Build your brand’s house before trying to decorate it.

Brand first. Tacticals second.

July 19, 2012

By Bridget Perez

Client: We need your help with a new website.

TRAY: Great! Tell us more about your company. Do you have a strategy in place for your brand?

Client: Hmmm…not sure what you mean. We have a logo.

TRAY: Do you know how your products and services are positioned in the competitive landscape of your industry, and what unique benefits make you different?

Client: Can we look at our competitor’s website and see how they do it?

TRAY: Well, the key to success is how you can differentiate from your competition. What are your business goals and what are you hoping to achieve with this website?

Client: We want to grow our business and make more money, of course!

TRAY: I think we need to put aside the website for a moment, and get some clarity around your brand…

(We’d like to state for the record that the above conversation is purely hypothetical and has never happened in our experience. Ever.)

It’s a natural instinct for businesspeople to want to go charging into the development of tactical communications—a cool-looking website, a memorable tagline, a content-packed Facebook page. Those are the fun parts of marketing, right? But those components will never have a positive impact on your business—and in fact, may actually hurt your business—if they don’t carry a cohesive, consistent message and image that truly reflect what your brand is about.

Foundation first: Is your brand on shaky ground?

Simply put, solid brand positioning and strategy set the stage for everything that follows. This is why, if a prospective client comes to us seeking a website re-design or any other tactical component, we first ask some basic questions to gauge how much of a handle they have on their brand. If it can’t be expressed with clarity, then it’s going to be virtually impossible to execute a meaningful website experience.

At that point we’ll take a step back and recommend a brand positioning and strategy engagement. We’ll go through a rigorous discovery period in which we learn everything there is to know about the brand and its industry, and then translate that into a platform that includes brand positioning, competitive differentiators, messaging, visual direction and more.

Ask the tough questions

Here’s just a small sampling of the questions you should be asking yourself before attempting any tactical marketing effort, whether it’s a website, a social media campaign, a trade show display, you name it.

1. What are your company’s core values?

2. What are your primary short- and long-term business goals? How do they align with your tactical marketing projects?

3. Explore the competitive landscape. Who are your competitors, and what are the differences and similarities between their companies and yours?

4. What does your company do better than anyone else? Describe how your products/services benefit people in a unique way.

5. Who are you primarily aiming to reach? Describe in detail the various needs of the audience(s).

6. Where are the opportunities for growth and differentiation in your industry, both now and in the near term?

7. How would you describe the aesthetic and voice of your company?

Some of these questions may seem easy, and some may be a struggle or require more extensive research. Laying the foundation for your brand is a critical step to having solid success in your marketing endeavors and an important investment in your company.