The single most important factor that impacts your brand's chance for success

It doesn’t matter if it is a corporate, product or service brand, one factor above all others will influence its ability to succeed. As you establish or evolve your brand, a core point of meaningful differentiation is critical. But this alone, does not ensure brand adoption and loyalty.

Credibility is the key. Credibility in how the brand is cultivated, communicated, and ultimately, experienced.

Far too often, branding can become an insulated process heavily influenced by internal politics or established business expectations. It’s not to say that internal expectations are not relevant, but in order to achieve aspirations, the brand must be rooted in reality.

So how do you establish credibility? It starts with understanding your customers and knowing their needs. How does your brand uniquely answer what they are looking for? In answering this question, it is important to park ambition, and examine this from the viewpoint of authenticity. Not only what claims can be substantiated, not only why these claims matter, not only why the brand is better or different from others, but when the brand is experienced, what makes it special.

The healthcare industry is one of the most heavily regulated when it comes to communicating a brand. The focus on substantiating claims is a necessary component. With product and service brands, adhering to approved claims alone, however, will not establish credibility. You must take into consideration the short and long view of where you want your brand to go, how it is communicated, what you want it to represent to your existing and potential customers and the level of commitment you want to earn.

With corporate brands, even though there is greater latitude, branding must be able to withstand skepticism and the products and services that the company markets must be coherently factored in to how the company is depicted.

As stewards of brands, we must make protecting credibility our number one objective. When credibility is tarnished due to communication, or worse, a negative brand experience, corrective action may not be enough to change perceptions. This is why it is imperative to maintain credibility throughout the process.

Here are a few examples of ways to maximize credibility at different points throughout your brand’s lifecycle.

Assume nothing

You may think you understand your customer. You may have even had the chance to interact with many. Nothing, however, can replace the value of true market research. It doesn’t have to take the form of focus groups or be an arduous process, but a baseline of knowledge must be formed.

Don’t influence outcomes

In conducting research, make sure you are asking the right questions. Don’t research only what you want to know. Be bold. It’s much better to know what barriers and perceptions exist early in the process so they can be addressed and overcome.

It’s nothing personal

As people, we all have our own preferences. And it’s easier than we would like to admit that we often take the road we are most comfortable with personally. This might be the right road, but what if it isn’t. Pay attention to your customer. Understand the intricacies of your brand. Then choose pathways that make sense because they are logic driven, emotionally focused, and right for your brand. The same is true for when you need to get brand communication approved by multidiscipline review boards. Keep people focused on reviewing communication from their point of expertise and don’t hesitate to inform why certain choices are being made with deliberation.

Be prepared for the unexpected

Sometimes we learn things about the market and our brands that we didn’t or couldn’t anticipate. Good and bad. It’s critical to be open-minded to evaluate this information within the context of the brand. Does it help support the brand’s core point of differentiation? If it does, then put it to work. Does it potentially damage the brand or limit adoption? Then face it head on. Grapple with the issues and figure out the best way forward. But be honest with yourself and the brand.

Brand integrity is the onramp to loyalty. By ensuring credibility in every step of the brand development, evolution and communication process, you are maximizing the opportunity to solidify brand adoption and ultimately make your brand matter.

by Jonathan D. Katz