Brand Tip #9: The Role of Alignment in Brand Development

Now that you’ve established the building blocks for communicating to your target customers who you are, what you do and how you do it, it’s time to understand how alignment affects brand development.  Alignment is the act of ensuring that your brand reflects your target’s needs, wants, feelings and desires. Think of it as the act of walking (or shopping!) a mile in their shoes. Indeed, you must put on your customer’s shoes to understand and anticipate what it is they want from you.

The key to effective alignment is the recognition that ultimately it matters not what you think you are; what matters is what your target thinks you are. Rest assured, it’s their perception that is your reality. Imagine, for instance, the effect that one rude or brusque encounter with a receptionist at a favored service provider can have on the business relationship. Although the office may have cultivated a friendly and compassionate customer experience over many decades, that goodwill could be tarnished or lost in an instant over one negative exchange because the office’s view of its brand experience and the customer’s view are out of alignment. Like wheel alignment on a vehicle, it only takes a small misalignment to create problems.

The above office example illustrates the need for proper internal alignment—a  recognition that everyone in an organization, from the CEO to the receptionist, is an ambassador for the brand. The need for alignment is not limited to internal stakeholders, however. External alignment—engagement with those stakeholders outside the organization (particularly customers)—is equally required to build the trust, patience and emotional bonding that establishes a rich and lasting customer relationship with the brand. The premise of external alignment is a simple one: the target audience for your brand comprises individuals with unique needs; aligning the brand with external expectations therefore requires you to incorporate a process into your brand development to understand these individuals and their requirements. Simply providing a pink version of a product for a female target audience, for instance, is not aligning with the market. You must probe, question and listen to your customers to understand whether their experience of your brand jibes with your own vision of their brand experience. Two common methods for doing this are through the use of surveys and focus groups.

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