We had an opportunity to talk with Derrick Daye, managing partner of The Blake Project, a strategic brand consultancy, where he offered some tips retailers can follow to help establish their brand with their target customers within their local markets. You can listen to this conversation in its entirety here.

TF: Talk about The Blake Project, strategic brand consultants and the benefits it offers clients.

Daye: The Blake Project helps companies in all stages of development to understand the unique value they could own in someone's mind. We do that for brands from startups to emerging regional, national, and global brands serving people in many different categories from airlines, to golf shoes, even small businesses that are trying to make a meaningful difference in their marketplace.  

We listen to see how they see things. From there, we may get into some steps where we understand the private voice of their customer and what is going on in their mind. How do they think? How do they think about our client's competitors and even their own needs? We look at what is happening in the client's business and identify those strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. From there, we can provide recommendations on what to do next. And usually there is a strategic answer there.

TF: Talk about the work The Blake Project does with clients.

Daye: We work as practitioners similar to the way physicians work with patients. We first need to understand the patient and their needs. We come in unattached to any of the politics or friction within the culture. As a result, you can have an honest and open relationship. Together we put an action plan together to build strategies that will get clients to the desired outcomes. The real sophisticated business leaders today are well past brand building and why we need to do this and on their way into the how are we going to do this? We help people in senior leadership team that want to grow their business and need to solve challenges in their business. And that is why they call us to help tackle the problems at a specific time in that organization's growth.

TF: Installation is an element that really separates quality retailers from ordinary retailers. Would you say achieving differentiation in the area of installation would be a difficult thing to achieve?  

Daye: I do not think it would be difficult to achieve. I think anything can be differentiated and a retailer can build an advantage around anything. People would have laughed 30 years ago at setting out to launch a water brand, the ultimate commodity that is odorless, colorless, tasteless and free, but look at how many thousands of water brands there are—and several are billion-dollar brands. So, you can differentiate anything. As far as flooring goes, I would say that people are not buying products, they are buying meanings. Things that mean something to them. If they are trying to attract more affluent consumer, they need to adjust so that their offerings are more meaningful, that they represent a meaningful difference in their mind over their competition. Meanings, however, are really the driver of brands and why they matter.

You mentioned service and this is certainly one way to differentiate. Some people will buy from you because they know that your service is impeccable, while others will be driven by price or some by other factors, but you need to know what that is. You need to know what motivates your target customers, and then build your brand and offering around those needs. That is the real key. 

Start-ups and even brands that are not as sophisticated over time have gotten in a pattern of guessing, building the businesses on guessing. So, even those that are successful, you could never say they reached their full potential because their success is built on guesswork. The question is, how much bigger or further could they have gone if they had done the serious work in the beginning of figuring out what they stand for and what they stand against?

TF: What are some of the steps you often go through with clients to assist them in defining their brand message?

Daye: I talk often about defining unique value that they clients could own. Also, figuring out what competes or conflicts with your purpose. We call that pick an enemy of your brand, and it is not your competitor, it is that thing that stands in the way of your customer and what they are trying to get done or what they really want in the world. But there is this big enemy in front of that. They like you, or someone in your industry, to be that hero to come in and eliminate that. That is some of the work that we figure out together. So, we know where we are going and what we need to take on. We know what we need to eliminate, and everything is done with intention and purpose.

There is a lot of inward focus that needs to take place. And one question I think that needs to be asked is, are we part of the old or are we part of the new? That is not to say that there are not valuable things that are in our old part that we can't bring forward because there is a lot of goodness there and we can build some great strategies around where we came from. But if we are not enough of the new today, we are in trouble. So that has to be analyzed and figured out so we can earn a place in the future.