How to Shape Your Brand

Brand: it’s a simple word with a seemingly complicated meaning.

“Brand is the sum total of everything a company does, how it interacts with the world, and how the world perceives it,” says Barry Enderwick.

An experienced brand and marketing leader, Enderwick was part of a little company called Netflix during its transition from DVD rental company to global streaming service. Enderwick came to Columbus to share his insights and experiences in branding and marketing with the crowd at Startup Week 2018.

Enderwick says that every company that is out there selling, that has customers, has a brand – whether they are actively shaping it or not. If a business isn’t shaping its brand, other factors are: outside influences, competitors, news events, bad actors.

So, what can a business do to shape its brand? Have brand position. Enderwick identifies three main components of brand position which shape the brand in the minds of consumers and employees:

  • Brand promise: the problem your brand solves for consumers
  • Brand attributes: your brand’s tone of voice; how your brand looks and feels
  • Brand story: your origin story; how your brand came to be – which usually relates to brand promise

Enderwick says brand promise is, “a chance for consumers and employees to be guided on how to think about what the company is.” And it should be centered around customer research. Find out what your customers want. What are their pain points? How does your promise solve them?

A company’s brand attributes give it its identity, its tone of voice in both copy and visuals. Enderwick provided an example of the six words Netflix chose for their brand attributes: smart, human, straightforward, enthusiastic, challenger, trustworthy.

Everything a business does should reflect its brand attributes. It doesn’t matter how many attributes a company has, but Enderwick has a word of caution for companies that develop their attributes in-house: be sure you are talking in terms of what the consumer needs versus what you want.

Brand story is self-explanatory: what is the business’ origin story? In explaining why a company exists, it normally ties back to the brand promise.

In the case of Nextflix, Founder Reed Hastings thought there had to be a better way after being slammed with a $40 late fee for a VHS he lost in his car. Nextflix launched with the promise of no late fees – a major point of distinction from its competitors at the time like Blockbuster. (Enderwick says Blockbuster made 30 percent of its revenues on late fees.)

Enderwick also had a few words of advice for businesses when it comes to marketing their brand.

“Do not spend a dime on marketing until you have product market fit,” Enderwick says.

If you don’t have paying customers to scale your operation, you are wasting money.

“Marketing, to me, is at its best when it connects people to products and services that improve their lives,” Enderwick continues.

Tools like Survey Monkey and other online resources make it easy for businesses at any stage and size to do customer research. Enderwick says create surveys to figure out what people think and how they behave. He recommends asking laddering questions – a series of questions that tease out the emotional response behind someone’s answer.

Businesses should also rely on a combination of demographics and psychographics to determine target markets. Demographics give the facts, while psychogrpahics can provided a more rounded view of a target audience and the “why” behind their preferences.