Lessons From Fair Trade on How to Make Your Brand Message More Powerful

More than a third of adults in the U.S. recognize the Fair Trade logo. Here's a look at their best practices to help you sharpen your brand.

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By Catherine Clifford

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you are looking to pump up the authority of your brand, consider the approach of Fair Trade U.S.A., whose logo is widely recognized and proven to persuade consumers to choose the products it certifies.

Fair Trade Certified Logo
Image credit: Fair Trade
Fair Trade's Certification Logo

A Fair Trade certification on a product tells a consumer that the farmers who grew and harvested it were treated justly and were fairly compensated. The most common goods certified as Fair Trade are teas, coffees and chocolates sourced directly from farmers in countries across South America, Central America, Africa and Asia. Last year, a record amount of Fair Trade certified coffee was imported into the U.S. and Canada.

Related: The Secrets of 7 Successful Brands

Fair Trade faces stiff competition from lower-priced alternatives in each of the food categories it specializes in. In an instant, the Fair Trade stamp on a product needs to communicate to a consumer that he or she ought to choose a product that typically costs more. That's a tall order for a logo. "My job is to meet you where you are, which is standing in a grocery store, two kids in the cart, with 10 seconds to decide what kind of coffee to buy," says Mary Jo Cook, chief impact officer at Oakland, Calif.-based Fair Trade.

Here are three core strategies employed by Fair Trade to strengthen the power of its brand.

1. Find your customer sweet spot.
No matter what your product or service is, it is not going to appeal to everyone. In order to sharpen your brand, you first have to identify exactly who you are going after. In its earlier days, Fair Trade was trying to appeal to everyone, says Katie Barrow, communications manager for the certifier. While the Fair Trade logo is recognized by 38 percent of all U.S. adults, it was found to resonate with 62 percent who say they care about their health and environmental sustainability, according to a study by research group Natural Marketing Institute last year. Now, the certifier focuses its marketing efforts on those customers who identify as being concerned with health and sustainability and who have room in their budgets for luxury items.

Related: How to Turn Customers into Brand Ambassadors

2. Put the customer's needs ahead of your ego.
Oftentimes, entrepreneurs are so excited about their product or service that the branding strategy becomes focused on the entrepreneur's ingenuity, not the customer's needs, says Cook. When defining your brand strategy, Cook says an entrepreneur should instead ask: What problem are we trying to solve, and for whom? "If you can't answer that question, you really won't be able to do too good a job at marketing," she says. Once you know what problem you are solving, shape your brand around that answer.

3. Use social media to inspire and build support.
Content on your company's Facebook or Twitter pages will only reach the customers already following you. If you have a limited marketing budget and are trying to expand your reach, create content for your social media streams that your customers will want to share with their friends, says Cook. Fair Trade's strategy is to post stories about the farmers it positively impacts and inspirational quotes with universal appeal. People want to share content that makes them feel empowered, says Barrow.

Related: 20 Brilliant Brand Logos

What is your best advice for fellow entrepreneurs looking to maximize the power and reach of their brand? Leave a note below and let us know.

Catherine Clifford

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC

Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.

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