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What is My Brand DNA? 3 Questions to Ask

I remember a few months ago when I was watching TV and a new Charles Schwab commercial came on. I can’t say that most ads about investment banking are really that riveting but this one surprised me. The ad featured a young man who sported iPod headphones and encouraged viewers to “Talk to Chuck.” In the marketing sense, this evolution of “Charles” to “Chuck” is evidential of an effort to re-package the services that the company has been offering for over forty years in a fresh way and to a “modern” demographic. Charles Schwab, it would seem, has shifted its brand DNA.

What exactly is brand DNA and why is it important?

Branding, when boiled down to its core is all about trust. Before your customer buys your product, she or he will cycle through a list of “trust questions”: Can I trust that this product will taste good? Can I trust that this product will make me look 10 years younger? Can I trust that this company will keep their promises? It’s important that your company’s brand inspires the amount of trust it takes for your customer to overcome his or her doubts during the buying-decision process. You want them to buy your product! That’s why branding is important for all businesses, even ones that are just starting out.

The execution of establishing a brand takes everything from chatting with fans on social media, featuring polished and effective packaging, sponsoring efforts in the community, being customer service jedis and possessing that “one-up” over your competition. Yet all these endeavors need to be propelled by a single momentum – a focused “brand identity” or “brand DNA.”

To understand what your brand DNA is, there are three fundamental questions to ask:

1. What does your service/product do?

Your brand truly hinges on what you’re selling. A company that sells gluten-free and healthy baked goods surely would have a different “identity” and way of communicating to their customers than, let’s say, an accounting firm.

2. Who is your customer?

In marketing, there’s a concept of the “Target Customer.” This is basically a profile of someone who would be best inclined to wanting, needing and buying your product. Don’t be tempted to say “anyone” -  it can’t be everybody and anybody because that answer won’t help you much. Think again of what you’re selling and notice how a “Target Customer” would differ for the gluten-free bakery and the accounting firm.  Be specific in describing this customer. What is this individual’s gender? Lifestyle choices? Household income? For Charles Schwab, their renovated “Target Customer” is someone who would prefer to “Talk to Chuck,” not Charles – perhaps a younger individual in his or her thirties.

3. What is your “edge” over your competition?

You may be offering something faster, cheaper, better, shinier, with better customer service or a product that’s entirely new and unprecedented. Whatever you can do better than your competition, identify it so you can showcase it through your brand.

These questions seem very simple but they’ll give you direction on how to begin to nurture a brand identity. The goal is to make your company’s name and everything that your business represents (your brand) synonymous with the value that your product provides, what your “Target Customer” would want to buy and what your competitive edge is.

Bryan JaneczkoFounder, Wicked Start
Bryan has successfully launched multiple startups. His latest venture, Wicked Start, provides tools to plan, fund, and launch a new business. Also author of WickedStart: Guide to Starting a New Venture with Passion and Purpose, Bryan is committed to helping small businesses grow and succeed. | Facebook | @WickedStart | LinkedIn | More from Bryan

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