Amazingly, even in our highly brand-conscious times, it’s not always clear what people mean by “branding.” Different experts place emphasis on different elements in the brand strategy, so it’s probably not surprising that some confusion persists.
Generally speaking, marketing gurus agree that a strong brand must include most, if not all of the following elements:
- A unique look and feel.
- A powerful and succinct brand message.
- A compelling “voice” in which to frame the brand message.
- Consistent brand standards, applying to the company’s logo and its placement in marketing materials, a particular color scheme.
- Effective integration of branding in a company’s overall operations, including everything from the way a receptionist greets callers to the wording in email signatures, email marketing and promotional materials.
Without these elements, businesses will almost inevitably struggle to establish a foothold in the marketplace, and encounter significant difficulty in reaching out to prospective customers.
But this is just the starting point. To truly exploit the power of branding in order to grow your business, it’s vital to understand how the process works. Here are ways to obtain an achievable brand strategy in order to achieve the kind of growth you seek for your company.
Use branding to emphasize your differentiating factor.
Your branding efforts should reflect how your products or services are different from—and implicitly better than—what your competitors offer. Within an increasingly fractured marketplace, “niche expertise is a great way to develop a deep brand that stands up against any competition.”
Branding is a key part of your customer’s experience “from the first touchpoint to the last touchpoint,” observes branding expert Marisa Boevers.
Look to forge an emotional connection.
Brand strategies and emotion are, in essence, two sides of the same coin. Successful companies achieve a deep emotional bond with their customers. So in order to “build loyalty and garner trust, ensure that your image will resonate with your target audience” through in-depth customer research and analysis.
Employ your brand to establish credibility.
Part of what makes a brand so effective is in its inherent “brand promise.” This means that customers know what to expect when they do business with you, whether it’s the guaranteed quality of your offering or the high level of friendly customer service. A sophisticated and professional brand image helps to communicate that brand promise, as opposed to something that comes across as improvised and cheap.
Remember, your brand image is often the first thing prospective customers encounter when researching your business. First impressions count!
Encourage the growth of employee brand ambassadors.
Every time a customer has a positive experience with your organization, your brand is strengthened. Obviously, employees with customer-facing responsibilities play a huge part in this experience. Make sure every detail—from how employees greet customers to the speed and effectiveness of handling customer complaints—aligns with your overall achievable brand strategy. It’s essential that, throughout the company, everyone believes in and supports your branding goals.
Establish a strong, consistent social media voice.
Like branding and human emotion, branding and social media are inextricably connected. The “tone” of your social media branding reinforces your brand identity and credibility, so it’s worth taking time to cultivate the right tone for you. Branding expert Anca Bradley advises using these simple exercises to locate that voice:
- Imagine your brand as “an actual person” with specific attributes (funny, serious, young, old).
- Identify adjectives that describe your brand and culture.
- Study the ways your target audience “talks” to one another on social media and learn to speak the same way (as appropriate).
A consistent tone of voice on all of your social media platforms helps customers “recognize your brand over noisy competitors”—a highly desirable goal to include with any organizational brand strategy.