Adding some clarity to your brand: A simple exercise.

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So... How is your brand doing?

I don't mean your company. I mean your brand.

Are people talking about you, or are you another name in the crowd? Do you find yourself having to cave to price pressures, or are you comfortably charging fair prices (or even a premium) for your products and services? Are your customers enthusiastic about your brand, or could they care less? Is anyone wearing your T-shirt... or your competitor's? Are people proud to tell their peers that they do business with you, or are you not important enough for them to really waste their breaths?

Good questions all. If the first portion of each of these questions had you smiling and nodding in the affirmative, good! You're on the right track. If not, perhaps it's time for a little annual brand checkup.

No worries, you don't need to go see a brand practitioner quite yet. A little private self-exam is all that's required at this point. Here is an easy place to start:

Understand who you are, what you do... and clarify it.

Brands aren't just logos and taglines. Brands, at their very core, have a very specific identity. Even if it isn't easy to attach words or adjectives to a brand, everyone who comes in contact with a strong brand should have an immediate understanding of what that brand's identity is.

If not, somebody is dropping the proverbial ball.

Here's a little warm-up exercise for ya - Quick: Define McDonald's. Define BMW. Define Calvin Klein. Define Nike. Define Ben & Jerry's. Define the Wall Street Journal. Define AT&T.

In fifteen words or less.

Note: It's okay to be subjective and biased, but be ready to back up your claim if someone calls you on it.

Examples: Cervelo makes the fastest time trial bicycles in the world. Garmin makes the most dependable personal GPS systems on the market. Volvo makes the safest production cars in the galaxy.

Okay. Your turn. McDonald's. BMW. Etc.

One of the most grossly overlooked elements in most brand evaluation initiatives is the part that deals with clarity: The questions you want to ask here are "do people (inside the company and outside of it) understand the brand? Do they understand its identity? More importantly, can they define it?"

Do they understand the brand's place in not only the world, but their world?

(In other words, are your branding efforts actually sticking, or are they floating away in the breeze?)

And by the way, we aren't talking about clarity in advertising.

Try it on yourself. In fifteen words or less, explain who your company is. Define your brand.

Here are some examples:

We're the hottest design studio in Paris.

We're the largest manufacturer of spark plugs in the world.

We're the guys who strength-train the US Olympic team.

Hopefully, your identity isn't along the lines of...

We're kind of like H&R Block, but with an orange for a logo.

We're the electronics store on the corner of Broad Street.

We're a consulting firm with a full portfolio of business services.

Your identity is more than just what type of work you do. It is specific to YOU.

Your identity isn't defined by A. It's defined by THE.

We are THE (fill in the blanks).

If you still have a hard time with the exercise, start with your job: I am the person who does XYZ. Then work your way up to your department or division: We do ABC for our company. NOW define what your company does. Start small, and work your way outward.

Now go ask ten of your employees and co-workers to define your company. Ask ten of your customers or clients to do the same. Ask ten people off the street as well.

For better or for worse, the results of your little experiment might surprise you... which is why it's worth your time.

Have a great Thursday, everyone. ;)

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