Why Focus is So Important for Building Brands (and Businesses)

optical illusion

Every morning before my coffee hits and my mood improves, I shuffle onto a crowded, Manhattan-bound L train. More often than not, at least one of my fellow passengers is an ad from ConEd bearing its campaign line cum tag line “Everything Matters.” And every time I see “Everything Matters” plastered next to a smiling family or a lit Christmas tree, I think “Well…duh.”

Maybe I’m too grumpy before that first cup of joe, but to me, ConEd’s campaign illustrates the dangers of trying too hard to appeal to everyone.

Great Branding is About Focus

The most compelling brands don’t promise the world; they make the world a strong promise and they deliver. When a brand’s scope is extended and extended so that it means something to everyone, it more often than not actually means nothing to anyone.

And that’s where “Everything Matters” comes in. The sentiment is nice, but what exactly does it mean? And is it something ConEd can actually deliver? When the snowstorm knocks the power out, is a child’s nightlight really the same priority as the MTA?

Think of FedEx and “The World On Time.” It’s a simple, direct, and understandable promise: Time-sensitive delivery. Not “everything.” And that’s one reason why FedEx has been able to use the same tagline for more than 20 years.

Finding the Right Balance

In an effort to build visibility and grow business, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking more audiences means more traction. But in B2B, this is rarely the case. Focus often requires taking a hard look at who a brand truly needs to connect with. Even companies expanding into new vertical or geographic markets have to hone in on the audiences that are most important to successful entrance.

We partnered with an association in the higher education space that was struggling to communicate a meaningful value proposition to prospective constituents – largely deans and faculty at universities. Early on in the rebranding initiative, the management team voiced a strong desire to build a brand that resonated strongly with students, an audience they had previously had little engagement with.

While there was aspiration to include students, in reality, the organization only directly connected with deans and faculty. By attempting to appeal to all three groups, they threatened to spread the brand too thin, with messages that didn’t pack a punch with anyone. We proposed speaking primarily to deans and faculty, but weaving the story of the empowered student and the improved society—the end beneficiaries, but not the audiences—into everything. As a result, the association was able to acknowledge the larger business education ecosystem, while still speaking directly to the audiences that were most important.

While all B2B brands have many stakeholders, great B2B brands know how to prioritize. Instead of casting the net too wide, identify core messages and target audiences that allow your brand to focus time and resources where it counts. Or should I say, where it matters.


Hannah-FoltzHannah Foltz is a Senior Strategist at DeSantis Breindel. When she isn’t stuck on the L train, she is diving into research and helping develop positioning and messaging platforms for B2B companies.

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