Many people equate a logo with their company’s brand. But branding is so much more than the brand mark or word mark. Your brand represents who you are and sets expectations for consumers—it is your promise to the consumer. The brand must be well defined and carry through to all touchpoints. Your logo, store design, website, and even your tone of voice when communicating—both verbally and in writing—must all represent your brand. First impressions are critical; whether the consumer calls you, emails, receives a direct mail piece or checks your website, your brand must shine through to show the best of your business.
When we look at big successful brands like Coca-Cola, Southwest Airlines, Nordstrom or Nike, each invokes a clear picture in the mind of the consumer. These brands may not appeal to all consumers, but the vast majority knows exactly what the businesses have to offer. Consistent branding has worked to build these companies into household names.
A business that wishes to succeed must know itself well and build its brand around its strengths. When a business tries to become all things to all people, there is a good chance consumers will not engage and the attempt will fail. Consumers can spot a fake a mile away. The first step we recommend to our clients is to get feedback from current and past clients, as well as other stakeholders like employees and those in the community. This feedback will allow you to compare how you and your internal team view your brand to how others view it. We call this the perception vs. reality test. For a few of our clients, this has been an eye-opener!
Analyzing this data and comparing it to your strategic plan will help determine if you are on target or need to adjust your brand and/or your growth plan. What does your business do well? Where might you improve? Do your employees represent your brand? Are you in a line of business you really shouldn’t be? You will have the most success playing to your strengths.
Common Branding Mistakes
In working with organizations throughout the years, we have seen some common mistakes that can really hurt your business. Here are a few to avoid:
- Inconsistency: When building a strong brand, consistency is extremely important. This includes using consistent creative (no one should be “tweaking” the logo to meet their own needs!), language (wording and tone), and message. Develop a brand style guide and train your employees on brand guidelines, then enforce those guidelines. This means no creative sale reps with their own unbranded presentation and no wildcard Facebook pages that don’t follow the brand!
- Too much control: Many companies choose to center all branding activities under the marketing department. While the marketing department should be heavily involved, it is important to ensure that all employees understand the brand and know how to engage with consumers to communicate the brand effectively and consistently. It is unrealistic to assume marketing will ever have complete control over all communications, so you should ensure employees are in the loop.
- Hiring the wrong people: While a diverse group of employees generally is a good thing for a business, there are times when a hire simply doesn’t fit the culture of the company. As an example, all experience and skills aside, a sports team might not want to hire a marketing director who dislikes sports or has never attended a game.
We recently worked with a client on a branding analysis who asked us to tell them who they should be and they would make that happen. This simply doesn’t work! Finding your company’s strengths and building your brand around those strengths is the key. Not sure how your brand stands up? Contact us to learn more about our perception vs. reality process.