The Calgary Marketer

Updates, commentary & more about marketing from Art Graddon

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What’s your brand proposition?

“If I am your ideal customer, why should I buy from you instead of any of your competitors?”

The answer to this key question is arguably the most important driver of your business. It is known as a brand proposition.

Of all the jargon-y concepts related to branding, the one I favour most is brand proposition. Perhaps it’s because the word proposition is a synonym for “offer”, a critical component of success in direct marketing, the results-oriented marketing discipline from which I originally hail.

Notwithstanding the naughty interpretation of the word “proposition”, a brand proposition is not unlike an interaction between two people in which one proposes something for the other’s consideration. It is your brand’s proposal of why your target prospect, your ideal customer should consider engaging with you, ultimately undertaking a transaction with you. And after the first transaction, it becomes the reason the customer continues to buy from you.

Businesses who sell to other businesses (B2B) tend to be more familiar with the concept of value proposition. And for my money, value proposition and brand proposition are pretty much the same thing. They both attempt to answer that driving question “Why should I buy from you?”.

One online marketing expert defines brand proposition as this:

“A promise of value to be delivered. It’s the primary reason a prospect should buy from you. In a nutshell, it is a clear statement that:

  • explains how your product/service/company solves customers’ problems or improves their situation (relevancy)
  • delivers specific benefits (quantified value)
  • tells the ideal customer why they should buy from you and not from the competition (unique differentiation)”

It should be said that a brand proposition is not your brand positioning, your vision or purpose, or the now popular brand story. These are all important elements of your brand strategy, especially as they help you establish your direction and forge emotional connections with your audiences.

I am all for defining why someone should care about and bond with your brand. But in the end, it is a business, with a need to create customers and sales. That’s where a brand proposition comes in.

Unlike these approaches to brand definition which tend to be more about the brand and its point of view, the brand proposition has a stronger focus on why someone should buy from you, what the customer gets out of it.

How a Brand Proposition helps you

Just the very exercise of defining your Brand Proposition can give focus and discipline to your marketing and sales efforts. Done well, it provides a persuasive summary of what makes your company/products/services desirable and worth buying.

It supports alignment between marketing and sales. Sales people are often skeptical of Brand “mumbo jumbo”, seeing such exercises as, at best, irrelevant to the actual face-to-face selling process and, at worst, a self-indulgent waste of time fabricated by naive marketing people. (They tend to use less complimentary adjectives than this.)

Well-defined with real and not vague differentiation built into it, the Brand Proposition’s focus on why the customer should buy is more welcome in the sales camp. It can help them create consistency in their sales approaches. Marketing’s efforts are equally clear and consistent and more naturally feed into the sales process.

A well-done Brand Proposition doesn’t have to just live behind the scenes in silent support of marketing and sales. Consider giving it word-for-word visibility to your customers, literally placing it in front of their eyes. Put it on the home page of your website. (It’s great for SEO.) Include it, preferably as its own page, in all your sales proposals and RFP submissions. Put it on the back of your business cards. Make sure it appears on all of your brochures. Turn it into a video for your site, YouTube, and even embedded into sales presentations.

What your Brand Proposition should look like

First of all, it needs to be clear and easy to understand. Keep it free of jargon and internal speak.

It should be in the language of your customer, a reflection of how they already think about your industry or products & services. You need to understand the language they use to describe your offering and how they benefit from it.

How you think and talk about what you do is almost always quite different from how your customers describe these same things. So if you are unsure or too close to your own perceptions of what you offer to be able to figure out your customers’ points-of view, do some research, or get someone else to do some research for you. Check out social media or call or meet customers and ask them. Check out reviews of your company/products and those of your competitors. Find out what people are saying.

As mentioned earlier, your Brand Proposition should describe the value and benefits that a customer gets from engaging with or using it. Does it solve a problem? If so, what? Does it improve their situation and if so, what situation? What is the main thing your Brand does for your customer…from your customer’s point of view?

It should also describe how it achieves this…what its main benefits are. And how it does so in a way that is distinct from other available offerings from other Brands.

One structure for a Brand Proposition that is helpful is this one, though be careful not to get too rigid with this format that it restricts your thinking:

For (brand’s primary target audience) who (statement of main issue or problem experienced by target that your brand addresses),( brand ) excels at (statement of main solution you provide) because (primary support).

Here is an almost literal example of this. It’s real, not fictional, but the actual name of the company, a home builder, is disguised.

For those who reach for luxury, who have a passion for quality and exceptional design, who live life with inspiration and style, there is but one choice – a HighCraft-built home. Because only HighCraft includes as standard a series of design touches derived from old world craftsmanship that make a meaningful and lasting difference to how a home feels and functions for the people living in it.

This example then went on to spell out the “design touches”, providing the support element of the brand proposition.

In this case, the brand proposition was given visibility in the marketing materials almost word for word. But this is pretty rare. Most of the time, the brand proposition will serve as the inspiration for marketing and sales messages and materials that express its components in less literal, more creative ways.

When it comes to a simple proposition, simply stated and persuasive, I really like what you discover immediately upon arriving at the home page of Canadian online mattress vendor Endy:

A Canadian made mattress with perfect firmness, shipped to your door.

100 Night Trial  |  Free Shipping  |  Free Returns

Here are three B2B propositions that cover complex offerings to highly vertical market segments:

CriticalControl helps oil & gas producers make better, faster and more profitable decisions by providing a full and integrated suite of solutions and services from the wellhead through to the financial statement that help them capture, visualize and manage their critical production data.

For business and government organizations who would like to take advantage of 3D virtual environments to create increased productivity and cost-efficiency in their geo-related work, but who struggle with the overwhelming volume of 3D point cloud data required to create and maintain such environments, Solv3D provides advanced technologies that make the processing, validation and visualization of 3D point clouds and ortho imagery accessible and affordable.

In a world dominated by digital and social media marketing that are becoming more tuned out by consumers and  less and less effective and credible with audiences, DataCore helps businesses make more direct & meaningful connections with their customers and prospects through the skillful use of direct mail to reach out and create impact and response.

Last but not least, this is from a company whose founder passionately believes that the products made by the cosmetics companies are unnecessarily bad for our skin and bodies and who makes alternatives from natural ingredients:

In a world that is over complicated and over processed, Ferlow Botanicals provides better simpler, cleaner skin and body care solutions for you and your family, without the toxic overload, by using only proven natural ingredients that contain no parabens or petrochemicals.

Ready to craft your brand proposition? Follow the principles and examples here and you should be well on your way. Want help with it? Get in touch with me!