Spotting brand weaknesses before it’s too late

While sometimes I work with teams in building new concepts from the ground up, often I am brought in to help teams refine or re-position their brands when they get stalled. Here are a few of the most common challenges I see teams encounter in creating their brand strategy:

There is no real “target”

You simply cannot try to appeal to everyone. That doesn’t mean you need to be elitist, or exclusionary in your messaging. It does mean that to create something meaningful you absolutely must have a sound idea of who you are – and who you aren’t – designing a product or service for.

The “target” sounds suspiciously like…you!

It’s easy for creators to get so excited about their idea that they forget to figure out if there is a substantial market out there who share the same needs and interest. Concepts need to be tested and assumptions challenged, to be sure the brand team isn’t talking to themselves. Even if you are a scrappy start-up, you can find ways to get feedback: product demos, chatting up people in stores, or reading online reviews of competitive or substitute offerings.

You aren’t solving a real problem

Consumers aren’t going to ask you to create a certain product – but they can tell you about points of tension in their daily lives if you are really listening. Ask a lot of questions to get to solid insight into their needs, because the first few answers will be superficial. Keep digging…what do they struggle with and how can you help them with that?

You struggle to figure out how you are different

If you have a solid idea, this should be easy. If you are struggling to find points of difference, then it’s a really good warning sign that you need to re-work your concept. A good way to do this is to outline how you are similar (“points of parity”) as well as your points of difference. If your list of similarities is long, and you can’t articulate clear differentiation, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

While the basic construct of a brand positioning is pretty straightforward, the magic is in the ability to work and re-work a concept to get it tight. This is best done with a diverse group of stakeholders, and even with some “outside” thinkers to help challenge the team to refine the concept. Remember, better to spend the time up-front really pushing for the right concept than rushing to market with something half-baked.