Building an Awesome Brand: The First Step

Part 3 of Build an Awesome Brand Month. See all other articles here: Build an Awesome Brand

When brand-building begins, small business owners are often directed to “find your U.S.P.,” meaning “unique selling proposition.” Marketing consultants, friends, family all repeat the mantra: “find your U.S.P.” The inference being that if you find that one unique thing that nobody else is offering, you are off to branding stardom. We have advertising legend Rosser Reeves to thank for this advice, sort of. In his 1960 book, Reality in Advertising, Reeves introduced and defined the concept of the unique selling proposition. But marketers and branders get the USP all wrong because Reeves was writing about advertising and not branding.

Branding-First-Step

USP’s are Overrated for Branding

The unique selling proposition theory says that if you find that one unique thing the competition cannot, or does not offer, you can move the masses. So entrepreneurs strain their brain, agonizing to find that one thing that no one else can offer. And it’s a fruitless search. The definition of unique is: “existing as the only one or as the sole example; single; solitary in type or characteristics.” Meaning there’s only one like it in existence.

So I pose this question to you, eager brander: Can you really come up with something that someone else cannot copy? What is it you can offer that’s truly unique? Do you see the problem here? Embarking on this quest for uniqueness often leads you on a quest with no destination. The bigger problem is that you will start searching outside of yourself to find that unique something that no one else is offering. That’s a mistake, because your unique brand is sitting right under your nose.

Personality & A Promise

What’s the one thing that is truly unique? You. There is no one else like you in the world. If you want to build a brand like no other in the world, start with you. The best small business brands are representations of the people who create them. Not some elusive unique selling proposition. But how do you take what’s uniquely you and turn it into an awesome brand?

Unique brands are about two things: A promise and a personality. Make a promise that you can keep, and carry out that promise with personality. So the first branding question to ask yourself is this: What promise am I particularly skilled at keeping? This takes a little introspection. Perhaps you have the heart of a teacher and you promise to empower your customers with knowledge. Maybe you have a servants heart and you can promise to provide service that makes people feel important. Possibly, you have the gift of predicting trends and you can promise coolness.

So first, make a brand promise. My business promises to ____________ (fill in the blank here). It may be something like “treat our customers like they were a member of our family.” Warning: Your promise cannot be about quality or honesty, because people already expect that from you.

Now it’s time to inject some personality into your brand. Start by describing your personality as someone else would describe you. Think in adjectives here. How do people describe you? Some examples are: Energetic, friendly, tenacious, animated, vivacious, serious, business-like.

Now combine your promise and your personality. Make your brand promise and stick to it. Deliver your brand promise with personality. Do that, and you have a solid brand foundation. But hold on…where does your product/service fit in?

The Trap of the Product Brand

A brand is never about a product or a service. The Best landscaper is not a brand. The coldest beer in town is not a brand (unless you sell it in popsicles). Building a brand around a product is a trap, because it limits you to always talk about your product or service, which can, will, and probably already has been copied by someone else. Brands built around a product or service are destined for obscurity.

Build An Awesome Brand Exercises

Exercise #1: Make a promise – What promise can you make to customers that you would particularly be good at keeping? (Remember, no quality or honesty promises.)

Exercise #2: Describe your brand’s personality. Start with your personality and then pick an adjective that will characterize your brand.

Then keep that promise, deliver that personality. What promise can you deliver with personality?

Related reading:
Being a Charismatic Brand
Personality: The Thread That Binds Your Brand
Free recorded webinar: Branding U: Revive, Refresh, Revitalize Your Brand

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2 comments
Greg Monaco
Greg Monaco

I appreciate the distinction you brought up about the USP. I never really considered it the way you proposed it and shed some light on the differences between branding and advertising. 

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