• Angelo Ponzi

3 Pillars to Build an Effective Growth Strategy – Pillar #2, BRAND

In part 1 of this 3-part series, Insights, the nuggets of information that help to focus a company on opportunities and issues that impact the growth of their business were discussed. If you haven’t read Part 1, Insights yet, click here. I believe that in an ideal situation, gathering insights (#1) to build your brand (#2) and develop your plans (#3), is critical to developing a successful strategic marketing plan.


Businesses and brands are not people, but people comprise and create them. How people within a business are thinking, feeling, and acting defines how the business behaves as a whole.

In fact, we often attribute human characteristics to a brand in order to understand and clarify how it affects the relationship with the end-user. However, a brand actually represents the perception of the collective characteristics of all of the people involved. A brand can be a natural extension of the values (and archetypes) of the creators of the business.

People are in relationships with brands. They come to know you by how you behave, not by how you say you behave. Brands are evaluated and understood by their actions, not necessarily by their intentions.

Developing and defining a brand, its message, and its strategies is a process. Understanding the current market dynamics including the competitive landscape, the desired position by you, and the team in the marketplace and establishing the fundamental platform to define the brand is essential.

When thinking about branding, many tend to think of it as those visual cues: layouts, logos, color palette, website, etc. Important stuff, but we need to think more strategically, first. Understanding aspects of the brand such as how its positioned in the market, customer perceptions, and how it is differentiated from your competitors can build the essential base to inform your creative. It should not be the other way around.

Above all, your brand must be meaningful and relevant to your audience. If it doesn’t motivate, persuade, or change behaviors and attitudes then . . . what’s the point?

Years ago, I worked on a biodegradable non-toxic cleaner. The client was in the automotive world and wanted to expand to grocery stores. We went out into the marketplace and conducted consumer research that was extremely focused on different product attributes and messaging that would help customers choose them over competitors. But strategically we missed something really important . . . price. We realized that they did indeed want that safer product, but they didn’t want to pay extra for it. I highlight this story because it illustrates how comprehensive and actionable your questions need to be in order to get the whole picture.

Keep the following five questions in mind when thinking about your brand, regardless if you are developing your positioning or repositioning your brand.

1. What perception do you want to own in the minds of your customers? The only way to find that out is to ask them. You have your perception, but maybe your customers/prospects don’t share it! If they don’t, then you need to figure out a way to change their perception. Part of this is about solidifying your brand’s reputation as well.

2. What are the core values that guide your brand’s behaviors? Most companies have identified those core values; however, if you haven’t, please put it on top of your to-do list. Stick to them, because if they start to shift externally, internally (remember that internal marketing–messaging to your own company– is crucial), or both, you will could cause confusion in the market-leading to issues down the road.

3. What are the unique differentiators that help you create and leverage your brand? I use a simple tool to help with this called VRIO, which stands for:

· Valuable

· Rare