In this section, we share some of our thoughts on branding. These insights have been developed over years of research and experience helping clients create, maintain and evolve their investments in their brands.
Branding -> Marketing -> Sales = Success
Branding is the foundation for all marketing. Without a brand presence, your marketing will not be effective and without effective marketing, your sales efforts will be less than successful.
To be successful, today’s brands must deliver:
- trust - being authentic and clear
- community - create a sense of belonging of like-
- value - provide uniqueness, focus and utility
1 - discover gaps in the market
2 - offer something unique
3 - promise something of value
4 - deliver on that promise
It’s a simple formula, but not necessarily easy to follow. However, if successfully completed, it will lead to true differentiation. While trust is truly important if your brand doesn’t stand out from the crowd, it can’t be successful.
Do No Harm
All organizations have a brand, whether we realize it or not. It’s the organization’s personality or perception that their audience or constituents have come to know them by. It’s important to take stock of what is valuable in that perception. That’s brand equity. It’s important for an organization to monitor the changes in the market, the business model, and strategy as it grows and matures. Be mindful that in most cases branding is about evolution, not revolution. When considering a rebrand or even a refresh, be mindful of the equity you already have in your brand. When addressing the brand’s visual presentation, do less than more.
Brands have to be prepared for democracy and let their audiences in. With social media and technology in general it’s going to happen anyway. To be successful in this current era, brands need to be mindful of two things, listening and curation. The listening is self-evident but still worth noting. Constituents have a lot to say and many avenues in which to say it. These need to be monitored and issues both positive and negative to be responded to in a timely manner. The curation piece is much more of a controlled response mechanism. A brand needs to be open to its constituents but needs to be true to its self first. That requires careful consideration and curation of the brand’s presentation. Losing control of the overview to an outsourced vendor or partner or even to the audience is to lose the ability to not only control the brand message but the ability to respond to any reactions with authenticity.
Branding is a zero-sum game.
Most small to medium-sized businesses can think of their investment in branding as two parts, emotional and financial. The total size of that investment will depend on the size of your organization and what you want to achieve. You can proportion those two parts any way you like as long as you realize branding is a zero-sum game. You can invest less in one, but you will need to invest more in the other to be successful.
In branding, consistency is the hob-goblin of small brands.
Common principal in branding is to be consistent at all costs. Because if you're not, your brand will become confused and a mish-mash of messages and perceptions. I argue that branding is more about continuity in message and presentation. You should vary the experience of the brand when you can to keep it fresh and nimble in responding market situations.
Embrace clichés and make them your own.
Cliches are powerful visual communication tools in that they speak in a universal language. The key is to be original in your interpretation of the cliche and make it your own. Light bulbs, hearts, arrows, etc., the list goes on. What all these cliched icons have in common is a clear meaning. Use them with relevance, uniqueness and style. They can have an enormous impact on identifying a brand.
People will pay for easy
Everyone knows that branded products have a higher perceived value. But time is what we all value. Saving customer’s time and therefore lessening any potential frustration is the most valuable branded deliverable. A branded experience, whether online or in-person, that makes the buying process and equally important, the support process, seamless, frustration-proof, and easy will garner much good-will and perceived brand value as to make any investment worthwhile.
The 3 Cs of Branding
The three critical components of a brand, regardless of the size of the organization.
A brand story needs to be believable, engaging and most of all relevant to those you care about most: your target customer. Being clear about what you do and why that matters will go a long way to develop understanding and build awareness.
Your brand has to be memorable and differentiated. A creative approach, in personality, messaging, and look and feel, will all go a long way to this end. The key idea in branding is less about innovation and more about delight; developing that “ah-ha’ moment in a way that customers can’t forget you.
Building a brand takes financial commitment, to be sure. We advise clients that emotional commitmentis required even more. Emotional commitment requires a belief in what you’re doing, savvy in understanding your business environment, and leadership to move the process forward and motivate the troops.