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Who the hell are you, and why does it matter?

If you can’t answer that, you’ve got work to do. It’s the first of many steps to take when you realize your brand isn’t where it needs to be, what it could be, or — help us all — what it used to be. Unfortunately, this happens to brands for a thousand reasons. Do I have a perfect 25-step process for fixing your issue? No, no one does. What I can do is share a brief story about a brand (name withheld for obvious reasons) that we’re currently refreshing. Oh, the places you’ll go! And you may even learn something. We’ll see.

Earlier this year, a previous client (and current friend) called me on the phone to say hi and catch up. To my delight, the friendly call quickly turned into an exciting opportunity. He’s taken a position as head of sales and marketing at a new company with industry-disruptive technology. I wasn’t surprised – he has a knack for aiding disruption.

I can’t wait to hear about this new brand. I love fresh, out-of-startup mode, legit and almost proven companies. He’s beyond excited about the opportunity it presents, but…. (and I had to dig), there’s one issue.

“Jerry,” he says, “the company, technology, science, and people are amazing, but no one knows who we are or what differentiates us. Our brand is confusing our potential customers and I’m not sure what we stand for. Check out our site. But I know we have the technology to change an entire industry.”

Ahhhh, yes. I love this part. Refreshing a brand with a disruptive technology means cutting through an industry filled with titanic, stodgy, throat-holding companies. Companies that have rested on their relationships of the last 100 years without pushing their own methods or technologies. I’m down for that. Wouldn’t you be?

So, he makes the introduction for our two companies and we’re invited to share a capabilities presentation. Intrigued, the owner asks our thoughts on the current brand. We’re candid, as always. He says “Thanks. What’s the next step?” Great guy. I love this guy. We send him our tailored ideas in broad strokes. And just like that – we’re engaged.

To be clear. They really do have a new technology that will disrupt an industry. They really do have a brand with no voice, value prop or visual direction that supports their true differentiators. They really need a brand refresh. Not a rebrand. It has good bones.

Here’s how to approach the project, step-by-step:

  1. Discovery
    This is when you gain an understanding of who you’re talking to and how to position the brand as relevant and unique. During this phase, you’ll define the customer personas, begin digging into the value prop and positioning statement, land on their unique differentiators and supporting proof points and lastly, discuss their competitors.
  2. Messaging
    From the Discovery phase, boil down notes and craft a messaging document. This contains the following pieces:
    • Personas – what their customers need, what they think now, what we want them to think/feel/do and the obstacles they face. The client must know the answer to the question – “Who the hell are you, and why does it matter?”
    • Positioning statement – there are many ways to do this. We use a For/Brand/Is a/Offers/Unlike/Benefits model. It’s served us well as a format. Give it a shot.
    • Strategic theme – this is the beginning of concept. It delivers on the essence of how we differentiate the brand voice.
    • Benefits and proof points – categorize all the points of interest that ladder up to the client or unique benefits. Proof points define the strengths, which in turn inform the unique benefits.
    • Key messages by audience – often agencies will do 30/60/90 statements. We find it more beneficial to articulate a key message for each audience persona.
  3. Planning
    No surprises here – it’s a plan of attack for getting the brand into the wild. Tactics, mediums, strategy, etc.
  4. Brand concept
    Where the rubber meets the road. Get it right! And make sure it can extend. Many brands fail to impact the market because they don’t utilize the strategic direction defined in the above points. It’s vital. Use it to your advantage.
  5. Brand execution
    Fulfill their dreams and see your work take shape. This is when you build the tactics, evaluate the new nuances of the brand and insist on keeping it consistent through every touchpoint.

Back to the story. We’ve just gained client approval for the Brand Concept phase. And, may I say, it’s spectacular.

We’ve had a lot of fun hearing stories from the founder while gaining an understanding of his desire for impact. And now he can better prove the value and validity of his technology. Every conversation with him starts and ends with, “we need to take a bold stand.”

So, we’re taking a bold stand. Our goal is to introduce the client to the industry in a way that sounds like no one else and looks like no one else. A way that will redefine the industry standard. We know it’s going to make a few people uncomfortable with their current complacent approach. And it will counter the ridiculously mundane ads in the industry.

We will explore new and disruptive ways of connecting with prospects, leveraging traditional and digital mediums and an account-based marketing strategy. The brand will have a vibrant new look, redefining industry marketing with the same vigor the client took to develop their new technology. And the brand will have a new voice: one which will not hold back. One that will tell the truth and represent the brand in strength.

Until the next time they need a refresh. Because, you know, it happens.

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