By Pete Kloppenburg
The key conversations we’ve discussed up to now have been strategic choices. When we ask “who is our audience?”, we’re effectively choosing the people we need to talk to. When we ask “who is our competition?”, we are effectively choosing what company we will keep, and what our position in the marketplace will be. When we ask “what is our offer?”, we are choosing what product, out of all the possibilities, we shall build our brand around.
This last conversation is a bit different. When we ask “what need do we serve?”, it’s not really about us any more. The need exists out there with our customers. Real needs exist before we arrive on the scene. We can’t conjure the need out of thin air. We may identify needs that our customers aren’t yet aware of – in fact those are excellent needs to focus on – but this is not an exercise in creativity.
So how shall we talk about needs? Well, let’s agree on one thing right off the top. Our customers’ need cannot simply be “our offer”. Even if we replace the words “our offer” with a functional description of our solution, it’s not very revealing.
Needs exist independently of our product. There is a relationship, to be sure, but the need comes before the solution. Our customers’ needs exist within their lives, either their day-to-day lives in the case of B2C marketing, or their working lives for B2B. Their needs exist within the larger context of their goals and aspirations.
Put simply, if we cannot describe our customers’ needs without mentioning our product, then we haven’t properly identified our customers’ needs.
This conversation fits in with the other key branding conversations, to be sure. If we identify our audience well, we should know a lot about what they do, their responsibilities, their pains, their day-to-day annoyances and aspirations. If we’ve identified our competitors wisely, we should know how our product meets their needs better than the competition. If we’ve identified our central product well, we’ll know how that serves our customers’ need.
We will, most likely, have not just one audience, but a primary target audience, secondary audiences and even influencers. Probably not just one offer, but a central solution with other offers that build on that central one. Not just one competitor, but a main competitor and a bunch of others in the same market space.
So as we talk about need, we may have to widen out our view. We may want to elevate the need and talk about it in the abstract to some extent. What need can we express that is common to all our audiences? Does our brand serve that need? Does it serve it better than our competitors? When you have answered those questions to your satisfaction, then you’ve got your need.
And how does this all fit into brand? One of the key components to brand strategy is the brand promise. Your customers’ need when accurately combined with your passion = your brand promise. Answer all these questions well, and you’re on the way to a winning brand.