There’s communicating value…and then there’s James Brown.

The Godfather of Soul
james_brown6Fifteen years ago my wife Anna and I took a vacation to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State. During this time in my career I was wrapped up in a lot of branding work and remember grappling with a personal observation that not many companies, large or small, purposefully create their core brand messages to focus on customer value.

After dinner on our first night in Seattle, we walked out onto the balcony of our hotel room and were surprised to see directly below us James Brown performing a concert. Decked out in his signature bright red outfit lit up under the stage lights, it was like the Godfather of Soul was putting on a private performance just for us. In fact, when he got to “Sex Machine,” and began to repeat the lyrics, “shake your money maker,” I know he was attempting to communicate directly with me, because had just summed up what I had been trying to figure out.

Shake your money maker! Find your intrinsic value and build it into your core brand message.

Even now, the majority of corporate brand messaging still focuses on capabilities, preventing organizations from standing apart from each other and neglecting what’s really important… the true value to the customer. However, there are a few companies that shake their “money makers” brilliantly.

fedexAt about the same time that Anna and I were on our vacation, Federal Express rebranded itself to reflect it’s geographic dominance as a worldwide delivery service. Shortening the name to FedEx, which most people already used verbally, made the organization feel fast, strong and contemporary. Their new logo sported an arrow hidden in the letter forms symbolizing fast delivery. Although the tagline also needed to reflect their global expansion, “The World On Time,” a previous line “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight,” had set the stage and stated exactly what their core value proposition was, your package at its destination the next morning – anywhere in the world – guaranteed.

Communicating Your Value
Let’s identify some value propositions for you to communicate to your customers. There’s an old formula that goes, “I choose to use this company’s products/services because I receive ________________.”

Think from your customer’s point of view and come up with 8 to 10 words that go in the blank.

For example, if you’re a dentist, some of the value attributes you provide your patients may be “state-of-the-art technology,” “gentle care,” “no cavities…guaranteed,” whatever they are, jot them down. Pull all of your words together and compare them against what you think your customers really care about. What’s most important to them?

Choose one
Usually it’s best to look for value attributes that have longevity or attributes that your competitors can’t just-as-easily claim, like “most up-to-date technology,” “newest techniques,” “lowest price.” These are best avoided or need to be carefully messaged. Values with strong personal ties to your customers usually work great, like “assurance,” “comfort,” etc. Just ensure the attribute you choose is one that people care about. Also, don’t choose more than one; it’s best to try to distill what your company does to its simplest form. Being all things to all people is hard to message and usually ineffective.

Going back to our dentist example, let’s choose the attribute, “gentle care.” You may come up with something like “As your dental professional, I’m dedicated to providing you with the most relaxing and comfortable dental experience possible.”

It’s a start. It’s simple, it sounds sincere, a little long, but it probably won’t completely repel people from going in for a check-up. Be creative and don’t write fortune cookies; write conversationally, and hopefully this gives you a good idea of how to write your own value-based brand statement yourself.

It’s also important to remember that making a statement like the one above is just like making a promise to your customer. Make certain your customer have no experiences that are going to contradict your brand promise.

Finally, it’s hard to change people’s perception. Once you commit and your customers begin thinking of you as the kinder, gentler dentist, it will be hard to convince them otherwise. Find something that your customers identify with and stick to it.

Believe me, when new customers start arriving at your door you’re gonna wanna jump back and kiss yourself, just like the Godfather, James Brown.

I would love to hear how you do. As always, please share any comments or questions. I look forward to talking to you again in a few days.

rich

P.S. Keep the remaining value attributes from this exercise. We’ll use them later on when we begin creating marketing copy.

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~ by Rich on January 11, 2009.

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