What do you consider to be the most valuable asset of your business? Your unique line of products or services? The tools and technology that make your business work? Or even your team of employees? While all of these components are vital to your business, there's one strategic asset that I believe is even more important to develop and protect: your brand foundation.
A brand foundation -- which includes all the elements that differentiate your brand from the competition -- is a critical basis for every other aspect of your business. It influences your offerings, the tools you use and how your employees operate on a daily basis. A solid brand foundation is the difference between a healthy, growing company and one whose weaknesses limit or even prevent its success.
What Is a Brand Foundation?
According to Seth Godin, your brand is "the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another." This includes elements as varied as internal interactions, conversations with leads, advertising materials, website content and so much more. All of these elements are built on your brand foundation, which can't properly support them if it isn't fully developed.
Your brand is not just a logo or color scheme, although those are definitely elements. A mature brand foundation goes much deeper, clarifying your purpose -- why your business does exactly what it does and the way that you do it. Core elements of your brand foundation should include:
- Mission statement: This summary of your brand's purpose should focus on your "why" -- the problem your business solves and how it improves the lives of your customers and the wider industry and world.
- Positioning: Brand positioning is about what makes your brand distinct, whether it's a focus on an underserved audience segment or a unique approach to a process or product.
- Core values: These are the strengths you want customers and the market in general to associate with your brand. Many companies choose values such as commitment, integrity and customer focus as the emphasis for their brand.
- Personality: Just like the team members of your company, a brand also has a distinct character, reflected in materials and interactions, whether that personality is playful or professional, considerate or just a bit snarky.
- Design assets: The standard items you automatically associate with a brand are also important -- including brand logos, colors, fonts, icons, patterns and even image styles. Design assets should support and reflect the more foundational aspects of your brand listed above.
The ROI of a Strong Brand Foundation
While a quality brand and reputation is invaluable for your business, there's definitely an ROI advantage to developing your brand foundation. I can think of many examples where a more dedicated consideration of brand has resulted in great financial rewards for a company. In one case, Walmart's rebranding strategy brought the company a 7% increase in traffic from a previously unreached but valuable customer segment -- all through a new brand image as well as improvements in quality of stores and interactions. In addition, a mature brand foundation makes it more efficient to develop new processes and materials, all of which will be defined by your brand strategy.
Growth Through Your Brand Story
A brand foundation that works for you is really about having a clear understanding of your brand's story: who you are, what you do, why you do it and how you do it. Telling this story through every channel where your brand has a presence is key to growing your audience, growing your customer base and, ultimately, growing your revenue. Clarity for these stories only comes with an established brand foundation.