Historically, branding was of concern only to large companies and global product teams who viewed it as a byproduct of long-term business success. Madison Avenue was the arbiter of branding, and corporate management considered branding secondary to their business goals.
Today’s three most valuable brands, Google, Apple, and Amazon, didn’t even exist in the days of the “Mad Men.” Companies like these know that following brand strategy is central to a successful and growing enterprise. In a hyper-competitive marketplace, creating, nurturing, and leveraging your business’s brand is one of the surest ways to separate yourself from the pack.
Defining your place in your market space
Customers in both the consumer and business market segments have gained a powerful tool with the internet that can sometimes minimize the importance of a brand. That’s because the internet has the power of creating communities, which can help companies build and leverage their brand.
The first steps in the branding process are to clearly define the company and its product and services apart from competitors. It's important to consider how consumers and customers see and respond to your brand because it defines your actual offerings. Positioning, including the features and benefits of your offerings, is so important.
You must also clearly define how your product or service is different. With plenty of “me-too” players, you need to make it easy for consumers to understand what makes your business special.
You can decide whether to differentiate your brand by price, service, selection, customer service, innovation, or a combination of all of these elements and others. Take the time to address the branding situation at the strategic level by:
- Understanding what customers in your market want
- Evaluating what your competition is and isn’t successfully delivering
- Delivering on your promise to meet or exceed those expectations
- Making it easy for satisfied customers to tell your story
- Quickly addressing the concerns of unsatisfied customers
The brand as a living entity
Developing your brand is not a “once and done” process. A successful brand evolves over time to meet changes in the marketplace. When you start your business or launch a new product or service, be sure to develop your logo and tone of voice.
A logo should be powerful and memorable and looks just as powerful on a business card as it does on a web page or a billboard. Developing a logo warrants a great deal of expertise, and a reputable marketing and advertising agency can be a good resource. Along with your logo, you will need a tagline that communicates your brand image.
Be sure your branding guidelines address the tone of voice you want to convey to the marketplace. From email and print campaigns to your website, your tone of voice will come to life in every piece of your business. Having a clear and concise tone of voice helps set the stage for your brand.
You also need to determine your market positioning, and come up with a simple statement about your brand, similar to an elevator pitch.
As you finalize your branding guidelines, make sure you have clearly communicated the voice of your brand. Then, you can begin to incorporate your brand’s final design elements into all your marketing materials.
Nurturing and maturing your brand
The world’s greatest brands are a reflection of a living culture, not just the product of an advertising agency computer. The process of building and nurturing a brand as a living entity begins with your own company culture.
It’s important to create and maintain a work environment that attracts and maintains the best available talent. Compensation packages are important, but are often secondary to a supportive and creative culture.
Retaining experienced employees supports a business’s brand because happy employees are more likely to have pride in a company’s products and services, work to keep costs down, and do what they can to make customers happy. The ROI on human capital is as significant as the ROI on financial and performance factors.
The more your employees understand and take ownership of your brand, the more they will communicate value to customers. The more your customers understand your brand, the more they will support it.
The strategic planning and effort you invest into your brand will pay off over the lifetime of your company. Begin with establishing the basis of your brand, and then make this part of every aspect of your business. You, your employees, and your customers will all benefit from a successful brand.