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05.06.19

Forging an Ironclad Brand – Your North Star

Forging an Ironclad Brand

A BRAND properly conceived is more than a marketing activity. It’s more than a logo. It’s more than a great ad. It’s more than what you do on social media. It informs all of those things and more. Your brand is your North Star as Lindsay Pedersen defines it in Forging an Ironclad Brand.

An Ironclad brand is one that unleashes your competitive advantage. Your brand acts as a filter in the customer's mind defining who you are and what you mean to your customer. Importantly, it “provides a North Star to guide employees to grow the business you want to build, and to do so with autonomy and cohesion.” Because your brand is an articulation of your purpose, it allows your employees to focus on what is important, and it communicates what your customer can expect—your promise—what makes you different.

Creating an ironclad brand is not just the function of the marketing department.

Pedersen believes an ironclad brand should meet nine criteria:

1. It must be big. It should represent a big promise—a big benefit—in the customer's mind.

2. It must be narrow. Big enough to matter but narrow enough to own.

3. It must be asymmetrical. That is, you must find that strength where you can dominate. What is your asymmetrical, lopsided, disproportionate strength that far exceeds the rest of the market?

4. It must be empathetic. It should reflect the emotional life of your target customer.

5. It must be optimally distinct. It needs to strike a balance between old and new, familiar and novel. Make your brand idea new enough that it brings the newness we crave alongside familiarity.

6. It must be functional and emotional. Your emotional benefit must be firmly rooted in a functional one. Similarly, your functional benefit should give rise to an emotional reward. For example, Amazon Prime’s functional benefit of fast delivery enables the emotional benefit of instant gratification.

7. It must be sharp-edged. An ironclad brand clarifies. It brings contrast and can usually be summed up in a word or two. Sometimes the best way to sharpen your edges is to remove things, to simplify. John Maeda says,” simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.”

8. It must have teeth. Your brand needs to be demonstrably true. Your brand’s promise should be very specific. Specificity increases believability.

9. It must deliver. Your brand must be something you deliver on every time, all the time.

With these nine conditions as a backdrop, Pedersen presents her eight-step process for crafting a brand strategy—The Ironclad Method.

The Ironclad Method

Step 1: Orient
The Ironclad Method begins by establishing context. In the first step of creating your brand strategy, you orient to your target customer and your competitive frame of reference.

Step 2: Listen
In the second step of the method, you listen to your customers to identify the insights from which your brand strategy will spring. By getting into a listening mindset, and preparing for and conducting customer research, you set up the richest building blocks for your brand strategy.

Step 3: Examine
In step 3, you examine the insights you have collected and synthesize them into the Uncommon Denominator framework. This reveals your potential positioning themes that strike the overlap of being both relevant to the customer and ownable by your business.

Step 4: Ladder
Now you establish the linchpin of your brand strategy. In step 4, you develop a ladder of benefits and reasons to believe that specify the promise your business makes, how you prove that promise, and what your customer ultimately enjoys as a result of experiencing that promise.

Step 5: Characterize
With your benefit ladder complete, the method’s fifth step shifts you to characterizing your business. By pinpointing your character archetype and defining the personality and tonality of your business, you enable yourself and others to embody your brand consistently and genuinely.

Step 6: Stage
In the sixth step, you will define each stage of your customer’s journey with your brand. Explicitly describing the stages enables you to tailor your messages for maximum impact.

Step 7: Activate Creative
The seventh step shows how to activate creative once you are executing a specific communication tactic. This step establishes the strategic directive, stripping out the extraneous and subjective before beginning the creative development process, setting the conditions for effective communication.

Step 8: Zoom Out
For the final step of the Ironclad Method, you zoom out to begin seeing brand in everything your business does. By the end, you will have created an ironclad brand strategy to serve as your North Star in creating a flourishing business.

The final step really gets to the power of an ironclad brand. “When you zoom out, you enable yourself to view the breadth and depth of how your brand can come to life. The more you imbue everything with your brand, the more it can deepen customer love.”

Pedersen explains each of these steps in detail and has also created an online course available through her website.

There is much to learn and apply in this comprehensive look at brand and brand strategy. As the subtitle of this book suggests—“A Leader’s Guide”—the material covered is not something to be delegated and dismissed. As a founder or leader of any function, the brand is your business. Live your brand. “Demonstrate with your words and with your actions, formally and informally, with colleagues of all levels, that brand is the priority. Let your brand strategy guide you and let your people see that it is guiding you. This gives them permission and encouragement to use brand as their North Star, too.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:48 AM
| Comments (0) | General Business



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