When I hear from a client that they have no true competitors, I feign acceptance as my BS meter automatically goes off. What I would like to tell them is that they obviously don’t need marketing and branding support since there must be no market for their product or service. But instead I take the opportunity to walk them through a messaging and positioning exercise to help them identify the market that their company does fit into, and then help them determine how they can be the king of that market. At Bluetext we call this the “Sandbox Exercise,” and it is a critical element for effectively branding or rebranding a company.
You can’t be the king of a sandbox until you can identify and accept which sandbox you play in. When referring to other potential competitors, comments like “they are too big and not focused on our market” or “we beat them head to head every time” may sound comforting, but my immediate response is to ask how often those competitors are scooping up customers and market share when you are not even on the radar. The actual times that we come across companies that have been in the game for a long time without feeling the heat of true competition are few and far between.
So with your feet firmly planted back on the ground, here are a few simple steps you need to think about to find the right Sandbox so that you can be successful in the long run:
- Be realistic about your product or service – this is critical for success. It’s delusional to think that any product that sounds too good to be true is the real thing. (Remember the Segway?)
- Determine your true differentiators. What is your brand promise? It is becoming harder to differentiate with words these days, but every brand has attributes that it can leverage to become the king of a Sandbox. We are working with a client now that is extremely passionate about its brand and business, but is also realistic about its competitors. By identifying reference points for prospects in the form of existing brand name customers, and creating a brand that incorporates beautiful, forward-thinking design elements to relay the passion of the team, they will stand out from the crowd.
- Realize that the best messaging and branding will get you nowhere without creative execution that delivers the brand to target audiences with passion and emotion. Don’t expect every potential customer to automatically know who you are and which Sandbox you play in. Allow your brand to work as hard as it can for your business by letting everyone know which Sandbox is yours, and why you are the king. Take every opportunity to hit prospects with an integrated message that is consistent, powerful and persuasive about your products or services.
Effective message and branding can take many forms, but at the core of your business is a brand promise. You may never have the same brand recognition as Coke or Facebook, yet at the end of the day, if you can effectively execute on the steps outlined above, you will be in a much better position to deliver value to your customers and prospects – and that should be the ultimate goal of every branding exercise.