10 powerful branding insights that will keep your business moving forward

Flickr photo via Woodleywonderworks

Just because you’ve built a successful company doesn’t mean you can relax. Succeeding in this ever-changing business world demands that you constantly strive to get ahead…and stay ahead. Easier said than done, right?

Well, the following branding insights I’m about to share with you will help you create a brand and business that grows year after year.

1. Build a strong brand

Sure, this seems obvious, but if you want to start taking some of your competitor’s market share, it all starts with a strong brand. And one of the best ways to learn how to do this is to study how successful companies built strong brands. Here are six:

  • Start with the why – Apple explains why they exist before they even get down to building products. It’s as if their motto is: “We exist to challenge the status quo. We emphasize beautiful design. And, oh yeah, we build computer devices,” and not the other way around, “We build computer devices, emphasize beautiful design and exist to challenge the status quo.”
  • Never forget the past – Blinds.com stays anchored to their history by hanging street signs in their corporate office of all of their other office locations and naming conference rooms after old domain names and products.
  • Create your own market – Amazon jumped into the e-reader market way before anybody thought it would go anywhere. They now own that space.
  • Rebrand to avoid confusion – Formspring creates new products that are distinct from one another, even if it means changing the name of a popular existing product.
  • Create an awesome user experience – Apple looked to their competitors to see what customers wanted and figured out what they could deliver that the competition wasn’t — thus starting the iDevice revolution.
  • Stay edgy – Even large, established brands can stay nimble and act like a start-up. That’s exactly what Jim Beam did with its line of women’s alcohol beverages.

Knowing the basics isn’t enough to dominate your market. You have to take your branding to the next level like the above companies did.

2. Innovation does not listen to the customer

Neil Patel

Do not ask your customers want they want—just give it to them. If you ask for their feedback too early in the stage of product development and they will tell you they want better, faster and cheaper.

That is nothing more than the same old thing with a little improvement.

You can only create a strong brand and move your business forward when you create a product that breaks from the past and creates a new path on how we live.

This is what happened with the personal computer. The early mainframes were so huge that nobody anticipated they would one day be in our homes. A customer would’ve looked at one and said: “I don’t want that in my house.” We now have personal computers because someone dreamed big — and didn’t ask the customer what they wanted.

3. Lead people with these 3 questions

As the manager of a team of people or the leader of a company, if you want to create a strong brand and go big with your goals…according to David Novak, chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands, then your leadership needs to focus on these three questions:

  • What single big idea will take your business to the next level?
  • Who do you need on your team—whether a partner or employee—in order to be successful?
  • What belief or habit of your target audience can you tap into to help you reach your goals?

4. Hire humble people who fit your culture

A common mistake a lot of start-ups and established businesses make is to hire people who come from Stanford or Harvard. They want those pedigree people.

Instead, look for people who are passionate and humble. If they happen to come from those colleges, that’s fine. But first look for passionate and humble people.

What’s the easiest way to spot these people? When I was interviewing salesmen I noticed that the helpful and teachable ones use the word “we” or “you” way more than the word “I.”

5. Know who owns every single task

When it comes to getting things done — from the smallest to the largest — you need to put someone in charge. This is the person who is responsible for getting that task done.

And leaving the decision up to someone else will not get you the results you want.

If things don’t get done, your company won’t progress and your brand will be forgotten.

6. Create a challenge-centric culture

Strong brands understand that great ideas are born and executed when people are given the freedom to voice opinions and challenge ideas. This is how innovative ideas are born.

A great example of this is Netflix who started out by renting movies though the mail. You would think they’d name the company “Mailflix,” right?

Wrong.

Their challenge-centric focus uncovered that people would eventually stream movies online. And it took nearly a decade before that became a mainstream reality. Fortunately, due to a challenge-centric culture, they were looking into the future.

7. Create a culture of unpredictability

Now, I’m not talking about making a culture that forces employees to walk on egg shells…I’m talking about an unpredictability about your products, which keep the media on their toes…always looking at you.

The best way to do this is to conceal your moves. Apple is the master at this, as they pre-sell every product in a secretive way – holding press conferences and leaking rumors before the launch of a product. (Like today’s iPad announcement).

Google isn’t so bad at this either. When they announce major changes to their algorithm they’ll simply publish a blog post with a few details. Most of the time, however, they are quiet about changes — and that generates a ton of ink as people speculate on what is going on.

Another advantage to being unpredictable is that you keep your competitors in the dark about your organization weaknesses while you obsess over your competitors (who aren’t as smart as you are when it comes to hiding your organizational weaknesses). Keeping the upper hand is key to driving your business forward.

8. Create a culture of autonomy, mastery and purpose

Business writer Daniel Pink recommends that at companies where the work output is mainly creative you need to create a culture for your workers that gives them autonomy, mastery and purpose. Do this and you will create a motivated team.

Let’s look at each briefly:

  • Autonomy – This means you allow them to own the project or task. You tell them the outcome…and they’ll figure out how to get it done. In other words, never micromanage.
  • Mastery – Your culture should also be geared toward helping your employees get better at what they do. Allow them to grow in their marketable skill sets by leading projects, encouraging healthy risk and formal training.
  • Purpose – Finally, each employee should understand how their contribution fits into the business objectives.

When you have a culture where people feel independence, mastery and purpose, then your brand is destined to get big. Just look at places like Google.

9. Destroy what you do.

Great brands never rest on their past glories. They are always pushing to expand their market, and one of the ways they do this is by looking for ways to disrupt their very own business, product and profit models.

In fact, some of these companies devote entire departments to the task of destroying. They call these departments skunk works.

See, radical brands that define a market and capture lucrative opportunities are constantly testing and tweaking what they do. They’ve made creative destruction a part of their culture.

10. Execute ideas

What separates a great brand from a mediocre brand is not the level of sophistication of their ideas. Just about anyone can come up with great ideas.

Great, strong brands have figured out how to execute their ideas. Marla Tabaka explains how this is done:

  • Get your ideas on paper – Whether it’s on the back of a napkin or in a Moleskine, write down every single idea you get when they come.
  • Evaluate and expand – At some point sit down and evaluate your ideas. Sift the good ideas from the bad.
  • Match your idea to your business objectives – Your next step is to see which ideas mesh with what you are trying to accomplish as a company. If the idea doesn’t fit with your mission and vision…pitch it. It is not worth your time.
  • Use SWOT – Next, analyze the ideas that have survived this far using the SWOT. Is it possible to convert a weakness into an opportunity? What strengths can be leveraged?
  • Compare the latest trends – Before development of an idea, look to see what is already in the market. Is your competitor providing a similar product? How can you differentiate?
  • Brainstorm with trusted people – Gather a group of strategic and creative people you trust to drum up ideas on what needs to be done, who needs to do it and when it needs to happen.
  • Assign tasks – Finally, hand out the assignments to getting this idea from paper into reality.

The better you get at executing your ideas, the faster you will grow.

Conclusion

Listen, you can’t ignore the above insights and expect your business performance to improve. In fact, ignore these insights and just the opposite will happen. You will slide into mediocrity.

Moreover, you won’t be prepared to jump on the opportunities that appear on your horizon, which means you’ll be leaving tons of money on the table…money that your competitor may be taking.

Can you share any branding insights that will help a business move forward?

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics, an analytics provider that helps companies make better business decisions.

More from Neil Patel on GeekWireSeven signs that you might just be an entrepreneur Eleven things every entrepreneur should know about innovation… 17 things I wish I’d known when starting my first business

  • http://twitter.com/ResonantInsight Resonant Insights

    Again Neil–you rock!  Yes Start with YOUR Why!  Yes it’s about Dan Pink’s Purpose–Autonomy–Mastery.  Love to have you show case more companies LIVING this stuff.  We’re still at that tipping point where the talk is happening and only a few are leading the way, e.g. Zappos and Tony Hsieh

  • http://www.ydeveloper.com/e-smart-ecommerce-suite.html eCommerce

    Building a brand is not a day job. Years of experience it will take to reach on to the position that people see your brand as most reliable than other brand on same category.

  • http://laurencevincent.com/ Laurence Vincent

    These are excellent insights. I would add one more: connect your brand to a compelling story. Narrative is the secret sauce that makes people attach themselves to a brand. By people, I mean customers, employees, investors, business partners. Unlike brand likeability, attachment is a rare quality in a brand when someone sees the brand as an extension of themselves. Apple fanboys don’t just like Apple. Apple is part of their life. Starbucks aficionados consider themselves part of the Starbucks community. In each case, the basis of that attachment is a narrative. The brand is interwoven into three compelling stories: the biographical story of the brand itself, the genre story of the category in which it competes, and the individual story of each of the brand’s stakeholders. Great brands tell stories.

  • Racahs

    great informative post… will surely help me in my business… thanks

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