Why Brand Building Matters From Day One and How to Do it, from Brand Expert Shivaji Dasgupta

Your brand can’t be an afterthought. It’s a critical element of differentiating yourself from the competition and it should be present from day one in order to attract and retain customers. Labs mentor Shivaji Dasgupta, founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory, held a Labs session all about the importance of brand building and how to do it.

The biggest brand building mistake startups make

“In India, and in most parts of the world, we see startups investing in brand experience well after the first few steps of its evolution; after a business plan, getting a team together, getting funding, and then at the end, they try to create a brand strategy and a brand plan,” Dasgupta says. “That is denying your business a huge leverage point which is the power of your brand as a magnet and something that gives you energy to captivate the customer.”

“That the biggest challenge for startups is to find clear differentiation from the competition and a reason for customers to stay with the brand,” Dasgupta says. “That’s where having a brand experience program from day one can become a very valuable source of differentiation and eventually, valuation.”

The 5 trends that show why startups should invest in their brands from day one

1. More competition - “Unlike 10 to 20 years ago, there are practically no entry barriers today to most industries because of access to technology, funds, expertise, and the spirit of entrepreneurship,” Dasgupta says. “That also means that startups are always struggling for differentiation and a reason for customers to stick with them. The digital age is uniting us in one way, but it’s also dividing us because we have so many choices.”

2. The changing power landscape - “Today, brands like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are actually becoming far more powerful brands than advertisers,” Dasgupta says, or even news organizations. “It’s no longer the days of the Washington Post, CNN, or NBC.”

3. Public scrutiny - “Our peers hold more power than ever,” Dasgupta says. “Increasingly, what other people say about their experience with a brand is becoming more important. And today, no brand is immune from being constantly examined and scrutinized by its peers and its competition.”

4. Consumers want experiences - “Today, across categories, consumers don’t believe in promises anymore. It’s all about delivery,” Dasgupta says. “Customers expect to be delighted by the experience they have with a brand. They’re not just looking at product output. Startups with a brand program that delivers on experiences are going to be far more stable and more attractive to today’s customers.”

5. The strongest touchpoint with customers has changed - Rather than focusing on the moment when potential consumers interact with their ads, “increasingly, we find that the moment when the customer is spending money on you for a transaction is when the relationship between the consumer and the brand is at its highest,” Dasgupta says. “That’s when the consumer is forming an assessment of the brand in terms of both emotion and transaction.” That experience of purchasing your product matters because “today, the experiences of our peers is one reason why people patronize brands, so startups need to constantly find ways to convert experiences to endorsements.”

How to build your brand

Dasgupta has created a proprietary brand building process called INEXGRO, which stands for Integrity, Expression, and Growth. “It starts with an integrity statement, moves on to an expression of plan, and moves on, eventually, to a growth impact,” he says. Here’s a quick overview to help you get started.

Step 1 - Create your integrity statement

“This is the starting point,” Dasgupta says. “It’s a single statement that captures your distinctive purpose built on clear muscles. These muscles have to be ownable, but they need not be unique, because uniqueness is becoming very difficult to sustain in today's world. However, it has to have very clear roots in performance.” Your integrity statement is also known as your brand value proposition.
“Your ambition or statement could be to become the most influential technology company in the world, or the most influential food services company in a particular market, but those ambitions have to be defined by realities,” Dasgupta says. “Realities in terms of funding, of distribution, of access, etc.”

Step 2 - Express your statement throughout your company

“Once you decide on your integrity statement, convert that into every possible experience touchpoint in terms of the product or service,” Dasgupta says. “It’s part of how you design the product or service, how you design your pricing, how you design your channel relationships, your access, your advertising, your human resources practices, your customer interface, your activations, your packaging. It must come across in every aspect of the customer experience, of which marketing and communication are simply one or two aspects, as opposed to being a separate, de-linked program.”

Step 3 - Measure and grow

“Now you need to convert each of these expressions of your integrity statement into an individual, measurable item,” Dasgupta says. “However the value proposition is brought to life in the customer experience, each of those elements has to be measured.”

“It could be digital metrics around an advertising campaign, or if the expression is about an HR practice, it could be whether your organization is making the lists out there of great places to work,” Dasgupta says. “Each and every element needs to be measured individually and not just as one holistic outcome. The trap of having holistic outcomes or solo outcomes is that we’re often not able to understand how that outcome happened. We need to isolate the impact of each element.”

This post is based on content from a WeWork Labs programming session.

Read more about how to build your brand.

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