ground rules for messages, images and associations for the brand.

The platform will become the essential guide for all branding decisions. It should be widely distributed within the organization, and available to all suppliers, partners and investors. Although a strategic document, it should not be a confidential one.

Once approved, the brand platform will become an essential part of the “creative brief” that gives direction to the development of name, logo, taglines, graphic standards, messaging and presentation.

Martin Jelsema

Power 150: ranked 118

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