By Daniel Hilbert
Every company exists to serve its customers.
But when a company gets in a set pattern of churning out the same products and services over and over, it can lose track of the market it’s truly serving, and is in danger of losing its brand clarity.
When a brand tries to service too many customer targets, the connection to that audience—a customer’s excitement, loyalty, and interest for the brand—declines.
As that interest wanes, so, too, will your profits.
Four Ways to Find Brand Clarity
In times of uncertainty, it’s up to senior marketers to pause, reassess, and forge new paths.
These strategies help brands rediscover their core audiences, which will only better ROI in years to come.
To do that, there are at least four ways to find brand clarity.
Identify and Evaluate
Identify your current target audience and evaluate its growth potential. Solving a customer identity crisis starts by understanding who you’re currently serving.
Companies eyeing success should first commission research to uncover changes in attitude and spending behavior.
This helps identify their target customers and determine whether they’re still worth pursuing.
This study would lead into a brand tracking study to monitor attitudes and brand usage over time.
The research can help companies understand if customer movement or an industry shift warrants a new or revised approach.
Big-box retailers such as JCPenney, Kmart, and Sears have all battled customer identity crises.
They lost brand clarity in the pursuit of too many customers, as well as relying on ever-changing ad campaigns.
Further, their mailers lack consistency and focus of each brand’s target customers.
Rather than approaching each season as a free-for-all in which the lowest price provider prevails, the first brand to identify a specific, unique customer will win the business from the others.
Understand and Improve
Once you’ve targeted the right customer, you need to understand exactly how your brand can be of service.
Is your solution basic and functioning, or is it emotional and supportive?
Maybe your product is simply a source of much-needed entertainment.
The “what” doesn’t necessarily matter as long as you can pinpoint how your brand specifically benefits the customer.
Q-tips started out as a personal product for baby care.
Understanding its need to innovate, the brand used advertising to position itself as a tool for makeup, pets, arts and crafts, and more.
Because Q-tips understood how consumers were actually using its product, it was able to morph into a versatile, multipurpose tool.
After working through the first two strategies, you may find your product line isn’t entirely relevant to your intended customer.
Gain brand clarity by decluttering the less relevant products and services to make room for the ones your target market truly needs.
Whether you’ve offered this item for 50 years or for just one, a product that doesn’t currently align with your desired audience needs to go.
RadioShack was a company that literally held on to the past.
Walking into any of its stores felt like an exploration in 1970s technology sprinkled with modern technology carried at your local Best Buy.
RadioShack had starts and stops in changing its brand image, but it was too slow to the punch.
The company stunted its own growth by refusing to be innovative and holding on to an old way of doing things.
Once you’ve identified your target audience and how to serve it, you must distinguish your brand from the competition.
You can’t be different for the sake of being different; stand out for the sake of being a more powerful, contemporary way to improve people’s lives.
Microsoft and Apple have danced this tango for a long time now, and are great examples of distinguishing your products from the competition.
For example, when Microsoft released the Surface Book, it entered into an identity crisis—it wasn’t sure if it was a product company, an operating system, or a search engine.
Sure, Microsoft could emulate Apple and focus on designing a perfect product with optimal performance.
But then Microsoft would be stuck within that similarly narrow iOS focus.
Instead, Microsoft has recently played off of the specialization of Apple and decided to offer a suite of fully integrated products and services (and is slowly starting to shed its reputation as just a software company).
When your company is fighting against a customer identity crisis, it’s far too easy to misread signals and make ill-advised decisions.
After all, if you don’t understand who you serve, then all of your efforts to brand, stock, develop, or innovate your products will reflect this misguided state.
Don’t fall into this vague way of doing business.
Instead, use these strategies to identify your customer, gain brand clarity, and reorient your business toward growth.
image credit: shutterstock