What You Do Is Not Always How You Are Perceived

How many times has your company grappled with an identity crisis?  You started the Company with a great idea and just got to work doing the work to bring a product or service to market.  But over time, you realized that building a business is so much more than just selling what you have built.  It is about selling the perception that your target customer has of who you are.  That may be the hardest thing you ever do.

How your Company is perceived strikes at the core of the DNA of the business, your identity.  It starts with how you perceive your purpose (as the CEO or Founder) and how you set the core mission, vision and values for the Company.  It's about defining your target audience and unlocking the intangible attributes that differentiate your brand from your competitors.  These are not simple or trite or "when you get around to it".  Failure to set your strategic role (mission, vision, values, brand personality, key value proposition, target customer profile, and strategic messaging) early will cascade to painful and futile execution that can lead to an "expensive lesson".  

It starts with the brand positioning statement.  I know this is a pretty familiar marketing framework (popularized by Geoffrey Moore in Crossing the Chasm but I want to give credit to Randy Wise who has been a colleague of mine for a long time who actually makes sure to put this in practice.  Here is the brand positioning framework:  

  • For [target customers]
  • Who  [specific problem to solve or opportunity]
  • [product name] is a [product category]
  • That [key benefits, value prop, reason to believe].
  • Unlike [competitive alternative or competitor]
  • Our product [product differentiation].

So let's see it in action.  Here is Amazon in the early days (when they were just a bookseller):

  • For World Wide Web users
  • Who enjoy books,
  • Amazon is a retail bookseller
  • That provides instant access to over 1.1 million books.
  • Unlike traditional book retailers,
  • Amazon provides a combination of extraordinary convenience, low prices and comprehensive selection.

From the brand positioning statement you can start creating your taglines (external customer facing messaging), your internal guiding principles, personality and more.  You will have successfully created the starting point for everything that defines you and can then start to live that brand with intention.  When you live your brand with intention and authenticity, customers will perceive you that way and the alignment between your internal and external positioning will create multiples of value for your business.


Russell Benaroya