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Asking the Right Questions About Your Brand

Your favorite brands — the ones you return to regularly and evangelize about to your friends and family — didn’t get to be so famous by accident.

Their creators put a lot of work into understanding what delights their users and what moves them to action. Whether you are revamping an outdated brand or creating a totally new one, the following questions will serve you well in becoming the go-to place for whatever it is you do.

1. Who am I talking to?
This is the key. You absolutely must know who you are talking to in order to approach your brand from a user’s perspective. The success or failure of your brand hinges on whether you are able to deliver on what resonates most with your audiences. Narrow down your audiences to just a few and find areas where they are similar, areas where they are different, and begin to explore the nitty gritty of how they operate and why you want to reach them.

2. What am I trying to get them to do?
Ultimately, you want your audiences to take some kind of action. It can be something easily measurable, like signing up for a newsletter, donating time or money, or purchasing a product. It can also be something a little mushier, like affecting change in their spheres of influence, starting a conversation about your work with their colleagues, or using your research to inform policy. Whether easily defined or more abstract, it still matters. Determine at the outset what your clear calls-to-action are and how your brand will achieve them.

3. What motivates them to action?
You need to know what motivates your key audiences to take action in order to inspire them to do so. Perhaps that is recognition for their work or, who knows, maybe it’s just good old FOMO. Either way, you want to know this so that you can craft a brand experience that speaks directly to their motivations and makes it easy for them to take action.

4. What would stop them from taking action?
Inversely, you need to know what kinds of mental (or physical) barriers will stop these audiences from taking the actions you have defined. This will help you head off any unwanted issues down the line (though there is always room for improvement) and truly get inside the psyche of your audiences.

5. How do I want my brand to be described?
Thinking about what you want others to think of your brand will determine how you speak to your audiences about your work and how you represent it visually. If you want users to think that you are a thought leader, then be sure to speak in such a way that conveys this desire (e.g., be innovative, fact-based, etc.).

6. What is the one thing I can promise every time?
One of the things that almost all famous brands have in common is that they start with one thing they know they can promise and do very well, every time.There is a saying, “if you try to do everything, you will accomplish nothing.” This is never more true than when a new brand comes on the market or an old brand has become diluted by too many making too many promises. Start with the one thing you can promise to your users and really nail it. Then consider if you want to add more “things” to your brand promise.

Building a brand isn’t easy, but if you start with the basics, you will start to understand where there is opportunity and where you can succeed.
 

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