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Branding Focus, Coherency and Credibility

Branding Focus, Coherency and Credibility

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• What is your brand? How strong is it? Is it helping or hindering you?
• How do your customers, suppliers, contacts and personnel see your company and what it does? How do these visions differ? What is the impact of these differences?
• What is the message you are sending out about your company and how does it differ from what you intend?
• What is your brand? How strong is it? Is it helping or hindering you?
• How do your customers, suppliers, contacts and personnel see your company and what it does? How do these visions differ? What is the impact of these differences?
• What is the message you are sending out about your company and how does it differ from what you intend?

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Published by: Dr. Earl R. Smith II on Apr 09, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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09/27/2012

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Branding: Coherency, Focusand Credibility
by Dr. Earl R. Smith II DrSmith@Dr-Smith.com www.Dr-Smith.com 
What is your brand? How strong isit? Is it helping or hindering you?
How do your customers, suppliers,contacts and personnel see yourcompany and what it does? Howdo these visions differ? What is theimpact of these differences?
What is the message you aresending out about your companyand how does it differ from whatyou intend?I am often amazed at the ease withwhich management teams answerquestions such as these and, after a bitof research, how far off base theiranswers can prove to be. It seems anunavoidable fact of life thatmanagement of emerging companiestend to have an imprecise, and oftenself-sabotaging, understanding of theircompany’s brand. Well, I don’t thinkthat it is unavoidable … but sometimesit seems that way.Branding is the definition of yourcompany as understood by outsiders.It is the sum of judgments, opinionsand gossip that results from thecoherency, and sometimes downrightincoherency, of the image you aretrying to project.What is crucial is that you brand becoherent, focused and credible in theminds of a whole range of peopleoutside of your company. Outsiders willcompare your message with what isobvious to them about your company,its management, its capabilities,agenda, focus, resourcing andintentions. If what is said belies whatis observed, there is a tension betweenthe message and its interpretation …bluntly, your attempts at brandingproduce disbelief. There is an old southern saying:“You never know how you look tillyou get your picture took.” There issomething to that. You learn whoyou are, at least in part, by askingothers to tell you.Logically you would expect thatcompanies would spend a great deal of time soliciting this incredibly valuableinformation. The issue of thedifference between statement andinterpretation should get a lot of focus. You might expect this … I certainly didwhen I began consulting and coachingCEOs and senior management teams… but you would generally be in for adisappointing experience.George Bernard Shaw was fond of saying that “A life un-reflected upon isnot worth living.” But often theappearance of reflection lacks thesubstance of discovery. More oftenthan not the understanding of thebranding of their company has beengenerated wholly within the minds of the senior team and without testingthat understanding in the broaderworld. Three examples might serve:
Misunderstanding
: I had beencoaching a CEO for some months whenI began to suspect that there was afairly large gap between hisunderstanding of the value propositionof his company and that sameunderstanding on the part of thecompany’s clients. So I put thefollowing question to him: “Why doyour customers hire you and why dothey tend to want to extend theseengagements?” The response was a facile recitation of corporate values … which included:
We have cutting edgetechnologies
Our approach to solving hardproblems is innovative paradigm shifting
Our people are first-rate.
 
We are an employee friendlycompany a good place tobuild a careerI then suggested that he visit all of hisclients and asked them the samequestion. To his credit, that is exactlywhat he did. The results proved eyeopening!His customers told him that they hadcontracted with his company for twobasic reasons. First they trusted thatboth he and the company woulddeliver. They saw the technologies asmarginal improvements ... butdefinitely not either cutting or bleedingedge. They were risk-averse when itcame to betting their career and theircompany’s future on a science project.Second, although his people certainlymight be at the top of their skill sets, itwas their dedication to making thecontracting officer look good and todeliver what was needed that wasreally important. The CEO encountered a fundamentallesson. Particularly when it comes todoing business with emergingcompanies, a contracting officer seesmostly risk and tenuous possibilities of reward. An engagement is anindication of confidence that this risk isacceptable.
Misplaced Priority
: A second CEOwas addicted to chasing venturecapital. It was clear that he saw VCsas more important than customers tothe future of his company … clear notonly to his people but to his company’scustomers. Although the CEO did notsee this focus as part of the company’sbranding, the customers certainly did.Chasing the money was moreimportant to the top man than servingtheir needs!Most customers are wary of thissituation. They know that a venturecapitalist can bring a shorter termfocus to the company’s strategicplanning process … they are, after all,interested in cashing out anddistributing the proceeds to theirprincipal clientele (investors) within areasonable time. This double message was making itmore difficult for the company to grow.Potential customers were hesitant totake the CEO and his managementteam seriously because they worriedthat the company would not focusprimarily on their needs. The companyhad great technology, first rate peopleand a solid value proposition but themanagement team was unthinkinglysabotaging the company’s future.
Mistaken Identity
: I have coached anumber of CEOs who, pressed to bringin business in the early stages, havepatched together a set of disparateengagements. This is a fact of lifewhen you are trying to get a businessoff the ground. But, as the companygrows, the focus needs to be narrowedto a value proposition which is more inline with the company’s resources andstrengths.Branding coherency becomes achallenge when you begin to movebeyond the launch stage. If thecompany appears to be spreadingitself too thin, potential clients canworry about dissipation of energies byyour trying to do too much. They canalso have difficulty seeing clearly andcrisply what your company is all about.Much like backgammon, you have todecide when it is best to abandon onestrategy and switch to another. In thiscase the team needs to make thechange from the ‘we’ll take mostanything to generate revenue’ to ‘thisis what we are really good at andwhere we are going to focus everything else is a distraction’.Branding the revised proposition takesa major and coordinated effort on thepart of the entire team.
Resolution
: Communicating withoutchecking to see if your message isappropriate to your capabilities and

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