(This is part of a series of ongoing posts we’re calling Brandcrumbs, which are bits and pieces of branding advice left over from our regular conversations about real-world brand positioning challenges.)
I reset two internet passwords this week. I feel more secure now. Better than that, I feel strong—because I treated my password resets like a brand development project.
We don’t list “brand strengthening” in our list of services, but it’s at the core of almost every B2B brand development project we undertake. Often, when we begin working with partners, we hear that they’re looking for a brand “refresh.” Our goal is to move them beyond refreshment. A refresh is a surface fix—a logo color change, a few words rearranged in the mission statement, a new set of sell sheets.
Those tasks can be useful, but they don’t strengthen a brand, don’t secure long-term success. And that’s what we’re after: brand strength that secures long-term success.
So what’s the key to brand strength? To be as concise as possible, the key to brand strength is the right mix of facts and convictions.
Facts: Specs and capabilities and features and plant capacity are the shelf-stable bread and non-GMO nut butter of your B2B business. Facts are indispensable, verifiable claims that offer customers security. But facts alone are almost never differentiating. Facts alone offer security, but they don’t offer strength.
Convictions: Leadership, vision, corporate culture, passion—these are all products of conviction, and they’re all indisputable qualities of successful companies. Conviction is required when there’s more than one path, when a position needs to be staked. Conviction differentiates brands when the facts—as is often the case—fail to give customers a reason to choose one company over another.
Conviction adds strength to the security of facts. And you need both (which is one reason why, as part of our brand strengthening process, we involve a mix of board members, senior and mid-level executives, and sales, marketing, and R&D staff).
Think about those password reset security questions. When it’s time to select the questions you’ll answer, you have two options: fact or conviction.
If you want basic security, you can answer only those questions based in fact: name of first this, name of most recent that—undifferentiating data that anyone with access to a browser can claim ownership of.
But if you want strength, you’ll mix in conviction: favorite band, best pet, preferred shelf-stable bread.
Facts are necessary. Convictions differentiate. You need both.
However you slice it, if you’re looking to address your brand, don’t settle for a refresh—instead, demand brand strength, and find a partner who cares enough to work with you to develop a strategy incorporating the right mix of facts and convictions.