Keith Busch: How observing three essential truths can lay the foundation of a successful brand

BuschKeith0806_72pRGBLooking to build a strong brand? Whether you’re a small business or a Fortune 500 company, it’s critical to start with a strong foundation of market understanding. 

Insights about your target audience are the building blocks that help form the promise your brand makes to consumers. In order for this promise to be effective, you will need a thorough understanding of three essential truths:

Your company’s unique strengths — What are you known for? What do you aspire to be? How do you live up to that vision?

Your market opportunity — What are the trends in your industry? How can you capitalize on opportunities and mitigate threats?

Your target audience’s needs — What’s important to your consumers and what makes them tick? How do they make purchase decisions? What problem does your product or service solve for them?

To uncover important insights about your company, you need to harness all your powers of observation, turning them both inward and outward.

Looking inward begins by talking to your own employees. Ask them what they find unique or inspiring about your company. Inquire about what they’ve heard — good or bad — from people who use your company’s products or services. Talk to your customer service personnel, too, finding out what “the feet on the ground” might have seen or heard.

Looking outward means going where consumers are — both offline and online — and posing questions such as “Why do you choose our brand?” “What do you like about us?” “What could we do better?” “How do we compare against our competitors?”

Sharp observation also includes mining consumer satisfaction survey data, online ratings, reviews and blogs. You’d be amazed at what a little Googling will uncover — you’ll discover what excites people about your brand as well as what turns them off, giving you the opportunity to address both.

Only after you uncover these kinds of insights can you begin to build your brand promise. The most successful brand promises are relevant, differentiated, extendable and credible.

  Relevant. A brand promise should be genuinely motivating to consumers because it’s attuned to the things that are most important to them.

  Differentiated. Your brand promise should be one that only your company can make. If your competitors could make the same promise, you should explore a different territory.

  Extendable. Effective brand promises resonate in any medium, maximizing your ability to reach consumers wherever they are.

  Credible. Make sure you can deliver on your promise and substantiate your claims. Your performance and your consumers’ experiences will determine whether your audience believes you or not.

Remember, just as you may find a broad range of consumer feedback about your company through Google, so will consumers. Which means once you arrive at your brand promise, you’ll want to identify and leverage all possible venues in which consumers may interact with your brand, not just advertising. Consider the following:

  Facebook, YouTube or a company blog are great ways to provide your consumers with helpful content.

  Networking with relevant industry influencers, such as bloggers or pertinent media, can help you generate additional strategic content about your brand.

  Paid search on search engine pages can nicely augment your marketing efforts — it means that when consumers are in-market, they’ll see your company name on their first stop.

For marketers seeking to ensure their long-term success, building a strong brand promise based on market understanding and insights is the all-important first step. 

A highly strategic marketing communications executive, Keith Busch, vice president for client development at Hitchcock Fleming & Associates Inc., has more than 20 years of experience in helping clients achieve critical growth goals, key metrics and ROI objectives. In addition to working with clients such as The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and AkzoNobel, he is active in the Akron-area community and serves on the boards of the Greenleaf Family Center and The Northeast Ohio Arthritis Foundation. Visit