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Archive for March, 2008

Brand Strategy: Why is defining a company so hard?

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

As I’m working on a marketing plan for a client, it strikes me how these five words can strike fear and doubt into so many executives - “How do you define yourselves?”

It is a painfully simple question, but the answer is so important.

Many hours can be spent on this question. In workshops, when I ask this question, the initial answer client’s give is often the most honest. Someone in the room inevitably blurts out the answer, and I write it down. Then someone else inevitably adds that the first definition is too limiting, and provides a different definition. Often a much broader one.

To give an example, I once worked at a very large company where the executive in charge decided how to define our business. His definition was the equivalent of defining a bakery as a “flour, water and eggs mixed together and baked for 12 minutes” business. Much easier to say, “We are a bakery.” His answer created confusion. Customers wondered what we were talking about.

Why all of the confusion? Many people, and companies, want to appear to be more than they are. They get caught up in internal thinking, strategic thinking and politics.

For lack of a clear definition, companies broaden their definition to a higher level in an attempt to cast a larger net. As with my example, this only ensures that no one will have any idea what they are speaking about.

So is this a complex question? It does need to be. Customers are looking for a simple answer. They are tired of trying to sort out what companies actually do versus what their Web site says. Give them a break - give them the simple answer. Save the complexities for internal documents.

One obvious question lies in waiting - how do you define yourself, or your business? If you are using more than ten words to define yourself, then you should do some editing. Write back to me and tell me your definition.

-Steven Halling, President

AMA Boston Board Meeting, March 11th @ 6pm

Friday, March 7th, 2008

Any member wishing to have a voice in the chapter is welcome to attend our monthly board of director meetings.  If you are a current AMA member and either want to participate or have an agenda item you would like the board to consider, then please write to president@amaboston.org.

-Steven Halling, President of AMA Boston 

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The views and opinions on this blog are solely those of the contributors and do NOT necessarily reflect the official opinions of the Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association.