August 25, 2016 | , | by

Why Brand Clarity is a Digital Marketer’s Strongest Lever

One of the biggest obstacles to small and medium-sized businesses (and far too many nonprofits and social good organizations too) is not lack of money, it’s the lack of a brand. Yes, lack of a brand. First, a definition: a brand is more than a logo. Your brand is that set of defining characteristics that you hope pop up in your ideal client’s mind. It’s what you want them to think when they think of you. It should be the digital marketer’s holy grail.

However, too many organizations haven’t spent the time necessary to build a clear internal understanding of their brand. In the push to bootstrap a company or even keep the lights on, many organizations will slap up a logo and a slogan and think that is enough. They miss the crafting of the core messages that are the foundation of what Mark Di Somma calls “The Brand DNA.” This is not unique to the B2B space; it is prevalent in B2C and non-profits, both service and manufacturing, and all verticals.

Your Brand is a Clarion Call

This lack of clarity around the core brand weakens the efforts of teams across the organization, whether on-site or remote. Your brand is the clarion call by which all cylinders of your organization are firing on – this needs to be gospel across the company. If not, problems can arise. What the engineers may be designing may not solve the right problem for the customer. Or the sales team may be selling a product that doesn’t exist. Staff may not understand where a leader is coming from or senior executives may wonder why their staff seem unengaged. And it’s especially problematic when trying to engage remote or virtual workers and teams, whether they are full-time staff or contractors – a very common scenario today.

So by the time you get a marketing director trying to lead a team of remote digital talent, the vision can become very murky indeed. Projects often sputter and fail, or freelance talent is driven away because the client just “doesn’t get it.” Success, when it comes, is achieved only through repetition of “fail and try again” and through blind luck.

However, there is a different vision. When core staff have built an understanding of the brand and its promise together, a different dynamic plays out. People understand what they are working for. They understand why what they are doing matters. People are more inspired. Communications is more effective. There are less wasted steps, and progress is easier to measure.

Three Questions

At my firm, Clarity, we coach our clients to answer three simple questions: Why does your company exist? Who do you serve? How do you help? Taken together, these three can serve as the basis for an understanding of brand that is powerful and easy to promote. Knowing that everyone in the company agrees on some version of the answer to these questions provides a foundation on which creating and managing digital marketing projects is much stronger and more effective.

1. Why Do You Exist?

Every company has some sort of foundation story. It may have been the dream of a single founder. Your company may have been in response to customer need or a perceived unfilled niche. When we do this work with nonprofits, the foundation story is often one that most people know and is the most fun to tell. For businesses, it may be more straightforward: “to sell X to people who need it to do Y.” But if your product is better, than everyone should know that you are selling “X to people who need it to do Y better.”

2. Who Do You Serve?

Again, knowing who you serve can be straightforward or it can be a little tricky. The people who use your products may not be the ones getting the benefits from those products. This is as true in business as it is in nonprofits. If you offer a better broom that does a superior job sweeping, the benefits are clear to the person doing the sweeping. However, if your broom is not as good as other brooms on the market, but you are offering them at a deep discount, that benefits the accountant balancing the books not person doing the sweeping.

3. How Do You Help?

This is where you describe what you do that makes the lives of the people you serve better. Maybe you save them money. Maybe you help them make more money. Maybe you save them time. Maybe you offer a way for them to do something that nobody else can help them do. This is a really important point for everyone in the organization to understand.

A Better Brand

There is a lot more that goes into brand. My Clarity partner likes to quote Marty Neumeier, “your brand is not what you say it is, it is what they say it is.” But coming to grips with the answers to these three questions will pay off big across the organization.

For the digital marketer however, it goes one step further. The answers to these three questions are not just helpful in defining a digital marketing project but vital to building the digital marketing team of the future. From scoping a project to managing a remote team, having a clear understanding of brand will help insure that everyone is moving in the same direction, whether they are in Boston, Bangkok, or Berlin.