09 AUGUST 2021

Brand and messaging: the art of setting yourself apart

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.

Thought leadership

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.

Brand and messaging: consistency and connections

To maintain differentiation in the marketplace, companies need to periodically re-assess their messaging and brand positioning to ensure they present the company correctly and maintain a fresh and relevant image.

Evaluations should consider carefully how the company’s offering relates to competitor products and services. Brand positioning should reflect the unique selling points (USPs) of the company and leverage those USPs to maximum effect.

Be consistent and focus on your strengths

While focusing on the company strengths, consistency is all-important. If you are reworking your brand messaging to reflect the company’s values and positioning and thereby influence external perception, you have to make sure the key threads run through all visual and verbal communications from then on.

This is essential to build recognition and understanding and reinforce your key messages at every point with every one of your key stakeholders – whether internal or external. Major global brands such as BMW or Apple, for example, can convey through a simple image and a handful of words what their brand stands for, wherever they are in the world, and that is achieved through rigorous discipline and control of the brand messaging wherever it is used – and that is the ideal.

People buy from people

Interestingly, Forbes tells us that features, benefits and even customer service are no longer great differentiators out in the marketplace, and when you analyse companies and their competitors their messages in these areas are very similar. That gives us a challenge on what to focus on outside of these perceived value-adds.

How, therefore, can marketing and PR help build engagement? When it comes to B2B, I believe it boils down to people buying from people. In other words, the strength of relationships and this is the case whether you’re a SME or a major global brand.

What we need to understand when we are looking at a brand is how the company relates to its business partners and how to build an emotional connection through brand thinking and messaging. We must look to demonstrate that this company really cares about you and your company and about mutual success and in this way set it apart from other players in the field. Emotion and care are two key brand components these days that will cut through the noise and deliver enhanced differentiation in the marketplace.

Prospects will judge brands in terms of who they want to work with, who they are most comfortable with and who they have an emotional connection with, as well as what they’re looking to achieve. If your brand, messaging and people are all consistently on the same page, this should help put you in a commanding position in the markets you serve.

For advice on how to shape your brand, PR & marketing strategy and communications deliverables to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future, call us at Dragonbridge Communications on: +44 (0)7833 121 510 or email: berng@dragonbridgecoms.com