Since I decided to take this crazy ride 9 months ago and launched Sports & Recreation MGMT Group, I have been blessed to work with several emerging brands in the sporting goods industry. I always start by reviewing their business & marketing plans. Most have a rudimentary business plan, and a couple have had some form of a marketing plan. You can imagine the response I get when I tell them that our first objective will be to determine their company culture and identify the brand characteristics that align with that culture. You see, I will tell them, this will be the foundation for the new business & marketing plans that we will create.
This must not be what they expected to hear because there is usually a period of silence. After they have stared at me for a short time, I will ask them – what are you passionate about? Their answer to that question has consistently been “I am passionate about my products” and then they “sell me” on their products by going into detail on what makes their products special and why they are so “passionate” about them. After listening patiently through the sales pitch, I will respond with something like – wrong answer. What??? How can that be the wrong answer?
To steer them in the right direction, I will ask – what caused you to create these products in the first place? Now you can start to see understanding dawning in their eyes and I will get a heartfelt history of what they are truly passionate about and how they developed their products in order to be more successful in pursuing that passion. And ultimately, how their customers will be more successful.
Do not get me wrong. Your products are very important. However, what I am trying to get them to understand is what Simon Sinex points out in his book Start with Why – “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it”. Your products are WHAT you do but the reason you created the products in the first place is WHY you do it. Therefore, it is your WHY that must be the foundation of your business & marketing plans.
So, what does this have to do with the importance of a brand statement? Simply put – your brand statement will become your most important imbedding mechanism. A properly constructed brand statement will communicate your WHY to the consumer. Customers gain an understanding of your company culture and brand identity (your WHY) primarily in the following 3 ways –
Artifacts – The most visible aspects of organizational culture. They are those things we can see, hear, or “feel” about an organization. Values and Beliefs – The principles the group articulates or announces publicly as what they stand for or what they are trying to achieve. Basic Assumptions – These tend to be those ideas, concepts, or beliefs the group does not question or debate.
A well-developed Brand Statement is an element of all 3 of these embedding mechanisms and therefore becomes the single most important tool to communicate your WHY to the consumer. It becomes (along with your logo) your most prominent artifact because it will appear in all your marketing channels. It should express your central core value / belief and it should be so deeply held within the organization that it becomes a basic assumption as to the brands purpose or WHY.
To emphasize how important a brand statement is, here are 4 random brand statements (2 are retailers and 2 are consumer brands) and I bet everyone reading this blog will be able to identify at least 3 of the companies just from the brand statements…
- Always the low price, Always.
- Just do it
- Think Different
- Your Adventure Starts Here
The first one is obviously Walmart. Always the low price, Always is an artifact. Walmart had this brand statement plastered everywhere. All their in-store signage, print ads, and marketing screamed this brand statement. Being the price leader was certainly their central core value. Their entire infrastructure was designed to allow them to be the price leader. Finally, there is no doubt that it was a basic assumption of every Walmart employee and customer that they were the low-price leader. Interestingly, Walmart has developed a new brand statement. Can anyone think of a reason they would move away from a brand statement that has been so successful?
Number 2 is clearly Nike. Their WHY was to get people off the couch and participating in sports and to help elevate amateur athletes’ skills and experience. No excuses. Just do it! Just like Walmart, Nike’s brand statement was a key component of all 3 key embedding mechanisms. Like Walmart, They have also developed a new brand statement. Can anyone recall it?
Number 3 might be a little trickier if you are a PC person verses a MAC person. Think Different was Apples brand statement for decades. Who remembers all their marketing telling us to be non-conformist and to not be like the guy in the suit and tie who used PC’s? There is no doubt that thinking differently is a core value / belief of Apple and that it is a shared assumption of its employees and customers. Think Different… many of us did.
The last is Bass Pro Shops. Their WHY is to get people outdoors on an adventure. Your Adventure Starts Here! They have everything you could ever want for your outdoor adventure in one place, no matter if it is a fishing, hunting, camping, or boating adventure. Think back to their roots when they were a catalog retailer. Their catalogs and flagship store had the broadest product assortments anywhere. If you were going on an outdoor adventure it started at Bass Pro. The products they sell are WHAT they do to accomplish their WHY; getting people to go on an outdoor adventure.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when developing a brand statement… your brand statement should be short and to the point. A brand statement is external looking; when the customer hears or sees it, they should automatically think of your brand. The brand statement should express your central core value / belief about your brand.
One trend I have noticed is as marketing channels have expanded with the growth of eCommerce and social media, brands (retailers and manufactures) have not been consistent in their messaging and utilization of their brand statements. While I am not sure the cause of this, I believe this is a mistake. This sounds like a good topic to explore in a future blog. Be on the lookout!
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Find your WHY. Create an awesome Brand Statement. Incorporate it in all your marketing channels. Then Be Relevant, Be Resilient… and Be Relentless!