Topic: Branding

Looking For Brand Essence....

Posted by Anonymous on 500 Points
Hello experts:

I am looking for input on how to go about identifying and articulating the brand essence, soul, persona of an existing website brand. Let me explain.

Our little B2C ecommerce website has been in existence for 18 months now and has been fairly successful. We know, however, that we have many opportunities to improve the user interface of the site, and will embark on a re-design soon. Before we engage a design firm, we in the marketing team want to make sure that we are very, very clear on what we are trying to communicate and to whom.

We know our target audience well. We have done extensive research outlining the demographic profiles of 3 key audience segments, e.g., our top target is male 25-44, urban/suburban, married with kids, working full-time, value-driven, Internet veteran, etc, etc.

We know what our main brand benefit is right now, which is largely focused on price. (As we do not want to compete on price alone longer term, we know we need to find new angles to highlight our differentiating attributes. One question is which ones are relevant to the target audience above. But I digress…)

Most importantly, we are trying to gauge what should be our brand persona – what is it that we should be trying to communicate on the new look & feel of the website: friendly? professional? laid-back? authoritative? energetic?

I know that to get to the answer to most of that we could do a series of focus groups with current users and prospects. The problem is that we have no budget to orchestrate all of that. So…the real question is:

Any ideas on how to go about finding out these core brand attributes we have/should have WITHOUT spending tens of thousands of dollars in market research? (Don’t get me wrong, I do want to do the research, just can’t spend much (if anything) doing it, most unfortunately). We are ready, willing and able to roll up our sleeves, so any suggestions are appreciated.

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  • Posted by wnelson on Accepted

    You can buy a Ouija board for about $20, if you have that in your budget. Or there's always the answer 8-ball. I think they are under $10.

    You have thousands of dollars to redesign your website but you have none to ask your customers what their needs are and what they perceive the benefits of doing business with you are? Seems like maybe the budget is misplaced. Maybe scale back the redesign efforts to figure out where your company is going is in order. Daniela, as you said yourself: we do not want to compete on price alone longer term, we know we need to find new angles to highlight our differentiating attributes. Frankly speaking, unless you are the lowest cost and highest volume producer, you can't sustain the price leader strategy. You need to find a differentiator strategy. So unless people are saying your website is vile and they are recommending to all their friends to avoid it, maybe redesigning it is like painting the deck chairs on the Titanic after it hit the iceberg. I am only being so blunt about this because these are things I'd be concerned about if I were in your position as you described it. Finding unique selling points, value propositions, and core competencies are much more important than a website redesign. To do that, research and analysis on the market, customers, competitors, and your own company is paramount. It's a pay me now or pay me later sort of thing.

    That being said, "focus groups" don't have to be such a big drain - thousands of dollars, as you say. You can pilot a focus group in your own community for a few hundred dollars. Your company is tech savvy. There are web conferences to which you could invite customers from anywhere in the world. This is an action that takes more of yours and the marketing department's time than actual money. Based on the conferences, you can formulate surveys and these don't have to cost a bundle.

    If you need some help with this, you could post a project by using the "Post a Project" link above, right and have us experts bid on a project to get the information you are seeking.

    I hope this helps.

  • Posted by Frank Hurtte on Member
    Daniele, can you give us a little more information on what you are selling. It makes a difference if you are selling expensive stuff, nickel dime stuff, etc.

    Frank Hurtte
  • Posted on Accepted
    HI Daniele,

    Let me give you some inputs articulating the brand essence, soul, persona of an existing website brand.

    Brand essence is "'the intrinsic or indispensable properties that serve to characterize or identify something'"

    The brand essence is a distillation of the brand identity and an encapsulation of the brand values. These values form the core of the brand's identity, what yor website believes in, the guiding ethos in which activities and behaviour can be measured against; they are intrinsic to the company and are used as the framework for communications, culture and the outward facing personality.

    You also asked about the brand personality out of friendly? professional? laid-back? authoritative? energetic? ... I think that most of the people using internet are energetic people, esp the people in age group of 25-44. But it has professional theme as well.

    Now let me take few points one by one:
    1. Sales Proposition/ USP: Its good that yo know yout TA but its very important to know POD (Point of difference) with not leaving POP (Point of Parity). Look out your competitors and their respective prospositions. You atleast incorporate the attributes which thay all have and uniquely define attribute which is novel.The above points of POP and POD are part of Brand Personality. Strong positioning strategies are based on solid brand insight, company and competitor research that adds to the equity of the brand, maximising its potential by filling the opportunity gap in the marketplace.

    2. Brand Vision: A brand vision statement communicates what business you are in and what's possible? It defines and communicates to the organisation, its stakeholders and the public the future aspirations of the business and the goals required to achieve the vision. Your website should give some stats that want to business of say 1m$ in this year.

    3. Emotional Connectivity: Powerful emotive connections in the minds of the target customer is required which is not easily eroded by competitors.

    4. Brand Naming: Effective brand names are relevant to the brand essence, support business objectives and evoke the brand promise and personality.

    5. Brand Elements: The logos of ur company on your website, some jingles related to business can be put on to ur website.

    6. Sensory Branding by Martin Lindstrom: Use any of the 5 senses, especially sound and good sight images/ animations on your website which encapsulated you brand essense.

    As someone above also mentioned that price cannot be a differentiator in long run. You have to take a differentiation strategy as mentioned in point 1.

    I agree that you dont have sufficient money for different researches. But there is simple and cheap method - focused group discussion with your friends and colleagues. You have to tell them that its just a 40 minute exercise and take it as a recreational exercise. You act as a moderate and jot down the points you want to discuss on. With that keep writing the insights side by side.

    FGD cannot be overlooked as it give you erormous customer insights.

    Hope this will help

    Nitin Kochhar
  • Posted on Member
    One correction in my post :

    The above points of POP and POD are part of Brand positioning. I wrote it by mistake. Thanks JBTron.
  • Posted by darcy.moen on Accepted
    I would create a focus group and customer panel from a random sampling of website users. Offer Incentives for participation, and start gathering information. For ease and convenience, I would run my customer panel and focus groups online and milk them for information.

    Here is an example of one I've set up as an example for my dry cleaning customers:

    You could very easily do the same (or I could create the same system for you if you would care to set up a budget for it).

    You should have a process in place to get feedback from customers. if you a serious about really being customer centric, run various panels gathering data and information from various parts of your enterprise. It is not as expensive as you think it is, and the information gives you a fantastic competitive advantage. Be prepared, and you will lead your market niche.

    Hope this helps you

    Darcy Moen
    Customer Loyalty Network

  • Posted by wnelson on Accepted

    Take a look at this 1999 article - old but enlightening and still relevant.

    It supports my "gut feel" that chances of your customers caring a lot about a brand essence is slim. I stand by my earlier assertion: Spend your money and time finding differentiation. You're selling "jelly beans." Brach's jelly beans sell for $1 per pound or less, just like the tens of other brands. Jelly Belly sells for $6 per pound. Why? Because they have a million flavors ranging from the exotic to the disgusting. There is no Jelly Belly-ness.

    Finding a differentiation point is critical to your strategy because without it, your 18 month old company is in the twilight of its life. Think about how hard it is to set up a DVD trading company. A website, a couple website programmers, a Pay Pal account - items that we trip over in every step today. Google "Trade Swap DVD" and several pages of your competitors come up, including Amazon, e-Bay, Blockbuster, Hollywood Video (their model isn't exactly your model, but none the less, if people trade in their vids through them, they are your competitor).

    Prior to setting the direction on branding, the marketing process requires analysis:
    • Customer needs

    • Customer influencers - images, words

    • Segmentation

    • Strengths and weaknesses - both as a company and of their product/service offerings

    • How well they meet customer needs and where they don't

    Your Company
    • SWOT

    • Core competencies

    After this, it's direction setting:
    • Product/service defintion - to take advantage of your core competencies to meet customer needs better than your competition, to define unique selling points (USP's)

    • Position statement

    • Segment targeting

    • Branding strategy

    This sets up the rest of the marketing efforts, including the look and feel of your website.

    So, when you are gathering the team of typical customers made up of freinds, family, staff, agency people, as Karl (KANDI) wisely suggests (the tool he submitted is a good one, too), to talk about the essence of your DVD Trading-ness, allot some time to work on the basics of your strategy.


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