Building A Strong Foundation For Your Brand

Any architect will tell you the most important element of design is not the structure but its foundation. If you want to create a brand that stands the test of time its value must be built on a solid foundation. It is true the foundation is not as cool as the stunning design of the architecture itself, but it is responsible for supporting the weight of the structure, and must withstand the constant forces of movement and erosion around it.
Just like any great structure, there is nothing more fundamental to the lasting success of your early stages of building a brand than the foundation underneath it. Your foundation will determine the stability and sustainability of your brand going forward. Strong foundations are the critical beginning of a brand’s success. Without a solid foundation it is nearly impossible to withstand the winds of competition and the forces of market change. Smart builders start at the ground level building a foundation that supports their vision and highest ideals.
Building a strong foundation for your brand is the single most important step in creating value for others!
• The brand foundation must fit naturally into the landscape that surrounds it. Architects call this site planning. In Brand Management it is strategic planning. How you position your foundation relative to the competitive field will define your unique value to your customers. What are your customers desires, hopes, and needs? What relevant benefits do you offer that brings value to your customers?
• Big Ideas need deep and narrow foundations. Customers love deep knowledge and the one thing that makes your brand highly valued and unique among all other choices.
• Strong foundations are well designed. How your products, services, and customer experience are designed and executed are critical to the foundation of brand building. Creative design really matters and determines competitive advantage.
• Strong foundations are built from quality materials. Build your brand with quality partners, suppliers, and employees. Seek out diverse talents of people whose passion for excellence is equal or greater than your own. A solid foundation is only as great as the materials used to build it.
• A strong foundation protects your marketing investment. The quality of your foundation must support the marketing investment you make in your brand’s future.

A New Era of Brands and Customer Relationships

During the past decade, we have witnessed radical transformation of nearly every aspect of marketing, as it has been practiced over the past 50 years, creating a new paradigm. Many marketers, and advertising agencies continue to use mass communication as the foundation and support of their brand building efforts. However, in the new era of big data, and powerful methods to connect with customers, the focus must shift to building customer relationships.

Brand marketers have never had the powerful technologies as we have today to build lasting customer relationships. Consumers have subsequently, never had the opportunity to interact so deeply with brands, and each other to influence the development of the products and services they connect with. As a result, to succeed in the interactive digital age, businesses must shift from counting transactions to maximizing the lifetime value of their customers.

Serving customers in relevant, and meaningful ways requires you to know them, and their behavior on a more personal level and creating emotional connections. Competitive advantage is not about features and functions with cheaper products, but serving customers in ways that are unexpected and highly valued. The customer is now the center of the attention with brands organized around them rather than the conventional theory of the customers organized around the brand. It is time to connect.

The Wilmington Consulting Group is a Brand Management Agency.

Being Different

Meaningful differentiation is a critical driver of brand success, first because it provides brands with the means of upsetting the status quo, and second because it can allow a brand to command a premium price. We see tremendous opportunities for brands that can, through innovation in a variety of forms, establish meaningful differentiation.
Differentiation, is grounded in how a brand is experienced. “Experience” includes both tangible and intangible brand assets as well as the context in which a brand is encountered. In reality, meaningful differentiation is related to distinctiveness. A brand achieves “distinctiveness” when it has a unique and unmistakable identity, which could be based on a number of things: brand name, logo, packaging, colors, advertising style, etc. They might better be thought of as a continuum.
The most common form of differentiation is the creation of original and distinctive communication assets. Examples abound across categories: an iconic mascot like Tony the Tiger, the fun and playful packaging of Innocent Smoothies, or a memorable slogan like “You’re in good hands with Allstate.”
Taking a differentiating feature and making it into a positive and sustainable advantage is a core means by which marketing grows brand value.
To command a higher price, be different. The basis for Apple’s success is consistently great product innovation, but Apple also goes beyond functional differentiation to project a unique personality and a clear set of values.
All brand owners should work to establish genuine points of meaningful product differentiation. And even where there is limited scope for functional differentiation, brands should still strive to differentiate through their personality and values.

The Trinity Of Brand Strategy

Our experience teaching brand strategy and working with brand strategy clients tells us the answer to form a consistent brand image is to integrate much of the work into a coherent framework, grounded in common principles, terms and frameworks. The work begins with understanding the necessity of Value Proposition, Brand Identity and Positioning.

Some elements of a brand are relatively constant while others need to adapt to a dynamic marketplace. As a result, Value Proposition, Brand Identity and Positioning are all essential components of a comprehensive brand platform. Of the three components, the most constant is the Value Proposition. A Value Proposition articulates what is most enduring about a brand, its enduring benefit across all audiences. The statement speaks to higher outcomes and results the brand aspires to deliver in the future. Value Proposition is the brand’s North Star that guides everything in the product development roadmap.

Positioning is the most adaptable of the three elements. The concept of Positioning is perhaps the best understood element as well, as it specifies the target, frame of reference and key benefit.  Positioning defines the alternatives available to customers and the context in which the brand competes.

A powerful Positioning enables consistent, short-term communications, but is limited to just one or two ideas. Value Proposition does not speak to a higher order purpose or explain how a brand will connect emotionally with the values, culture and needs of its audience, both internal and external. The Brand Identity fills in these missing pieces. Brand Identity is more enduring than Positioning, and more adaptable and multi-faceted than Value Proposition. It defines how marketers desire customers and others to view the brand in the foreseeable future.

Together, Value Proposition, Brand Identity and Positioning provide a complete brand platform that can serve as a roadmap for brand development over a 3-5 year period. When combined with clear business objectives, a careful brand audit, and a profound understanding of the target, these tools provide a powerful guide for brand development.

The Brand Insider
























The Role Of Digital

Digital media operates as part of a media portfolio to deliver high impact and specific targets. The high impact is a result of precise targeting and more engaging creative features. In general, digital media reaches the same people as TV. The majority of campaigns use digital to increase frequency, although some campaigns also use it to increase reach.
Maximize the effect of digital by focusing on the quality of creative and its integration into the overall media plan. Quality of creative should be considered when assigning roles, as brands must deliver relevant content that yields a much deeper and meaningful engagement to their customers. To accomplish this, brands must focus on both the content and the delivery to the masses in a variety of forms. This could include blogs, web and mobile video, Google Adword campaigns, and text ads. Connect with your customers to create a relationship, not just a shopping experience.
In 2013 the role of digital will grow dramatically marked by a near-doubling in smartphone ownership. Consumers are showing a growing appetite for mobile and social content and tablets are emerging as a respectful fourth screen. Mobile marketing has grown from an optional component in a company’s marketing mix to a vital role in a brand’s success.
Make the most of social media fan pages. The benefits of fan pages can be categorized into those which are considered basic or expected by visitors, and those which are differentiators. Expected content includes regular posts, trustworthy brand news, new product information and offers. Differentiator benefits include: variety, innovation, fun, interaction and community awareness.
Make websites more effective. Design custom sites with simplicity and ease of use as a primary consideration. Your most interesting and innovative site features should link directly to your intended brand message. Encourage content creativity, don’t settle for ordinary.
Make the best use of mobile. Content is king! Mobile is a behavior; it is not just a device. Improve the reach of mobile ads by integrating them into the wider campaign. When traffic is driven to mobile, the impact is strong.

Your Point of Difference

In today’s marketplace consumers are bombarded with an overwhelming number of companies endeavoring to provide similar products and services. It is no wonder people get confused. One of your goals in business should be to create a point of difference memorable and relevant enough to drive a wedge between your business and your competitors. The goal is to make choice easy for your customers. It is not good enough to be cheaper or better. You need to communicate why these differences better suit your customers and make your business unique. After all, how many ” me too ” businesses are successful anyway?
When Subway combined the benefits of the fast food process with the growing trend of healthy eating, it created a new point of difference. By positioning itself as a “fresh” fast food chain, the company became unique within its industry and a symbol of healthy fast food.
Your product or service is going to naturally have a target market based upon the solution it provides and those seeking its benefits. Whether your target market is small and concentrated or large and considered a mass market. the process of identifying your point of difference is still somewhat the same. Separating your key benefits and strengths and bundling them together to package a unique point of difference is typically the first step.
Having a point of difference that can’t be replicated by your competitors is very important for building a loyal client base. The power of idea protection combined with a smart brand strategy will ensure piece of mind for years to come.

Brand Marketing – A New Era Begins

The power of kinship is the fuel that will fire the foreseeable future of commerce, culture, creed, and, indeed, the whole character and economy of life itself. Social networks, in particular, have put kinship on the radar of brand marketers.

Yet, it is utterly ironic that social networks, today’s hottest trend, are little more than a high-tech reprise of the deepest human instinct – connecting with others. But this irony is telling, too, for it points directly to what’s ahead.

The rising importance of connections brings kinship into play. When relationships rule, the relationships that matter most constitute the gold standard for brands to emulate. Those are family relationships, and that makes marketing a matter of kinship.

For brand marketers, the defining difference of kinship is that the relationships people want are connections with other people not with brands. This shift kicks the old idea of brand relationships off the stage. For brands to get close, they must facilitate people relationships, not deepen brand relationships.

Certainly, people will continue to adopt brands, just as they always have. But with kinship in ascendance as the locus of value, consumer engagement must be established and maintained in a different way. What, then, makes for kinship? There are many things, of course, but three things in particular must be central to brand marketing in an era powered by kinship.

First, kinship is a matter of bloodlines. For consumers to adopt brands, they must first claim brands as members of their family. Brands cannot lay claim to this; only consumers can do it. If they don’t, then brands are outsiders irrelevant to the intimacy implicit in relationships. This makes retention, loyalty and recommendations both less likely and costlier.

The challenge, though, is that consumers are focused more on relationships with other people than relationships with brands. So getting consumers to make this claim is harder to do directly in one-to-one exchange with consumers. Instead, it must be done indirectly, like a family member focused on the greater wellbeing of the family unit. This is why most brands have had trouble with social media. Nowadays, it’s less about blowing your own horn and more about being the background music for the great time people are having with one another. Do that well, and every time people connect, they will want you around. But keep interrupting people to promote your brand, and people will tune you out.

Second, kinship means intimacy. Family members see each other in their most private moments. They walk around in their underwear, if you will. For brands to be part of the family, they must be willing to open themselves up like this as well. More practically, this means utter transparency of intentions, operations and accountability. Consumers will not feel kinship with brands that hide what they’re doing or hold something back. Consumers may still do business with such brands, but it will cost brands more to get them and will expose brands to the risk of censure and switching when the spotlight finds these dark corners.

Finally, kinship entails altruism. Generally speaking, family ties are the ones for which people will make the biggest sacrifices, bending over backwards and even giving of themselves to the point of self-sacrifice. The greater good of the family unit is the most powerful spur to pro-social sacrifice. Brands have to give of themselves in this way, putting the broader lifestyle and personal interests of consumers ahead of their own transactional and commercial interests. Making money is fine, but consumers have come to expect more of brands than that. Consumers want kinship not just commerce, and that means a whole new dynamic of putting the relationships first.

Contributed by: J. Walker Smith, Executive Chairman, The Futures Company

Dick’s Pawn Myrtle Beach SC

Dick’s Pawn Superstore
From a local pawnshop . . . to a national hero.  

Dicks Pawn Superstore, formerly known as Dicks Pawn, has always been known for quality products and their larger than life advertisements. In working with them we were able to successfully concept and create a super hero to represent their brand in a unique way. A newly designed custom brand Identity, logo, website, mobile website, series of TV commercials and promotional materials soon followed to create a consistent brand image that really gets people talking.

StreetSafe A Life Saving Driving Experience

From a driving school . . .to a life saving driving experience

Streetsafe is a one of a kind driving school program that has a significant impact on young drivers. In working with Streetsafe, we were able to completely redefine their brand identity. Through a custom designed logo, website and promotional materials, WCG was able to provide a truly unique and standout identity for this life saving driving school. Ultimately, we shaped Streetsafe’s image to reach the right audience in a way that truly shares their mission and goals.

A&I Fire and Water Restoration Myrtle Beach SC


A&I Fire & Water Restoration
From established and traditional . . .
to modern and dynamic.

A&I Fire and Water Restoration is known for their many years of quality work and excellent customer service. By building off of their already exceptional reputation, we were able to successfully develop and redefine their web presence to truly share their brand with their customers. From a beautifully custom designed website and social media applications to print materials and video production, Wilmington Consulting Group was able to help modernize an already established and successful company.