slice of a red onion

We’ve written before about a common trap many challenger brands fall into: to compete with the Goliath in the industry, they feel the need to focus on the ways in which their offering is “just as good” as the big guys. In doing so, they sound defensive and inauthentic, often getting lost in the shadows of the behemoths.

Recently, we had the opportunity to work with one such challenger brand. They were the number two provider of information and data to the financial services industry – almost always referred to in comparison to their biggest competitor, the industry leader. And competition was intensifying from all sides, with at least half a dozen firms vying for the same customer base. The challenge for us was to determine how we could help them carve out a unique and defensible position in this increasingly crowded marketplace.

Competitive analysis revealed that messaging – including our client’s – tended to focus on what they were doing, not why they were doing it. So, they would say things like, “we offer the fastest information,” “the best information,” “the most information.” And they stopped there. They were operating under the assumption that the need for information was self-evident, that knowledge was an end in and of itself. We weren’t so sure.

During our research, we pushed this notion. Conversations went something like this:

What does data help you accomplish? Why does information matter?

It helps me make better decisions.

Ok, but what does that really mean? What happens when you make better decisions?

It helps me win.
It helps me gain a competitive advantage.
It helps me stay ahead of the pack.

Aaah. At last, it seemed, we had stumbled upon the true value driver: the self-interest of the customer. Based on these findings, we were able to develop a brand position that got to the heart of what our client’s customers really cared about, and ultimately, what drove their decision when picking an information and data provider.

The lesson here can apply to any firm going through a branding exercise. Pushing further down the value chain – pulling back layers of the proverbial onion – can help you uncover more meaningful insights into the customer psyche. They may not just come out and say the real reasons certain things are important to them. For example, our client’s customers didn’t tell us immediately that “winning” was such a priority. But that was at the heart of what they really cared about. To get there, we had to keep asking ourselves, have we gone as far as we can go?

It’s a question every firm should ask themselves.

Stop Blaming Your Tagline!

There are two assumptions about taglines we often hear during branding initiatives. They go something like this:

To stand out, a company needs a tagline.
When a tagline fails to catch on (and therefore fails to help a company stand out), it’s because it wasn’t very good.

The tagline’s promise – to concisely…

Innovation: Show Don’t Tell

Innovation. It’s been a recurring theme in almost every one of our conversations with B2B companies looking to refresh their brands. From the CMO to the CEO, B2B executives have been laser-focused on building brands that convey innovation.

When did this word become so ingrained in our lexicon? According to Google Ngram, the…

The Company on the Couch: What Branding Reveals About an Organization

We recently rebranded a $20 billion institutional asset management firm.  The client had been spun off from a much larger parent company and was looking to a new brand to ramp up its close rate with prospects.  Our research with clients and prospects (and several institutions that had chosen not to hire our client) uncovered…