Feb 27, 2018

You Can't Optimize Your Way Out Of A Brand Problem

By: Josh Dougherty

Branding Strategy

Optimization is an extremely effective way to improve a sales or marketing effort. It's an activity we use to great success with many clients.

Here's the thing though. If you have a brand problem, no amount of optimization will solve it.

We recently launched an online store for a client. Over the first 90 days of the launch we continually optimized the marketing and checkout process. Sales only increased nominally.

Our client's brand was strong. Those who knew them loved them. But they faced two problems. First, not enough people knew about them. Second, and more importantly, those who did know them thought about them as consultants, not as someone selling a product.

Given this brand problem, we weren't going to be able to optimize our way to our revenue goals. We had to work on the brand first.

What's Optimization Anyways?

Optimization is an incremental improvement process focused on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of an existing effort. Often we optimize by A/B testing something new against the existing version. Most often we think about this as a digital tactic. As digital marketers we optimize things like checkout processes, donation forms, and email signups.

Optimization also extends beyond digital. This methodology can be used on almost any project or program.

Optimization works. But how well it works depends the more foundational elements underpinning your efforts. Your brand is the most foundational of all.

3 Ways Your Brand Can Limit Optimization

A brand is a hard thing to quantify because it only truly exists in the minds of your customers, clients, and the public. We call it the "memory" you leave behind in their heads after they interact with you. It's the thing that makes you unique in their mind.

The challenging thing about brand is that at the end of the day, it's out of your control. You can try to influence it, but you're also at the mercy of it. As a result, there are three common ways that brand can limit the impact of your optimization efforts:

  1. What you're selling doesn't match your brand: If you've worked hard to develop a specific brand, you've also developed a specific expectation in the minds of your customer and clients. If your newest effort doesn't match that expectation it's likely to fall flat without significant work. Optimization won't fix that.
  2. Your brand isn't trusted (enough): There are people who trust your brand. They may just not trust it enough to immediately try out every new product and service you launch. Optimizing marketing and sales efforts won't shortcut the hard work necessary to get them on board.
  3. Your brand isn't well known (enough): Sometimes you have an amplification problem. You likely have some rabid fans. There may just be too few of them. If only 15 people are interested in what you're selling, and they've already bought it, optimizing your sales process likely won't work.

3 Ways To Start Fixing The Problem

The good news is, all three of the challenges mentioned above can be fixed. Some can be fixed immediately. Others will take longer. Here are three ways to get started.

  1. Align what you're selling with your brand: Chances are, you don't need to start selling something completely new, but you probably should evaluate your offering in light of your brand. If you can align it more closely with what your customers expect of you, they're more likely to buy. For the client we mentioned at the top of this article, we did this by evaluating each product in the store against their brand values. This exercise yielded numerous changes that could be made to make their products more attractive to their biggest fans.
  2. Build the trust and notoriety of your band with consistent communication to the right people: Trust is a big deal. So is visibility. When we advise clients on how to grow their brand, we typically ask them two questions. 1) Where do you already have a brand presence that you could grow without starting from scratch? 2) Where is the one place that your potential customers are that you currently aren't? You should think through them yourself. Once they've answered these questions and we've developed a plan of attack, they are off and running.
  3. Determine what makes you unique: If you can't answer the question, "what makes us unique?" then you have a little more work to do. You likely need to complete a branding exercise. We like the integrated branding process.

Your Next Step

It's time for next steps. No inaction here. Here's what we recommend:

  1. Read this blog post about AirBnB.
  2. If you can answer the question in the post, review what you're selling with that question in mind and make some changes.
  3. If you can't answer the question, we'd love to hep you out. Get in touch with us today for a free brand consultation

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