One challenge around brand development is the question of “brand perception” versus “brand reality.” Clients often blend these two concepts to the detriment of their business. As part of the discovery phase of our work as brand builders, we immerse ourselves in our clients’ businesses to understand who they are, what’s important to them and, most importantly, what differentiates them in a competitive market.
At its most basic, “brand perception” refers to “who you think you are,” whereas “brand reality” refers to “who you actually are.” Before you will be able to communicate your brand effectively, you must take an honest look at your business and be true to yourself, without reaching beyond what you actually offer.
What this means in practice is that you shouldn’t try to sell yourself as Disney World if you are actually the county fair. There is plenty of room in this world for the county fair. We need good county fairs. But to sell the county fair, you have to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of what you bring to the table, and where you fit in the marketing matrix.
Consider if you owned a restaurant. There’s a big difference between a Michelin three-star restaurant and your neighborhood Chili’s. Sure, you can get a decent meal at Chili’s; they have a variety of food on the menu for everyone in your family. But it’s not the same experience as a meal at The French Laundry in California. If you spent all your time advertising to foodie tourists, you might pick up the occasional customer by chance, but you’d be missing out on your bread-and-butter business—the families who want a decent meal on Friday night.
One of our strongest verticals is Senior Living. We work with a number of communities, at all levels. As part of the discovery phase, we work with clients to determine whether they’re offering the Chili’s or The French Laundry, the county fair or Disney World. It can be a challenging conversation, because the client might think they’re offering world-class service that, to a neutral third party, is merely average.
In addition to helping you examine yourself, we also look for easy wins to help spruce up your neighborhood diner with a good scrubbing and a training sessions for the wait staff. It may not transform you into a Michelin star winner, but it can help the right customers take a second look at what you have to offer. Likewise, we often advise senior living communities on quick wins such as planting flowers or a new coat of paint to improve the brand perception.
Ultimately, our goal is to help you achieve your business objectives. We want to make an impact on your bottom line, and to help you do that, our job is to help you take an honest look at yourself and figure out who your customer is (the Malibu buyer or the Cadillac buyer), and then we work to help you put your best foot forward as you reach out to those customers.