Have you ever thought about not just what you stand for as a company, but also what you don’t stand for? Knowing and being able to articulate what you don’t stand for is incredibly powerful. Those who have done this successfully have built some of the greatest, most powerful brands of our time that command the most loyal following. They’ve done this by creating a sense of exclusivity, an “us vs. them” dynamic.
Let me explain…
In the mortgage industry, especially among lenders, the need for powerful brand differentiation is quite apparent.
- A weak brand doesn’t drive its share of referral business.
- A weak brand has referral sources whose loyalty to the brand is fleeting.
- A weak brand doesn’t drive the business it wants, but takes whatever it can get.
- A weak brand has difficulty when market conditions are tough and is at higher risk of failure. This is especially true for many lenders who’ve never bothered to assess their brands because the business was rolling in.
- A weak brand doesn’t have much to hold it up if something should occur that draws unwanted attention.
Accordingly, those that focus only on driving transactions without having a clear and strong, compelling brand ultimately lose market share to those that understand the importance of a brand and have been vigilant about building and managing them. For sustainability, a strong brand must be at the core of your existence.
Stronger brands have a loyal following because their followers know what the brand stands for as well as what it stands against. Their followers are ardent advocates that belong to a community of like-minded people who understand the clear distinction between that brand and other competing brands. They know, and can easily articulate, why they continue to do business with you and why others who are not simply should. This type of understanding is what makes that brand powerful…and the brand itself knows how to nurture that power to recruit others that can also become ardent advocates.
Here are some great examples of well recognized powerful brands:
NIKE: Remember the Nike “Just do it” campaign? Nike made it clear that it doesn’t stand for, or is against, laziness. This clearly pits those who are athletic, ambitious, energetic and health conscious against those who might be considered “couch potatoes,” the opposite of everything Nike stands for. By drawing this contrast, Nike has created an exclusive brand…one that excludes and stands against those who do not engage in life and can’t be part of the club, so to speak. See how this creates the “us vs. them” dynamic?
APPLE: How about Mac users vs. PC users? Apple made it clear that their product is not designed for people who are “stiff,” too corporate, square or unimaginative…labels, true or not, they give to all those who do not use a Mac. This pits Mac users squarely against all non-users who just aren’t cool enough to “get it.” Hence, the exclusivity of the brand. Ingenious, isn’t it? Apple fans surely have a sense of community, belonging to something bigger than themselves individually.
TRUMP: Like him or not, he has a powerful brand that commands an intensely loyal following. We know exactly where he stands on issues, he shuns political correctness and he doesn’t try to appeal to everybody. He only wants to appeal to a subset of those that believe a career politician just can’t get things done because they are bought by special interest groups. He wants to appeal to those that believe he can do a better job than anyone else of creating jobs, pointing to the tens of thousands of jobs he’s created himself. So, at least for now, his poll numbers only go one direction: up!
By taking these powerful positions, Nike, Apple and Trump have managed to build a devout following. These brands have given their audience something to not only stand for, but stand against as well. So how does this work for mortgage companies and other mortgage industry product and service providers that yearn for strong brand differentiation and recognition?
What makes people rally around you isn’t what you offer (loan programs, insurance, technology, appraisals, etc.), rather it’s what you stand for in their minds. Defining that difference between you and everyone else, that exclusivity, is what drives obscure brands to great new levels of success.
If you want your brand to command loyalty, you are going to exclude some from being connected with your company, simply because the cultures don’t mesh. You must meticulously develop a culture whereby all those connected with your company understand what that connection means for them that they can’t get somewhere else.
You’ll make hiring decisions in accordance with your belief system and the culture within your company, not just the technical expertise of an applicant or the book of business they might be able to bring along with them. It’s how you do business, how you select vendors, how you hire, whom you hire, how you make decisions, what you strive to become, why you get up in the morning and do what you do and on and on.
Here are some thought prompters to help you create a powerful brand that drives loyalty:
- What does your company aspire to be that runs contrary to other competing companies?
- What drives you to jump out of bed every morning and excites you about what you do beyond the monetary rewards? There are many things you can do to make money, so why this?
- What’s the story behind why you started your company? How does your purpose potentially undermine the apparent reasons for others existence which draws a line in the sand so to speak?
- Why do you think you can do it better than anyone else? Surely your goal wasn’t to just be deemed “as good as” your competition. That’s boring and certainly doesn’t do much to drive your people either.
- What’s your belief system with respect to your way of doing business?
- What do you want your audience to think about you versus everyone else?
- What can your audience expect from working with you that it cannot achieve by working with someone else?
- What are you giving your audience to rally around that could be a thorn in the side of the competition?
- What will you not tolerate at your company that others seem to tolerate?
These questions are just the beginning. They’re tough and require serious introspection and many times the help of a professional brand strategist to get through. Sometimes asking the same question from a couple different angles (positive vs. negative for example) can help. Coming up with the answers will go far to help you create that exclusive “us vs. them” dynamic that can be leveraged and push your brand to great new levels!