Everything we do as a company influences our brand, intended or not. While we may have a mission or vision statement, our actions may not always align in the eyes of our users. Perception is reality — which is why it is important to make brand evaluation an ongoing exercise as your company grows.

For this exercise, we’ll be focusing on brand drivers (and not category drivers), which are the descriptors your audience associate with your business, and are key in influencing the purchase behavior of your audience. While you can’t just create a brand and send it into the market, you can make sure to align brand drivers with the guiding principles and motivations behind your company, ideally creating more effective communication to users, potential buyers, and the marketplace in general. Better, more targeted communication = revenue growth.

Leonora Polonsky does a great rundown of category drivers vs brand drivers in this article. She defines them as the following:

Category Drivers are motivations behind participation in a Category. People buy laundry detergents to clean clothes. People stay in hotels to get a good night’s sleep away from home. Ironically, Category Drivers are often not drivers of Brand choice. A hotel that emphasizes a good night’s sleep won’t get my business because all of the hotels in my consideration set provide this.
Brand Drivers determine which Brand a Category consumer will select. In Laundry, if most Brands meet or exceed cleaning expectations, this lead Category Driver may not discriminate Brand choice. Instead, drivers of Brand Choice may be scent or color protection. I prefer to stay at the Ritz because they treat me like royalty. That’s the Brand Driver and their Point-of-Difference.

Understanding your brand drivers can help you further develop the correct messaging for your users, understand and influence their decision-making process, and own your brand perception in the marketplace.

Brand drivers should be aligned with your mission statement as well as the feeling you want your users to have when they interact with your brand. If one of your users were to describe your brand, what would they say?

When trying to figure out how your brand drivers are affecting your brand and its perception, I would recommend starting by going back to your mission statement and reflect on its accuracy. While doing so you should think of the company’s long term goals, principles, and values — and list out all of the adjectives that describe the company and mission statement along with how you want your users to feel when engaged with your brand.

How do users feel about your brand?

The next step is to take a deeper dive into how your mission statement is reflected in your brand. A great exercise for this is running through the four broader questions that Printing Impressions has laid out:

Brand Driver #1: What is the true purpose of our brand? What an organization says and does should always be the same. That’s obvious. What isn’t so obvious is it needs to deliver what no other organization can. If this first question cannot be answered in the affirmative, with distinction and uniqueness, the brand is weak and subject to diminished value and/or business failure.
Brand Driver #2: What brand promises do we make? Too many is just that, too many. Rather than throw the kitchen sink of benefits at your customers, define one to three primary promises that grow out of your brand’s purpose. For instance, if your brand’s purpose is to deliver the optimum mobile app for security, make sure your promise of the “Highest Mobile Security” is a fact that can be counted on every single time it is used.
Brand Driver #3: What is the personality of our brand? The way an organization’s employees act and sound has a lot to do with what personality is hardened into a brand’s persona. This works both for and against an organization depending on how its customers typically perceive it. A highly positive experience does a lot to cement an image and likeability associated with a brand. Likewise, a negative experience does a lot to tarnish a brand’s image.
Brand Driver #4: What is the platform of our brand? The key to answering this question begins with knowing what social and business media platforms your key prospective customers look to for informed advice. Without this informed research, this is nearly an impossible battle to win. Perhaps that’s why so many linear social media programs, although very busy, typically fail. The old axiom of rifle versus shotgun comes to mind.

If stuck within the driver questions above, some additional questions to answer that fall into those categories are:

  1. When someone decides to work with you, what factors do they consider?
  2. What are the key attributes and values that paying customers look from businesses like yours?
  3. What are the key needs and expectations of your customers?
  4. How is your business delivering on the needs of your current customers?
  5. How do your current client engagements affect your brand?
  6. Which information sources do your users look at during their decision making processes?
  7. What do you think customers think of your brand?
  8. What do you think are the most important reasons a customer chooses to buy from your business?
  9. What are the reasons a user does NOT choose to buy from your business?
  10. On a scale of 1 to 10 rate how strong you think your brand is amongst your customers. 1 is weak and 10 is strong.

Answering these questions is a great way to start understanding your brand as a startup, or realigning it as you grow. Your user personas, purchase behavior, and brand drivers will end up being invaluable in scaling your company. Just remember your brand and its brand drivers evolve over time, so make this an exercise you go through periodically to stay on the right path.

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