Your Brand Attributes: Bogus or Believable?

For 80 years, my grandfather, father and uncle owned a men’s clothing store on Minnesota’s Iron Range. The tagline they used in all of their advertising was: “Hallock’s Clothiers… the friendliest store on the Iron Range.”

Long before the concept of “branding” became every marketer’s mantra, these gentlemen understood the concept of a brand attribute. When customers walked into Hallock’s store, they were greeted with a big smile and  a hearty “Hello, my friend!” followed by questions like “How’s the family?” or “How’s the job going?” Genuine interest in the customer was the foundation of their success, and “friendliness” was more than a slogan.

Brand attributes,  like “friendliness,” should capture the very essence and personality of a brand. They must be unique, relevant, and plausible. They should help position the brand so that it is preferred over its competitors, and they should build consumer faith in a company, its products and services. Evidence of their authenticity should permeate everything the company does and says.

Importantly, brand attributes must be based on demonstrated behavior and performance. A case in point…

I recently consulted with the CEO of a professional services company that had chosen “innovative” as one of its brand attributes. On the company’s website, “innovative” was cited in a bullet point list of its brand attributes and repeated throughout the site. Curiously, there were no examples provided to illustrate how the company was truly cutting edge. When I asked this CEO how his company was innovative, he looked at me as if I’d asked him to elucidate the theory of relativity. After a few minutes, his shoulders slumped, and he reluctantly admitted: “I’m not really sure.”

Maybe his company is innovative. Yet his inability to articulate how this was a genuine brand attribute, and the website’s failure to cite tangible evidence of the company’s ingenuity might turn off clients and smack of puffery.

Brand attributes cannot just be a list of words and phrases that are trendy or seemingly compelling. A brand attribute has to be a living entity…what you are and the way you conduct your business.

Integrity. Quality. Personalized Service. Compassion. Innovation. Independence. Results. They are powerful words and enviable brand attributes. Then again, if they are not what customers and clients experience during their dealings with your company, or if they are not substantiated in your marketing communications and advertising, they won’t pass the sniff test of savvy consumers.

Whether you are a global  Fortune 500 firm or a small town men’s clothing store, your brand attributes should be true and verifiable. That’s how you build a great brand identity.

Diane Hallock, Principal, Hallock Communications, a Minneapolis-based marketing company. To learn more about how you can build lasting client and customer relationships,  call Diane at Hallock Communications, (952) 927-0086 or visit: www.HallockCommunications.com.

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