Creating an Irreplaceable Company
A brand is not a logo. It is not a corporate identity. It is not a product.
A brand is, in essence, the gut feeling about a product, service or company it evokes in a person. It's a gut feeling because people are emotional, instinctive beings.
Why is branding so important in today's business world? Because:
- People have too many choices and too little time.
- Most offerings have similar features and quality.
- People tend to base buying decisions on trust. Trust comes from meeting and beating expectations.
Can you put a dollar figure on a brand? Absolutely. Take a look at this chart below:
Source: Best Global Brands 2016 Rankings
Brand as a Business Driver
Your brand is one of the most important assets you possess to drive and differentiate your business. If your brand is not clearly defined, understood and embraced by the entire organization, it will never realize its full potential to impact your business. McKinsey & Company 2014 B2B Branding Survey revealed that companies with strong brands outperformed the general market by 73%.
The top global brands listed above are recognizable, credible and are perceived as trustworthy companies offering valuable products. While creating a strong brand is essential for any company to thrive, the goal of truly leading companies is to create a charismatic brand. The great business and brand strategist Marty Neumeier defined a charismatic brand as any product, service or organization for which there is no substitute. In reality, there are only a handful of brands that are considered truly charismatic: Amazon, Disney, IKEA, and Southwest Airlines, to name a few.
In today's healthcare space, the clear majority of medtech companies do not meet the definition of a charismatic brand. It's not a limitation of the industry. It's a limitation of how most companies approach branding. Instead of focusing on what excites them about the product, they need to look at what value the product brings to the customer.
Defining Value in the Customer Context
The primary challenge in creating a charismatic brand is clearly communicating the value of your solution to your target audience. A positioning statement is a one- or two-sentence statement that articulates your product or service's unique value to your customers in relation to your chief competition. Marketers need to be able to see the market landscape through the customer’s eyes, then focus their brand positioning around the value that distinguishes their product from other options.
Value is defined as the difference between perceived benefits and consequences of selecting a solution. A company needs to understand what are the benefits and consequences of not selecting its product or service from a customer’s perspective. To be a charismatic brand, your product or service must be superior to every alternative considered. Why should a potential customer pick your brand over another on the market? Don't make your customers guess and don’t assume they already know. It’s the company’s responsibility to differentiate its solution—otherwise there is no difference. Compelling brands are relevant, engaging, entertaining and often courageous. They take a stand for or against something and have the confidence to stand apart from the crowd. People remember compelling brands and know what to expect from them.
One way to establish your brand in a competitive landscape is to focus on a compelling story that defines who you are and what you do. The key is not just to tell a story, but to tell the right story. You can't just glaze over an explanation of who you are and expect people to connect with your brand. This is especially true for novel products and services, where your audience may not recognize the problem you are solving and the benefit that it brings.
The human brain is hardwired to notice what’s different. So, if you want to be a charismatic brand, be different! But to be a charismatic medtech company, new products and services need to be both different and good. This often requires having focus. Marty Neumeier also created a short test to help flesh this out:
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- Why does it matter?
Unless you have compelling answers to these questions, you need more focus.
Know Your Customer, Know Yourself
The medtech industry is a competitive market landscape. It’s important for marketing leaders to know how to distinguish their product from the masses in a way that relates the real, definable benefit of their product or service. Customer confidence exponentially increases with the strength and reputability of a brand. In fact, Edelman’s 2016 Global Trust Barometer indicates that 68% of customers chose to buy products and services from trusted companies. Companies that demonstrate a real value to the customer will see a serious impact on their sales revenue.
If you are ready to make your brand charismatic, you will need to intimately know your target audience. Taking the time to truly understand them—and how your capabilities and people serve and connect to them—is critical for real growth.
There are three audience perspectives that need to be defined to achieve maximum sales impact:
- Segment-level - Opens the door/gains initial consideration
- Customer-specific - Makes the "business case" for your solution (qualitative and quantitative) to accelerate the conversion within the context of their specific market
- Role-based - Solutions tailored to an individual decision-maker's pain points can help close deals faster
Once you've identified the three perspectives above, it's time to transform this data into a compelling brand positioning statement that will create an immediate, powerful impression on your most strategic audience. Popularized in Reis and Trout's bestselling Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, the idea is to identify and attempt to "own" a marketing niche for your product or service. The goal is to create a unique impression in the customer's mind so that the customer associates something specific and desirable with your brand that is distinct from the rest of the marketplace.
Put the Words to Work
While a positioning statement can appear quite simple, the development of a positioning statement requires considerable thought and effort. A well-crafted brand positioning statement will accomplish several things:
- Clearly defines and addresses your strategic target audience
- Creates strong emotional and rational reasons to buy your brand
- Is focused; avoid being everything to everyone
- Is clearly differentiated (in the strategic target's mind)
- Is enduring; it rarely changes but does get reviewed and updated
Take a look at this template positioning statement from organizational theorist Geoffrey Moore. You should be able to clearly see how to apply your positioning statement as it applies to the three perspectives above to create a powerful positioning statement for your product or service.
For ___________ (target customer) who ____________ (statement of the need or opportunity) our (product/service name) is ____________ (product category) that (statement of benefit) ____________.
For pediatricians who need a faster thermometer for young patients our SpeedTemp is the only fast acting thermometer that delivers accurate results in less than 5 seconds.
This brand positioning statement addresses a pain point and offers a quantifiable solution in a way that highlights the product's value from the customer's perspective. With this insight, you will be able to create the foundation for a charismatic brand.
A Charismatic Brand is Not Static
In terms of assets, even beyond your technology, your brand is one of the most important ones you possess to drive and differentiate your business. If your brand is not clearly defined, understood and embraced by the entire organization it will never realize its full potential to impact your business.
While the execution of many dimensions of a company’s brand traditionally sit with marketing, the executive team has the responsibility to champion the brand through their words, actions, and behaviors—and bring it to life through their function of the business. Every department in the company has a role to play in bringing the brand to life and to ensure it is alive and optimized.
Brands need to be carefully nurtured and managed. Over time, they get old and tired and need reinvigorating. Changes in your business, your competitors, and the market are constantly impacting your business. Even if you don’t think that you have made any major changes, it’s essential to reconsider your brand positioning statement on a regular basis. Marketers must continuously leverage customer insights, imbue their brands with a brand purpose, and deliver a rich customer experience. The job isn’t done just because you’ve built a newer, better product.