Can we be frank?… Thanks. The word “Brand” may be the most overused term in all of marketing. Usually, when you ask people about brands, they answer with the tagline they remember, the logos they recognize, and the websites they have visited. But while all of these elements are important, they’re just that—elements—not a complete,
resonant brand identity (keyword here).
Branding—and we mean real branding—is not just your products or services; it’s the continued connection between you, your customers, and your products through created value, loyalty, expectation, and value proposition. With branding, a good relationship matters.
If your brand wants to grow, you need to be something that someone can get behind. For that, you need to have strategic pillars to stand on; that’s what makes a true brand, a strong foundation.
But why branding is so important?
Well, a true brand is a consistent message of who you are. It’s your business’ identity and should be the same across all channels and platforms. Be it Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, your website, or even the business cards you hand out. It’s not just about a logo (after all, a logo isn’t the only thing that people relate to that keeps them coming back, time after time). It’s the overall representation of your most authentic self—your secret sauce, so to speak—that makes you distinct from other sellers.
Nowhere is your business’ branding more visible (and more criticized) than online. Which is why it’s odd so many businesses get it wrong. Especially considering that 73% of people in the U.S. say a bad website negatively impacts their opinion of a brand.
It’s a balance of being many things to many people, while simultaneously staying true to your company’s vision, values, and beliefs. A delicate balance, to be sure. But one that can be achieved via thoughtful strategy and foresight.
Ultimately, your audience has final say over what your brand means to them—and you don’t get to control it (sorry, we know how much work you put into it). Instead of trying to, your strategy should be to deliver an authentic and consistent experience that meets their needs. Keep these three following things in mind:
• People prefer to receive recommendations from friends or family, from industry
leaders, or even from strangers who share their opinions online. This allows them to
research a product or service before buying and stay in control their own sales
process.This is also why authentic, resonant messaging is vital. In your industry, there
may or may not be a strong “go-to” brand. But when you put two companies up
against each other, the one that represents something valuable will have an easier
time reaching, engaging, closing, and retaining customers. And those customers will
tell their closest friends, family, and Facebook followers all about that brand they love
that stands for something bigger.
• Go where your market is and appeal to their emotions. Today, there are hundreds of
different channels, serving smaller, more targeted groups. Many people no longer
read print media, and some are opting out of cable TV (streaming is the better choice
for many. and we know why that is)… Because people are choosing new places to
interact with content, you must be visible where they’re interacting, in addition to
WHEN they’re interacting. This means keeping your values and benefits front and
center within these limited windows.
• Determine which benefits are most important to each of your customer segments.
Identify which benefits are emotional—the most powerful brand strategies tap into
emotions, even among business buyers. Look at the emotional benefits and boil them
down to the key things your customers should think of when they think of you.
This is how your brand should to be conveyed across the board.
Brand ambassadors are helpful as well; maintaining a culture of great ambassadors can help foster the relationship between your business and its consumer. Your brand strategy brings your competitive positioning to life and works to position you as a certain “something” in the mind of your prospects and customers. Smart companies train their employees about their brand standards and personality (hint hint).
Satisfied customers become repeat customers. And, repeat customers are in a great position to become brand ambassadors, flying your flag through all their channels, in product reviews, social media discussions, and much more. Smart companies train their employees about their brand standards and personality—
how to treat people, converse with them, and support them—so everybody works to create a unified experience with the outside audience. Remember, 90% of global online consumers want to do business with brands that share their beliefs.
Content and tone
To maintain brand identity, you need to create content that reflects your ideas, whether you’re teaching, selling, or serving another master purpose. Think of your brand as a person with a distinct personality. Describe him or her, then convey these traits in everything you do and create. Here are a few things that will help:
- Write a story about your brand. Use this story as your positioning statement
throughout your company materials. Remember, 90% of global online consumers want
to do business with brands that share their beliefs.
- Make sure your brand “lives and breathes” within your company. Determine how your
employees will interact with prospects and customers to convey your brand’s
personality. Every message counts, from web copy, to social media, to direct email
outreach. Your brand ideal needs to live in every message you put out into the world.
- Always provide content that enhances your brand. Make sure your customers can
always find value in your brand beyond the goods or services you offer.
The best way to improve brand development is through testing. We know this. But don’t be overly concerned about the odd piece of negativity—you will never please all of the people, all of the time—deal with it head on.
Look to your business first—did your service, product, or experience not live up to expectations? If the failure comes from your side of the equation, embrace the opportunity to open a dialogue. Follow up to find the root cause of the negative interaction. Contrary to many heavy-handed web “experts,” you do have a second chance to win over detractors.
Remember to not be dismissive. Most initial negative comments/reviews come from a simple honest opinion. Don’t pass on this opportunity—use it to educate and/or review internal processes, this is key.
The best branding and design will be the one that causes the most people to take an action, come back to the site more often, or simply engage your brand in desired ways.
On the surface, this may seem outside of your control, but it isn’t. Through the use of testing, you can gain greater insight into customer preferences and
what your brand means to them. This, therefore, translates into optimization opportunities for your website and landing page design, which then can improve conversion rates. Good marketers define their hypotheses, test them on a small scale, collect data to
measure results, and refine depending on results.
By analyzing all data—from live user testing to focus group feedback—brands can find new brand growth opportunities, identify strengths and weaknesses in brand associations, and keep tabs on those brand identities you’ve worked so hard to establish…simple (lol).
Putting it all together
A brand isn’t something you can throw together, you need to be able to first find your direction, and then test the changes you make to your brand as you grow. As you make adjustments, you seek feedback, implement iterative changes, and determine the aspects of your brand that are truly resonating.
A visually attractive website is crucial to building a strong brand. It is the first impression people may have of your brand, and if it’s not a positive experience, it could be their last. 76% of U.S. consumers who interact with brands or products before arriving at the store, know that.
Have your team honestly assess the following questions:
- Does the site load slowly?
- Are there too many ads?
- Are the color schemes hard to look at?
- Are there images where there’s supposed to be images?
- When you get to the end of a content piece, do you want to click to another?
- Is the site’s theme customized enough so that it stands out from all other companies
using a similar layout?
Answering these questions can help you assess your site and figure out how it will work for your customer
The best brands are able to be recognized by a single image. Nike, Apple, think of Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Target. Whether the symbol is a logo or a logotype, it needs to become a widely implemented pillar of your brand.
Universal integration of branding is especially important because it allows you to carry a brand through all marketing. This includes print, web, social media, email, and any other communication channel.
Repetition is also extremely important to helping commit a brand to somebody’s memory so it’s important to honor your brand throughout what you do.
Colors and Fonts
Your brand colors are vital to conveying tone and values. People have emotional responses to particular colors, shades, and tints. Your brand colors need to reflect your brand emotion—you don’t want to send mixed messages such as using a racy fire engine red if you provide relaxing spa getaways.
Your identity should be legible, recognizable, and memorable, and it should also be applied consistently across all media—for example, its color and positioning on a page or screen should be consistent across all your marketing material, and the secondary typefaces and imagery styles you use should also have a uniform look. Uniformity is key, without it, people will have a hard tie remembering your brand/business. When you can simplify it and use it all across the board, it becomes hard-wired and second nature.
A landing page is not a place to stray from your company’s branding. An optimized landing page creates a seamless transition to conversion by optimizing the look, feel, and CTAs of the parent website, email, or social.. Brand consistency builds trust in those already familiar with your company, ensuring that they are in the right place, and provides an introduction to new visitors. If ignored, inconsistency between click points and landing pages creates anxiety on the part of
visitors, making them less likely to convert.
I’m sure you can name some right off the top of your head.
“Just do it”
“I’m Lovin’ it”
I know where you know where these came from…
They’re all very easily recognized slogans. These companies were able to hone their brand to just a few words, which we all recognize, whether they’re said in or out of context.
Notice that none of the above slogans explicitly state what the company does or provides. Instead, these companies chose branding that is more about the association with the company’s core value propositions, which helps you remember the slogan.
At the heart of a great brand is a first-class product or service, and every company wants to be a customer’s first choice; building and managing a brand can play a large part in making this happen, because if you want to strengthen and manage the perception(s) of your business, then a strong brand is mandatory…inside and out.