July 25, 2019
In this two-part blog series on how to keep brand messaging fresh, relevant and above all differentiated, Bernard Guly, Senior Partner at Finn Partners’ Manufacturing & Trade Division, stresses the importance of thought leadership and tone of voice
All companies operate in a competitive marketplace within which there will inevitably be a mix of leaders and followers. What this means in terms of brand and messaging is that even if your company has been ahead of the game at standing out from its competitors - a leader in its field - you can bet that the followers in your sector will speedily erode that differentiation by adopting a similar approach.
The result is that your company’s messages and values, which may have been relevant or new five years ago, are now in danger of being used by everybody else. It becomes necessary therefore, to keep analysing what your competitors are doing to remain fresh and relevant and to maintain differentiation.
It needn’t be drastic. After all, most companies will not want to ditch their current brand identity. What they will want to do is evolve it so that it stays relevant to themselves, while setting them firmly apart from the competition.
To do this, it’s important to look carefully at how your company’s offering relates to other offerings in the marketplace, to ask honestly what unique selling points (USPs) you have, and to determine how best to leverage those USPs to maintain messaging differentiation and positioning.
Within this process, thought leadership should be a key element as it helps shift commodity-based perceptions of the company towards perceptions of expertise and leadership within the relevant field. Being a leader brings the recognition that you are a go-to company for your prospects to approach because you add more to the relationship than pure price and components can provide.
Being a thought leader means you have a wider understanding of your product area, the needs of your customers and, usually, that you can work more strategically in partnership with those customers to tailor your products and services to suit their needs. Often, being a leader also means you have a wider network of support and experience and that you have a greater depth of knowledge compared to many other players in the market.
Thought leadership ultimately brings added value and allows you to move your customer relationship from being procurement-based to being one of partnership with key specifiers – often allowing you to charge a premium for your product and services as a result.
Tone of voice and messaging
This is an integral part of your brand and how you communicate both internally and externally. If you are presenting yourself as a friendly, approachable type of company you have to make sure that your tone of voice corresponds accordingly. You can’t have a formal or technical tone of voice if you’re establishing a friendly brand persona. It doesn’t fit - striking the right balance matters.
What’s important to remember with most brands is that it’s about evolution and not radical change. Planning must go into educating, informing and implementing new brand thinking both internally and externally. I always think it’s important to start with your people, as of course they are your brand. What’s more, ultimately, people buy from people. It’s important for employees to understand what’s behind your messages to the marketplace and the values that you prescribe to, and that they engage with those and proverbially ‘walk the walk’.
Educate internally before you roll out externally as, unless you bring your people on board so that they reflect all the work you have done on your brand, your messaging and its external perception, you’ll be wasting your money.
People are so central to the brand that the importance of building an emotional connection through brand thinking and messaging will be explored next time. Look out for the second blog in this series which will also consider the need for consistency to build recognition and understanding.