Questions to Fuel Your Brand Forward.

11 enduring questions that will improve your brand’s strength.

In the evolution of a brand, there is a constantly shifting horizon on which the brand moves towards. The company grows, audiences change, teams progress, competition moves in, products evolve and markets shift. These are all constant givens in the ever-changing landscape of a business.

Truth be told, a brand is constantly evolving. Sometimes brands go through minor, incremental updates and sometimes the evolution takes big leaps that happen during significant evolutionary junctures. These larger evolutionary junctures are typically brought on by business strategy decisions that are in response to changes in the marketplace, company focus or shifting customer demands.

However, a brand must have its own true north from which it navigates this uncharted territory. This true north is a company’s own self-defined markers for its reasons for being, visionary destination, and ultimate measure of success. These elements are the foundational make-up of what a brand is built upon and what it evolves into.

An example of this is when CVS was aiming to evolve the company from a pharmacy and convenience chain to a health-care brand. They converged their business, brand, and purpose in their decision to stop selling cigarettes—this, by the way, was a $2 billion move, but they were building a brand on their purpose, beyond simply a drugstore retail chain. They couldn’t have integrity in positioning themselves as a health-care brand and continue selling cigarettes. So, they stopped and it had exponential positive effects.

“Our new retail offerings leverage our deep expertise in health to enhance our customers’ shopping experience. The same guiding principles that led to the removal of tobacco from our stores extend to our commitment to deliver the most innovative health and beauty solutions.” Helena Foulkes, President of CVS Pharmacy and Executive Vice President, CVS Health.

With this in mind, there are a series of questions that the stewards of a brand must continually ask and answer. We call these enduring questions.

An enduring question is one that does not have easy answers, reframes your marketplace position and reorients your true north. These are questions that can only be answered by looking deeply at your business strategy and organizational compass. These questions shape your brand image, define your product/service position and drive the company forward into places that it might otherwise not go.

Enduring questions are courageous questions. They lead the company into possibilities that you likely haven’t considered. They are inspirational and aspirational. They come from paying very close attention to both what your company stands for and where your company stands.

An enduring question can, and I believe should, be asked and answered continually by the brand stewards and organizational leaders.

With this in mind, here are 11 brand-fueling questions to consider.

  1. How will the challenges of today define the character of our brand?
  2. What market forces are we blind to or ignoring that may alter our ability to achieve our brand purpose?
  3. Have we built a brand promise that we consistently measure to ensure we’re living up to it?
  4. How does our defined brand purpose continue to move the company forward, and how, beyond the bottom line, do we measure success?
  5. What are the business practices that we should no longer do because they are not aligned with our brand purpose or promise to customers?
  6. From what foundational beliefs do we make our most critical decisions?
  7. What are our company’s non-negotiables?
  8. What is our company tolerating that no longer serves the brand?
  9. Have we operationalized our core values so that they’re lived throughout the organization?
  10. What are the real stories about our brand that are told most consistently? What do these stories say about our brand?
  11. Are we communicating with our customers, including active listening, so that we truly understand our brand’s impact on them?

We know that your business is running at the speed of light. There are always new markets to reach, business opportunities to capitalize on and new customers to win. Pulling your attention to the wide horizon of the questions above will help you navigate your most pressing business challenges.

A near-constant measurement of a brand’s success is to ask whether or not it is fulfilling its self-defined purpose and if it is delivering on its stated promise to customers. An annual or semi-annual review of this by the leadership team is strongly encouraged, which is usually done during company off-site workshops and retreats. Keeping these questions in mind will create a powerful differentiator between your brand and that of your competition.

Onward to more — Better brands. Better business. Better life.

With gratitude, Steven Morris


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