Brands such as Coca-Cola, Nike, McDonald’s, and Apple are so successful that the mere mention of their names or a flash of their logos prompt instant recall among consumers, regardless of an age.
This has led many entrepreneurs to believe that branding equates to something that’s displayed and seen.
Those brand spend a lot of time and even money creating visuals such as a logo or website, but they fail to realize that a successful brand is the outcome of something more.
While a catchy name and a distinct symbol do contribute in terms of product recognition and association, these are merely parts of a business’s face – that is, they are part of the packaging on the box, so to speak.
It takes more than a state-of-the-art website, an interesting advert, or any form of visual representation to gain consumer loyalty. These are not the foundations in building a successful brand.
Customers have a need to be able to somehow identify with a brand; thus, what a business owner needs to consider, first and foremost, is brand culture.
What does the brand stand for? What is it about? How do you naturally communicate this to your patrons or potential customers?
Being able to have a brand culture and conveying it without much effort is one of the things that attract people to it. It is being able to convey to them what your brand stands for or what it is about, or to let them grasp your vision for it.
Problems in building a successful brand often occur when people see it in a way that is quite different from the image that the business owner wants to project.
It is only when customers are able to understand and identify with the company that they are more likely to feel at home and develop a sense of trust and loyalty.
It takes a lot of time and effort to be able to build a successful brand – after all, it takes time to gain the trust of consumers – but there’s no better time to start building it than now.
While it’s a long process, here are some ways to get started in formulating your branding strategy or to assess the one that you’re implementing now.
1. What is the culture in your company?
The culture that develops within a business organization is often centered on the values of the owner.
This extends to who they hire, how the work flows between people and departments, the policies put in place, just to name a few.
Of course, a healthy organization evolves but solid companies, while continuously adapting, usually remain grounded on the vision and value system that the owner establishes.
Also part of a company’s culture is its environment, be it in a brick-and-mortar office or online, or, to put another way, the environment is often a reflection of the business’s culture.
For instance, in the office of social networking giant Facebook, everyone, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, works in the same open office space as the other members of management and employees.
The culture in the company extends to their brand, and people often see or sense this. For example, The Container Store, a retail store chain in the United States, provides their people with competitive wages as well as comfortable conditions in the workplace. The company is, therefore, deemed as a respectable and trustworthy place.
In assessing your brand, identify the culture within your company.
Does it have a homey atmosphere in which employees know the customers by name? Is it one that puts discipline and dress code above all else? Or is it an organization where customer satisfaction is more important than income generation? Is this the kind of brand culture that you want to convey to your customers?
2. What is your focus?
Throughout the process of building your brand and raising awareness, you need to be guided by certain points. These will keep you grounded throughout your journey to success.
· Define your business objectives and vision.
· Build a team centered on the company’s vision, with members who are able to work together toward the same goal.
· Together with your team, develop strategies that you can use to achieve your goal.
· Encourage your staff, provide a healthy working environment, and listen to their suggestions.
It is also important to reach out to your current and potential customers.
· Disseminate information about your brand.
· Engage people into conversations, acknowledge them, and make them feel welcome and special.
· Get feedback and find out what they like or don’t like.
Moreover, you need to learn as much as you can about the industry you’re in and always stay up-to-date.
Finally, regularly make assessments about your brand awareness campaigns and see if you’re still following the direction toward your goal.
3. Do your products and services have value?
In building awareness for your brand, you need to convey to people that what you’re offering, be it a product or service or both, has value and that they are not putting their resources like time and money to waste.
Some of the things that can help you determine this include:
· The features in your product or service that make it stand out. It’s important to let your prospective customers know that they are getting value for their money. For example, new mobile phone products emphasize better cameras, bigger memory space, or other factors that make them seem better than others.
· The aspects of your company that makes it different from others. You need to convey what sets your business apart from others – your commitment to environment-friendly practices, for instance.
· The benefits that your customers will gain. With this, try to see what appeals to the emotions of your target customers. Some restaurants, for instance, focus on family togetherness while some toothpaste brands touch on the romantic side of people.
The purpose of this is to be able to reach out to people in a way that would appeal to them. Apple, for instance, focuses on the technology of their products as well as their reputation for being a top company. However, they also touch on the concept of lifestyle, which many find quite irresistible.
4. How is your online presence doing?
Building a brand is making people aware of it. The best way, of course, is by word of mouth, when a happy customer tells a friend about it. This process has become rather easier now, with social media networks providing a platform for spreading the word. But you don’t have to just sit and wait for this to happen.
First of all, you need to have an online presence. Have a website and create social media accounts where customers can interact with you.
You can engage from some of the popular platforms such as in Linked In, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Pinterest, and others.
Regularly post updates that people can share or like, thus disseminating information faster.
It is not just about signing up for an account, however. Everything from the design to colors, image choices, fonts, and messages need to be consistent with your brand culture.
For example, if your brand centers on baby products, then your brick-and-mortar store is unlikely to have heavy mahogany furnishings or crystal glasses on shelves.
In the same way, your presence online should reflect an image consistent with that of your brand.
5. Are people aware of what your brand is about?
It is not just about telling people that your brand is out there. It is also about letting them know what it is and what it stands for. On your website and social media accounts, make sure you put background information about your company along with your products.
Apart from your website and social media, you can further let people know of what you have to offer by using other methods of attracting people’s attention. Some examples are:
· Offering discounts, having sale days, and running promotions.
· Offering freebies, such as free trials or samples, or other items like free eBooks and guides
· Getting into partnership with other companies that customers will benefit from, such as giving a discount coupon for a spa when they purchase your product.
· Using hashtags for your brand when posting on social media.
· Giving rewards to loyal customers. Even a “thank you” would make customers feel acknowledged.
6. How is your circle of company friends?
“Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are,” the old saying goes. This can be applied not only on a personal level but also on a business standpoint.
The companies that you or your brand is associated with can affect your own company’s reputation – these can either make your business stronger or weaker.
Therefore, it’s always advisable to select those you connect with – the ones with great influence are likely to help boost your reputation.
On this note, it is also important to maintain a good reputation so other companies would want to associate with you and your brand.
It is a mutual relationship in which you give each other a boost, with your respective customers likely to patronize the other, too.
In the same way that celebrities have influence when they endorse products, reputable companies that endorse yours can sway customers to your side.
For instance, BMW has helped boost transport app Uber when they went into a partnership, with the latter offering rides in the BMW Series 7 luxury cars.
7. Are you consistent in what you’re conveying?
Consistency is one of the most important aspects in building a brand that people would recognize and recall. Therefore, everything that you and your company does should reflect the image that you want your brand to project.
For example, if you are marketing your brand as environment-friendly, then it would be unwise to have your items packaged with non-biodegradable materials like polystyrene packing peanuts.
What you post on your website and social media accounts should also be consistent with your branding image, as well as your own personal lifestyle.
The other products you support or companies you work with can also have an effect on your brand if it goes against your image.
8. How do people see your brand?
A brand is a business owner’s baby and, as a parent, they may be blind to its shortcomings.
But while it may be painful to hear someone criticizing or making comments about it, it is a wise move to listen to other people’s views.
A brand, after all, is not what you say it is; rather, it is more what others see it as.
Do not be afraid to ask people for their opinions.
Employees may have good suggestions on how to improve things, or friends and colleagues may be able to pinpoint which part of your branding strategy is not working.
By doing a Google search, you may find some comments on the Internet from customers, disgruntled or otherwise, and your own social media accounts may contain some valuable feedback.
This does not mean, however, that you will blindly follow everything that you hear or totally give up your and your brand’s individuality just to please people.
You cannot please every single individual, but you can certainly try to improve where it counts.
Also, it is important to look at your own brand and strategies through other people’s eyes. Ask yourself what they could be seeing, and then try to assess everything objectively. By taking a fresh look, you may find that the photos on your website do not fit the image that you’re building, or that some of the content are not coming across clearly.
9. Is Patience One of Your Virtues?
Building a successful brand is unlikely to happen overnight. It takes effort and lots of time, so you need to be patient.
Also, you may find that the first strategy you attempt is not as effective as you thought. Therefore, flexibility is just as important.
There might be a need to shift your approach a bit or to add to the one that you have already put in place.
10. Do you need help?
Many successful brands started out small, with Nike and Lexus being good examples.
They did spend much for building a brand for themselves, but what they dished out has paid off since they have become household names that are recognized by many.
They have, of course, done this while maintaining the quality of their products, which is why they are respected names in their industries.
The point here is, there is no shame is asking for professional help when needed.
This might cost a good amount, of course, but if the branding strategy is well planned and executed, and if you offer quality products and services while managing the business well, it is likely to pay off, too.
If this is not workable, however, then having a good circle of friends and acquaintances might be advantageous as someone may be able to recommend a professional who would be able to assist you on a budget.
If your budget is not ready, then you can try to brainstorm anew with your team and perhaps you can break down all the steps you have done, assess each aspect, and try to discuss probable solutions.
You can go back to the most basic, including your company’s vision and strategies, your target audience, and how your company is responding to them and vice versa.
Here are some tips that you may find useful to remember when building a brand:
1. Make sure you know who your target audience is. This will help you stay focused on who you’re addressing in your branding campaign.
With this in mind, you can tailor-make your messages and ads to the right people and entice them to patronize your products and services.
2. Use your own voice when posting on social media or writing in your blog. This will make your messages more personal and authentic.
This will help build trust because your patrons or potential customers would feel like you’re just a click away.
3. Set aside resources for your branding campaign. This includes time and money, but having no budget should not equate to exerting no effort.
4. Be confident. Lack of confidence in yourself and your own brand is likely to resonate to your potential customers. If you don’t believe in what you’re offering, why should they?
Also, being too worried about the competition is not going help. While knowing what your competitor is up to is a good thing, letting it get you down and allowing it to distract you is not.
5. Choose the right people to work with, and this includes your employees, your management team, your business partners, and the companies you support.
6. Manage your social media well, and this means knowing what your clients are telling you and promptly responding to them. It is better to maintain only one or two accounts that you can manage than having too many that you have no time for.
As a summary, here is a list that might help you boost your brand:
1. Identify your long-term vision for your brand. Your employees must be part of this vision.
2. Define your goals and create strategies to achieve them.
3. Write down in the shortest way you can what your brand is about or it stands for.
4. Identify the benefits of your products or services.
5. Stay focused on your current and potential customers.
6. Your brand should be integrated in all your activities.
7. Be patient and flexible, try new approaches when needed, continue to grow.
8. The brand and the business should work hand in hand – let them grow together.
9. First impressions last – make it count. Each time.
10. Be consistent. Be honest. Be transparent. This helps build trust.
11. Convey your message clearly.
12. Make your brand stand out above the rest.
13. Establish a good working relationship with your employees and make sure they build good professional relationships with customers as well.
14. Build partnerships with other companies or brands.
15. Open communication lines with customers. Encourage them to provide feedback, and make sure you to listen to them.
16. Offer perks to your customers and rewards for loyal ones.
17. Have a logo and tagline then put this in everything, including your website, social media pages, emails, letterheads, etc. Use your brand’s color, too.
18. Maximize your presence on social media by making your brand easy to recognize and letting people know of what you have to offer.
19. Use your website to tell people about your company, your brand, your business, your people, and your company’s achievements. Make sure the design reflects the image that you want to project.
20. Be an authority in the industry or the field of your business.
These are just some of the things you can do to create a successful brand.