Some of the most well-known companies in the world owe much of their success to building strong brands. Each has accomplished this by using a combination of branding techniques to consistently define who they are and what value they can provide to their customers. As an insurance professional, you can use some of these same techniques to build your brand and your business.

What is brand?

Brand can be described in a number of ways. According to The Financial Services Marketing Handbook, “Branding defines who you are, what value you communicate, how you’re different from others offering similar product sets, and why people should prefer you to your competitors.”1 Your brand is important to your business because it is:

? the verbal and visual expression of your business;

? the shortest and quickest method for communicating with existing and potential clients;

? creates and increases awareness about your firm; and

? memorable, meaningful, differentiated, sustainable and valuable.

What steps can you take to build or strengthen your brand?

Step 1: Determine your position. Who are you and how are you uniquely suited to serve the needs of your clients? In a basic way, your answer to this question is your “position.” Position refers to the standing or place that a company wishes to occupy in the minds of a defined target audience.

As part of your overall marketing strategy, it’s important to identify a target audience or audience versus marketing to the masses. Think of yourself and your business in terms of your unique value to a specific target audience. Then examine your strengths, evaluate your target market’s needs and study your competition.

Step 2: Write a positioning statement. A positioning statement is a “short, pithy, powerful driver in brand strategy. It is more than a marketing slogan, since it summarizes a promise to your customers. It also represents your company’s vision of the future: your big dream, your ultimate goal, and/or your long-term possibilities.”2 Once you’ve determined your position, write it down! Then, incorporate your positioning statement into your marketing plan and begin using it as your consistent, core message every time you communicate with an existing or potential client.

Step 3: Create a tagline. In Outsmarting Goliath, Debra Koontz Traverso defines a tagline as “… a slogan, clarifier, mantra, company statement, or guiding principle that describes, synopsizes, or helps create interest.”3 Once you’ve established a position and positioning statement, you can continue to build your brand by creating a tagline for you and/or your firm. To do this, take your positioning statement and simplify it by using one of these five types of tagline formats:4

1. Imperative: An imperative tagline usually begins with a verb and suggests an action. Some well-known imperative taglines include “Just do it.” (Nike) and “Think Different.” (Apple)

2. Descriptive: A descriptive tagline describes a promise about a product, service and/or brand. For instance, Allstate promises, “You’re in good hands.”

3. Superlative: A superlative tagline says that a company, product, or service is one of the best in its class. For instance, Sony employs the superlative tagline: “Like. No. Other.”

4. Provocative: “Got milk?” is a tagline that brands the Dairy Council. This is one of the most well-known provocative headlines. A provocative tagline is thought-provoking and usually asks a question.

5. Specific: A specific tagline establishes leadership in a certain category. An example of a tagline that uses the specific format is “The few, the proud, the Marines.”

No matter which tagline format you choose, make sure it is unique, short and powerful. Make sure it is easy to say and remember. Most importantly, make sure that it captures your positioning statement.

Step 4: Develop a visual identity. Developing your visual identity is important because people think visually. According to Tom Peters, in Brand You, “A picture is worth a million words. And great brands have readily identifiable icons – just ask Nike or Apple – strong, simple images that connect with consumers.”5 According to the glossary at www.brandchannel.com, visual identity is defined as, “What a brand looks like – including, among other things, its logo, typography, packaging, and literature systems.”6 When you develop your visual identity, consider all of these elements. Creating a logo and placing it on your letterhead is just part of building your brand. Before you can develop any part of your brand identity, you need a clear vision of who you are and what value you can bring to your clients. Your visual identity serves to reinforce your position and your brand. And since your visual identity is such an important asset, you should consider the assistance of a marketing professional and/or graphic designer.

Step 5: Communicate your brand at every touchpoint. A touchpoint is any place or time in which you and/or your firm intersects with your target audience. Common brand touchpoints include publications, newsletters, business forms, signage, business cards, direct mail and promotions. Everyday communications are brand touchpoints, too. Challenge yourself to communicate your brand with every message, including emails, voicemails, phone calls, networking and even word of mouth!

Building a successful brand or strengthening your existing brand takes careful planning, a combination of approaches and time. While this five-step process is not an exhaustive list of activities and methods you can use to build or strengthen your brand, it can give you some useful starting points, ideas, and resources.

For additional marketing tips from Amy Kennel, visit http://www.brokerslifegroup.com/marketing/marketing5step

Footnotes:

1. Ehrlich, Ph.D., Evelyn, and Duke Fanelli, The Financial Services Marketing Handbook.
2. Wheeler, Alina, Designing Brand Identity: A Complete Guide to Creating, Building, and
Maintaining Strong Brands (Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003).
3. Traverso, Debra Koontz Outsmarting Goliath.
4. Wheeler, Alina, Designing Brand Identity: A Complete Guide to Creating, Building, and
Maintaining Strong Brands (Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003).
5. Peters, Tom, Brand You.
6. www.brandchannel.com