The Brand Continuum

In the movie Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella, a down-on-his-luck Iowan farmer (played by Kevin Costner) responds to a whisper in his cornfield encouraging him to build a baseball field – “If you build it, they will come.”  With blind faith he follows the vision and in the end is able to fulfill his dreams, right past wrongs, and salvage his farm in a fairy-tale ending.

Like Ray, many entrepreneurs believe the same is true with their brand. If they build it, business will come. So they invest the time and energy to define a brand position and develop a brand promise that can create a distinction for them in the market. And when that step is complete, they wonder why customers aren’t flocking to their door.

But business isn’t like the movies. Building brand takes time. Just because you have employed the effort to define it, doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly see a huge uptick in your business. Building brand requires both a well-defined process to establish your brand and a carefully executed marketing plan that introduces the brand to the market and engages with your customer in a way that is relevant to them. Over time, consumers’ relationship to your brand moves along the brand continuum.

  • The first step along this continuum is Brand Development – an internal process that defines your brand intent. Here, by building on core values, you articulate a brand that customers will find authentic and relevant – one that will endure over time.
  • Once you are comfortable that your brand is well articulated, you can begin to build Brand Visibility. This process employs all of the marketing practices commonly known as “promotion” – including advertising, social and viral marketing, and even selling.
  • Over time, you will start to build Brand Awareness by telling the story of your brand – through personal messaging and public messaging, and by establishing yourself as a thought leader in your market space. These efforts help your market associate your brand with the actions and attributes that define you.
  • Establishing a customer base opens the door to Brand Engagement. Every touch-point of the customer experience (the buying process, his use of the product, your customer service, even random encounters) forms a gestalt that either validates or detracts from your brand promise.
  • If your efforts are successful, your customers will develop an emotional connection with your brand, known as Brand Loyalty, a natural preference for your brand that helps to overcome price sensitivity and promote repeat purchases.
  • The most successful brands reach the endpoint of the continuum, where loyal customers become promoters and even zealots. These are your Brand Champions – those who believe so strongly in your brand promise that they encourage others to share their experience.

Of course, not all brands reach the end of the continuum. And the evolution of your brand may slip backward or drift from time to time, as you lose focus on the brand-positive behaviors that build brand. But understanding the brand continuum and continually checking your progress along that continuum will provide a roadmap to success.