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Imagine you're planning one of those epic cross-country road trips with your family. The group has picked out the various stops and activities along the way. And you've been tasked with charting the course and drafting a budget before the vacation adventures can begin.

Now imagine trying to do that without knowing anything about your trip's point of origin. You could be starting out from anywhere—Seattle, Boston, Anchorage... You have no idea. But you've still got a job to do, or you'll let your family down.

If you're thinking that feat seems impossible, you're probably right. There's little to no chance your trip will be a success if you don't first have all the relevant information at your disposal.

That's why you should now be asking yourself: Why would I launch a brand awareness campaign without first having a full assessment of my starting point—my brand's position in the market?

It's easy to have a vision, but it's impossible to make that vision a reality unless you know your starting point.

Dropping Your Pin on the Map of Brand Value

How your brand is perceived has a huge impact on its success. Strong brands instill confidence in investors, consumers, media outlets, employees, and even free-agent talent. All that confidence translates into steady growth and rising profits.

On the other hand, brands perceived as weak, vulnerable, or broken will face problems. Everything will be harder: securing strong partnerships, retaining customers, and fixing mistakes.

Brand matters, independent of how much money is put into outreach and marketing campaigns.

Fully 80% of marketers say consumers' foundational awareness of their brand is one of its most important differentiators, but 76% say they have no idea what percentage of their market is clued into their brand.

That is precisely why it's critical for marketers to assess their brand's value in the marketplace before formulating or launching a (costly) brand-awareness campaign.

Understanding where your brand value lies is the only way to accurately formulate a marketing campaign that will reach your audience and drive demand for your brand.

In other words, it's the only way to know exactly what to say about your brand, how to say it, and whom to reach with your message. It also allows you to gain an advantage against competitors by being able to better strategize your partnerships and spending, as well as improve customer satisfaction.

Three Steps Toward Brand Success

To pin down your brand's starting point and accurately chart your path toward more successful customer engagement, you must do three things.

1. Identify your brand's foundation

The first step toward determining a brand's value is to get a thorough, unbiased evaluation of the brand—your position in the market, how your brand is currently perceived, and so on. The information gathered during this phase is essential to understanding how weak or strong a brand's foundation truly is. It will also determine how a company should craft messages, increase product demand, and improve customer relations moving forward.

There's no need to reinvent the wheel here. To evaluate the foundation of your brand, go the old-fashioned route by using marketing or business intelligence, focus groups, or surveys—whatever best fits your timeline and resources. But make sure you get more than just quantitative research (e.g., surveys); real, honest qualitative customer feedback is just as important.

A focus group is a great way to do gain such feedback. Ensure you're assembling groups that are truly representative of your customers and prospects. A group that's too narrowly focused will skew your results. Consider hiring a third-party moderator who's free from bias and can read subtle indicators such as body language and intonation.

Don't stop at customers, either. Find out how your brand is perceived by everyone from investors to competitors, then use that information to shape your future outreach.

2. Keep your messaging consistent

A brand's message must be more than just words on a page or screen. It should be about building connections with consumers by evoking emotions and expressing foundational values. In fact, 64% of consumers report that realizing they share values with a brand is a major contributor to their initial interest in and continued loyalty toward that brand.

However, you won't inspire lifelong loyalty if your "powerfully crafted message" is inconsistently delivered. Indeed, 90% of consumers say they crave (and expect) consistency—across all platforms—when engaging with brands.

Wendy's is a good example of a reliable brand. Consumers have responded positively to the fast-food chain's witty social media banter, which fits in perfectly with its "challenger with charm" tone. The brand is seen as reliable because it maintains this devil-may-care attitude across all platforms.

On the other hand, if your social media voice is whimsical and sardonic, but your TV ads are straightforward and serious, consumers will have a hard time understanding what your brand is about.

Create brand guidelines for your marketing department to ensure your message is always focused and consistent:

  • Begin with a 5-10-word purpose statement that explains why your organization exists.
  • Next, a brand manifesto should flesh out your purpose statement, offering a better explanation of who you are, what you do, why you do it, and what impact your brand has made or aims to make.
  • Finally, a visual identity guide should outline all brand aesthetics rules, from color and typeface specifications to guidelines regarding imagery and logos.

3. Be true to your word

Building off of consistency, a large portion—45%, to be exact—of your brand's image and overall value can be attributed to your words and actions. When a brand consistently keeps its consumers satisfied and engaged, it is rewarded with loyalty. And a major part of customer satisfaction revolves around delivering on the promises your organization makes.

On the other hand, when a brand's messaging doesn't align with its actions, consumers' authenticity alarms go off. For instance...

  • Although Subway markets its restaurants as a "healthy" choice, the chain received a failing grade for "its use of antibiotics in meat and poultry."
  • Similarly, though Walmart often talks about how much it values its employees, it has long received criticism for its pay, benefits, and policies.

There are many ways to garner positive interest in your brand. But there's only one sure path to establishing loyalty and convincing consumers to take the action you desire: maintaining the highest level of customer satisfaction. Strengthen your brand by setting enticing (but realistic) expectations and always delivering positive results.

When I was at Apple's FileMaker, for example, we created a series of Plan, Create, Deploy success guides for developing custom apps. They generated a lot of leads and provided very useful step-by-step information; they also cemented FileMaker's position as the category leader. Most important, we delivered on our promise of improving businesses through education.

* * *

You can't plan a road trip without knowing your point of origin, and you can't launch a successful brand awareness campaign without first getting a full assessment of your brand's value—and ensuring you have sufficient standing to leverage for creating awareness.

Take steps to determine where your brand stands in the market today, so you can chart the next legs of your brand journey.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Dara Treseder

Dara Treseder is the chief marketing officer for GE Ventures. She's passionate about all things related to marketing and technology.

LinkedIn: Dara Treseder

Twitter @dara_johnson