The Right Questions: Initiating the Branding Process

Brands of brands

Do you have a lasting brand? (Image Credit: Emily Berezin)

The average person sees around 5,000 ads per day. At the supermarket, products are arranged according to the price paid by the producer in order to reach the customer more effectively. Billboards along highways illustrate products which may only apply to a small number of passing drivers. Companies like Angie’s List seek to use “word-of-mouth” tactics which employ consumer reviews of a service (utilizing the important “market maven” technique) as a way to advertise that service. The list goes on and on. Methods of branding are immeasurable, in that they evolve on a daily basis on every level of the marketing spectrum. How does a company keep up? Furthermore, how can a company be proactive in reaching customers when they so quickly turn a deaf ear, or turn entirely to another product?

There are no easy answers. Entire textbooks have been written on branding methods. There are, however, some guidelines which may help quell the stresses with branding without causing bad decisions.

The Problem: Question

  • What need or gap in the market does your product/service fill?
    • Simply put: Who (is your target customer)? What (value do they see in your product)? Where (do they live)? When (will they buy it)? Why (will they buy it)? How (price; frequency of purchase)?
    • These questions start to feed into each other.
  • Example: One of my first companies was a pie shop that specialized in hand-made pies. The example below is a simple one, but holds to the general format of the problem question/answer:
    • XYZ Pie Shop seeks to provide the buyer (defined – see below) with a natural, hand-made product which is free of preservatives.

The Target Customer: Answer

  • Your target customer has everything to do with branding. Companies like Best Buy have developed entire approaches on how their floor sales people speak with the customer, all based on age. Empty Nester, Tech and College Grad are just a few of the many examples once used by the retail giant. The point is that your product is tailored to a specific age group naturally, so you market it to that age group. (There are exceptions; the iPod is an example of a product which the user defines.)
  • For pies, our target customer was primarily the Mother (30+). Below are a couple of other summations based on our customer evaluation:
    • The convenience of a hand-made product without her having to spend the entire day in the kitchen. (opportunity cost question)
    • Our price ranged from $12.00 -17.00 per pie, making us target retail stores in higher-income communities. Holiday seasons will result in more sales consistently.

This is only the first part of the process. The method of analysis mentioned here is just a glimpse into a much wider field of branding and marketing exploration. The ways in which we reach our customers determine our successes and failures. During the initial phases of developing a brand, the process begins with the right questions.

Joseph Baker’s business experience in management spans more than 15 years. A leader of development and management teams, he also implemented budget reductions professionally and as an independent contractor.   Joseph led strategic planning and systems of implementation for nine organizations, public and private, and worked extensively with small businesses.

He holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management.

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  • Good post and one thing I’ve found is that many brands want you to ‘guess’ the answers to some of the above questions… problem is, you end up leading clients when you’re really attempting to analyze. Sometimes having an example to use with clients can help them relate… ie: discussing an obvious brand like say ‘Lego’ is relation to their own business/branding goals.

  • Anonymous

    That is a good point. Many people don’t have the answers to the questions and want you to provide them. Case studies or real life examples are a great way to manage that hurdle.