When the pandemic began, my first real inkling to what would lie ahead was my silent email inbox. It was unsettling to see the communication of commerce cease, even if it was just for a brief period. When businesses were reluctantly closed, my phone rang with a variety of reactions. There were confident companies that wanted to assure communication with their constituents and collaborate on the change required to do so. In stark contrast were businesses wanting to cease all online marketing and stay silent.
The disparity of reactions provided a moment of reflection. What distinguishes businesses that confidently thrive regardless of
a given situation? How can some decisively state their position with such clarity, in such a fluid environment, with a changed reality all around them?
The answer lives in the brand philosophy as a company, and the brand character traits. The purity of a fully developed brand identity is the vehicle that provides the vision to know what to do. By coupling a strong brand organization with proven traits of successful leaders, you will know what to do all the time.
POSITIONING YOUR BRAND
To establish a strong brand, you need to follow some important guidelines.
Start with your brand positioning statement: A well-crafted positioning statement is the backbone of your brand. Whole Foods has a guiding brand positioning statement: “To health and eco-conscious consumers, our grocery stores sell the highest quality natural and organic products that support vitality and well-being because we believe in Whole Foods, Whole People and Whole Planet.” The inclusion of why they do it is what differentiates them from their competition and it creates an emotional connection with their audience.
Establish your core values: Think of your company as a person. In my company, we believe in the American dream, we support made-in-the-USA companies, we are honest, social and charitable, we use new technologies to help businesses thrive and we strive for a win-win. We are constantly learning and innovating. The principles listed are values we live and breathe. We demonstrate our core values with authenticity and ease, as they are true sensibilities.
Understand your ideal customer: This includes gender, age, education, location, number of children and income. Look at your most successful projects and then delve deeper into their psychographic profile. This profile may sound something like the following: “My customers are outgoing, enjoy family time, entertaining and cooking; they love to travel and are willing to splurge on spaces that enhance the beauty of their home. They like trendsetting clothes and are often involved with charitable organizations. They prefer phone calls over texting and are active on Instagram.”
Emotionally connect with that customer: Turn the tables and think like your customer. Express the benefit you add to their life. “Kitchens that connect everyone in your home” would be an example of a compelling phrase for a designer specializing in smart kitchens and appliances. Speak to the benefits on an emotional level.
Establish the roots and grow: The foundation of your brand reflects the roots of your organization. A well-defined and executed brand strategy affects all aspects of a business and is directly connected to consumer needs, emotions and competitive environments. It is not simply your product, your logo, your website or your name. It separates powerhouse and mediocre brands from each other. In times of uncertainty, it provides the guidance and wisdom to thrive.
LEARN FROM THE LEADERS
I reached out to kitchen and bath industry visionaries for a glimpse inside the minds that are thriving during the pandemic. Chicago-based Mick De Giulio, the famed American designer, graciously shared his reflections and offered advice based on his almost four decades of design industry wisdom.
The intimate artistry in his designs extends to his interaction with clients, handwritten notes of thanks and, more recently, a personal phone call to check in on past clients. It is his warm gestures that develop and reinforce the personal connection he makes with each family. Instead of placing a “We are closed” sign on the door, his sign reads “de Giulio is operational! Call us at…’” He embraces technology: his team remains nimble by utilizing the tools we have today, taking advantage of shorter virtual meetings that are focused, and longer term can accelerate the design process. His installation team reverted to driving versus flying to keep projects moving. “We need to expect future challenges and be prepared for them,” states De Giulio, who is experiencing longer project durations due to supply constraints. He celebrates the small victories with an optimistic outlook and embraces the challenges as opportunities for lasting improvement.
On the East Coast, Janice Page, CKD and Deborah Karpiak are the principal owners of PKsurroundings. Their desire was to create a company that would leave no stone unturned. Page shared the same positive attitude as De Giulio while facing similar supply disruptions. She has embraced technology with Zoom meetings and shared drawings via Dropbox. She expedited her sample gathering process by utilizing www.materialbank.com, the world’s largest material marketplace for the architecture and design industry. Page’s business partner, Deborah Karpiak, makes home-baked treats for the crew, a gracious gesture that helps preserve a thankful team. Keeping the tone of all interactions positive, they made it a point to keep sharing projects on Instagram.
The PKsurroundings squad is a powerhouse team that does not believe in staying static. They adjusted schedules and materials to create the best result for their trusting clients. Savvy PK clients rely on Page to select the right products for their projects. Her brands do not define her – she is the brand. The company is thriving because the duo lives and breathes the core values of PKsurroundings.
It is that synergistic relationship between the brand, reinforced in the day-to-day management of interactions with associates, that creates a thriving environment. That keen awareness allows them to adapt and adjust to outside influences confidently and nimbly. In situations when the next step is uncertain, refer to your brand position and the answer will likely be revealed. ▪