Marketing today is both more important and harder than ever before. With so many brands vying for consumers’ limited attention, it can be hard to be seen or heard. In an effort to be first to market or the loudest communicator out there, many marketers skip a few critical steps. Make sure you’re not one of them!
1. Branding before positioning
Branding is not what you think it is. It’s not just design, it’s the entire emotional expression of your position. Through positioning we establish your marketing strategy. Branding follows, bringing that strategy to life with design: memorable tag lines, an impressive logo, credible tone of voice, emotional triggers, etc.
Positioning tells you who you are and why you matter, more specifically, it articulates your company’s differentiated role and relevance in the market and helps define your brand. Positioning is 100% rational; it is an articulation of your precise location in the marketing landscape. Without positioning, most marketing campaigns fall flat or simply don’t work. Developing a strong positioning strategy, communicated through a message architecture (I’ll get to that in a minute), is the first step in building an authentic narrative that will maximize your competitive advantage, align your company from within, and engage your target market.
A brand strategy expresses your unique position in the market in a way that resonates with and influences your target audience. It’s a yin and yang; positioning is yin (rational) and branding is yang (emotional). They are two sides of the same coin, and you need both.
Skipping positioning and jumping straight into branding is a costly mistake, as your campaigns often don’t align with who you are as a company and therefore become inauthentic, a trait that customers can sniff out a mile away. You’re better off to go through the effort of developing a solid positioning strategy, and then think of branding as the creative execution of that strategy.
2. Misunderstanding of your corporate DNA
Companies are like people. They have DNA, and that DNA is reflected in their behaviors. Just as knowing who you are at your core—an athlete or an engineer—enables you to be a better you, leaders who understand their positioning DNA can use it to align the C-Suite and determine their company’s competitive advantage.
Corporate DNA lies behind everything an organization does: how it is structured, how it hires people, how it measures success—even what’s covered in meetings. It is the single biggest factor when it comes to identifying a company’s role and relevance in the market and determining its optimal positioning strategy. The point of aligning with DNA is to attain a unique and authentic position in the market, resulting in genuine differentiation and competitive advantage.
There are 3 corporate DNA types out there: Customer centric, Product centric, and Concept centric. Understanding your company’s DNA type will give you a competitive advantage and alignment throughout your organization. Know what you’re made of, so you can make something of it.
3. Not having a Message Architecture
The most successful marketing campaigns are those that are built on a solid positioning strategy, a foundation housing success. However, no positioning or branding effort will truly win your audience over unless it’s articulated masterfully. Communication is a strategic weapon; it can inspire your audience to act in your favor. The trick is using it properly. Taking the time to write a thorough messaging overview will give every employee the tools they need to write copy that is on brand and aligned with your position. At Cunningham Collective, we refer to this as a Message Architecture: A blueprint for market success. By clearly outlining and defining critical aspects of your messaging, things like purpose, mission, position, key messages and your elevator story, you ensure that your communication efforts will always sound authentic and resonate with the right people at the right time. Incorporating brand elements such as tone of voice, archetype, personality characteristics, and brand driver into your message architecture will help every employee not only know what to say, but how to say it. A Message Architecture should include both positioning and brand elements to give a complete overview of your communication strategy.
In today’s oversaturated, always on society, it’s not enough to simply push content. As marketers, we have to be more creative and clever than that. We need to rise above the noise, ooze authenticity and influence consumers to act in our favor. By positioning before branding, identifying and leveraging your corporate DNA, and developing a thorough Message Architecture you will avoid three common costly mistakes and set your company up for success.
About the author:
Henry has over 25 years of experience in technology and consulting for venture-backed startups and public companies. Henry brings to Cunningham Collective a product-oriented mindset, having driven inbound and outbound product marketing in several organizations. While at Cunningham Collective, Henry has led a number of brand strategy and marketing engagements for clients in consumer technology, enterprise solutions, AR/VR, IoT, video, food tech, eCommerce, and semiconductors. He also served as interim marketing leadership for a consumer streaming video company and an enterprise unified communications company as a part of a Collective engagement.