Your company’s brand is more than a logo and a tagline. Your brand is a promise and an expectation that lives inside your customer’s minds — a living thing that must be constantly promoted throughout your company in order to be successful. Successful branding starts from the top down and should be integrated into every area of your business. Your brand should stand the test of time, be clear to your customers and motivate your employees to uphold your company’s standards with each customer interaction.
Your brand itself is a living thing that must be constantly promoted throughout your company in order to be successful.
Elements of Successful Brands
The first step to developing a successful brand is boiling down your key strategic advantage over competitors. What makes your brand unique? Of course your business strives for success, but if you focus on just one indicator of success, you are less likely to confuse your audience.
Take, for example, Zappos. The company’s philosophy is “to provide the best customer service possible.” That means that if a customer has a problem, they will find a way to fix it with a smile. But, what if they confused the message by emphasizing more than one strategic goal? What if the statement read “to provide the best customer service possible while driving industry change”?
While we have expanded the company’s philosophy with one of its core values, we are actually limiting the reach of its branding by making it more confusing and abstract for its customers. If we change the statement to read “to provide the best customer service possible for a shoe reseller,” then we are being overly concrete and specific, limiting the company’s ability to grow.
These and similar statements represent lofty goals that generally come from executives, but their true purpose should be to influence each employee and department in the business.
Who Is Responsible for the Brand?
The marketing department is generally tasked with creating a company’s brand. The department employs creativity to spread the brand and is ultimately where the brand thrives.
Some brands are so well marketed that they can easily get the message across without confusing the audience. Imagine a poster of an athlete lying on the grass, sweating and tired. There are no words on the page, but at the bottom is the Nike swoosh. You don’t know what Nike is actually trying to sell, but you can assume that the athlete gave it her all with the help of Nike sports gear. Through effective marketing, the brand is so engrained in our frame of reference that nothing more than the logo is necessary.
Setting Your Brand Apart
You may discover that your name, logo or core values are exasperatingly similar to a competitor’s. Depending upon your relative notoriety, all of your marketing efforts could be unintentionally benefitting your competitors. While a complete rebrand might not be feasible or cost effective, you can set yourself apart through minor tweaks to your colors, logo or tagline. Small changes can make a major impact.
Focused promotions can also bring much-needed awareness to your brand. So long as attention is not diverted away from your company, philanthropic promotions can contribute to a certain amount of goodwill for your company. The key here is to remain focused on either the personal passion of the company’s founders or a cause that fits well with the company mission.
Adding additional product lines can also present a branding challenge. One common issue lies in naming new products. You may want the name to be related to your company brand or existing product line, but you must be sure that the name clearly defines and differentiates the new product. In the first generation of their tablet family, Microsoft released both the Surface Pro and Surface RT. Pro carries a clear connotation, but what does RT mean to customers? Realizing the key failure of understanding, the next generation of tablets was named Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2.
Consistency in Branding
Consistent messaging is key to the branding of your company. Everyone from senior management to your sales team should be referring to your business and products in the same way. If you ignore any inconsistencies, you risk appearing confused or disorganized. Keep in mind that customers will notice any reason to doubt your company.
It is important to include all members of your staff, from management to sales to R&D, in branding discussions. It is a lot easier to create a product that fits within your branding scheme than to try to force it to fit later on. Making sure that the team fully understands the direction of your company will help developers brainstorm relevant features that your sales team can sell to further your brand.
Your business lives and dies by your brand.
Your business lives and dies by your brand, so no employee should be caught unaware of what your company stands for and how it should be represented to the public.
Building your brand starts with identifying the strategic competitive advantage that your company offers its customers. When used consistently and creatively, your brand can solidify your business’ place in the hearts and minds of the customers you serve.