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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What Does Your Brand Stand For?

Brands 2 originally uploaded by mleak.
I've been thinking about brands and what they stand for. Especially given the tumultuous times.

What do specific brands embody for customers? Are they strong and venerable? Trustworthy? Approachable? Dependable?

Consider high-and-mighty brands like Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and AIG that have taken a tumble. Did they take seriously their promise to customers?

What about other brands? Brands like Apple, Nike, even Starbucks. How closely does their reality match up with my expectations for those brands? How much can I trust what they stand for?

What about your brand? What does your brand stand for? What does it promise customers? Can you look customers in the eye and tell them that you stand for their best interests? That they can count on you to meet your promise? A promise that holds true regardless of the economic climate. "Even when there isn't an economic downturn, retailers should stay true to their fundamental brand values and create meaningful and differentiated points of view," state Bertrand Pellegrin and Ted Jacobs in an article in the DDI Magazine July 2008 issue titled "Brand strategy for the recession-challenged retailer."

They add that "a recessionary retail strategy is about consistently reinforcing the value of the brand experience on every level, exploring new and innovative ways of articulating it and bringing a sense of discovery and excitement..."

What is your fundamental brand value? Do you offer a meaningful and differentiated point of view? Do you offer a sense of discovery and excitement?

Your retail brand is the result of store premises, merchandising assortment/approach and operations [i.e., your people] all collaborating to deliver a brand and store experience that had better be unique to you, and stand for something that matters to your customers.

Bruce Odette in the August/September 2008 issue of Floor Focus in an article titled "When the economy's in a downturn, get better at what you do" focuses on people when he asks three questions that retail salespeople had better agree enthusiastically to if your brand is to matter:

- Are they passionate about flooring?

- Do they want in their hearts of heart to deliver a truly memorable customer service experience?

- Are they completely committed to creating beautiful flooring solutions for customers?

Barry Silverstein in "Brand Progression in a Recession" explains that "well-established brands that represent both quality and value to consumers can actually benefit from a recessionary economy." At the same time, "beyond quality and sheer market weight, brands must be ever more relevant, trustworthy and flexible. They must constantly be in tune with consumers' values, evolving needs and lifestyles..."

Which only reinforces what Tim Girvin recommends in Tim Girvin - Trends in Story, Brand and Experience Design: make sure your brand stands for something, that it has an authentic story behind it. That differentiates you, makes you highly competitive and uniquely positioned. It should not only be relevant, but also resonant, human and warm, truthful and authentic, creating layers of connection.

Have you asked yourself what your brand stands for? If not, it's definitely time to do so.

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