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Don’t start with a logo: A senior leaders’ guide to branding your company

Peter Caulfield
Don’t start with a logo: A senior leaders’ guide to branding your company

Branding is not a new concept.

Some of its touted benefits are better name recognition, greater customer loyalty and more trust in the marketplace. 

“You can’t get by just on the quality of your product or service anymore,” said West Coast brand consultant Marc Stoiber. “You need to have a solid brand, and let it speak for you.”

Stoiber, who is creative director of Marc Stoiber Enterprises said, “branding is the difference between having a paying customer and a loyal convert. A great brand resonates with the people who buy from you and work with you, an emotional connection that makes them part of the in-crowd that supports you.”

If you want to sell something, you need to position it first, then start building the brand.

“Many companies try to do it in reverse, however,” he said. “They figure they can just design a logo and tagline and the cash register will ring. It doesn’t happen that way.”

Your company’s position should distinguish its strengths from the competition’s.

 “The goal of positioning is to find out the distinct thing you can say to appeal to a particular set of customers, to become their number one choice,” said Stoiber.

Branding, on other hand, shows customers immediately what a company, product or service represents. 

The biggest branding mistake construction companies make is trying to sell features and benefits, instead of a compelling vision of the future that the buyer wants.

Stoiber, who has worked in Asia, North America and Europe, said California construction poses unique branding challenges.

“There are people here from all over the world, so you need to create brands that work in different cultures, which have fundamental differences in how people think,” he said. “Brand thinking needs to be simple and not use too many words or clever word play. Go to the universal, to where we’re all the same anywhere in the world.”

At the same time, countries, cultures and economic sectors have some important commonalties.

Lisa Stevens, a West Coast branding and corporate strategy veteran who has worked in three countries, said, “One of the most interesting threads that unites the wide variety of experiences in my career is that whether its music, bookselling, sports or construction, it all boils down to the same thing: What’s different about you that your customers care about, and how do you communicate that to them in a way they trust?”

A strong brand also attracts top talent.

“If you’re a contractor looking for people, if tradespeople and apprentices aren’t coming to you asking if you’re hiring, you probably need to do some brand building, especially given the tight labor supply,” said Stevens.

A strong brand can enable a company to take the inevitable changes in the market and transform them into growth.

“Whether you want to move from smaller to larger projects, from residential to institutional, or from a local market to a regional market, branding can strengthen your message and make your efforts more efficient,” said Stevens. “The trick is that once you have more work than you can handle, and you need to hire more people, you have to ensure your new hires understand and deliver on your mission just like you do.”

Everyone who works for you needs to know what differentiates you from the competition and their role in delivering that service.

“That’s really important,” she said. “Everyone in the company has to get on board. That makes culture, and culture makes brand.” 

Every employee needs an orientation to the whole company, not just the project jobsite.

“The same way you hold a tailgate meeting onsite in the morning, have a company orientation at the start for each new hire, so they feel part of the team,” said Stevens. “Tell your company history, how it started, how you grew, the people and families behind it.”

Your company should have a mission statement and every employee should be able to repeat it.

“A mission statement should be short and simple language,” she said. “It should be authentic. If you can say it out loud comfortably, that’s a good test.”

Finally, said Stevens, put your logo on some swag and give it to your employees.

“It doesn’t have to be expensive,” she said. “A bumper sticker for trucks, carpenter pencils, T-shirts, something to remind them of where they work. 

Customers like this stuff too.

“Don’t just say what you are, be what you are.”

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