Why is branding important?
It isn’t. It is essential if you want your business to fulfil its true potential. Too many businesses treat branding as either a superficial or cosmetic requirement that is solved by their logo alone or as a nice to have once they are established. Neither of these approaches builds successful companies and in fact, will play a significant part in their demise.
Successful companies have either implemented or are in the process of applying the following key strategies:
- Know oneself honestly and clearly
- Know who your customers are and not who you want them to be.
- Check the connection
- Don’t sweep problems under the carpet
- Know where you want to go and plan accordingly
- Walk the walk and lead through the company culture
- Feel free to share wisdom
- Own your communications
- Project a true image of your brand
- Invest in expertise
Establish an honest appraisal of your brand and ensure it reflects who you are, what you do and how you do it. If any misunderstandings or conflicts are found, they need to be resolved immediately. You can only hope to communicate these to your customers or other stakeholders by truly understanding your brand’s core values. An external perspective provided by a branding professional hosting a workshop or research report will often highlight questions not previously thought of or considered.
Build detailed personas of your customer(s), so you can truly understand who they are to the point where you can picture them interacting with your brand.
The greater detail you can identify in your personas, the more effective your brand communications can be.
If there is a big difference between your actual customer’s profile and your ‘perfect’ customer, you will end up talking to neither. Make sure that any refinements or additional insights are reflected in your brand guidelines.
Test your knowledge or understanding of your target customers through a branding workshop or more direct forms of customer & market research.
Time and money spent on market research will save several times as much in the long run through more efficient campaigns and improved communications.
The act of engagement with customers through social media instantly impacts how your brand is perceived, so use this to make sure that impression is a positive one and reinforces your brand values.
If through a brand audit or workshop you find potential issues in your brand, don’t ignore them.
This insight is gold dust and should be used to refine and improve your brand. This improvement could mean the difference between success and failure, and it would be foolish to ignore it. Any insights or developments should be reflected in your corporate identity guidelines to ensure they are addressed and not repeated.
The adage of ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ or ‘If you don’t know where you want to go, when will you know if you get there are as true in branding as in anything else.
Having a clear and well-defined brand strategy is a guaranteed way of ensuring you get where you want to be rather than where you end up.
A professionally created brand strategy will mean you can grow and develop your brand as your company and customer base grows.
A company’s culture will significantly impact its brand and what it stands for.
It is essential for everyone in the company to know what your brand is, what it stands for, and the values it reflects.
If your employees embody your brand, then everyone they come into contact with will be influenced by your brand, for better or worse. Make sure that everyone in your company knows how important their actions are to directly contribute to the brand’s impression and reputation.
A blog or similar form of information sharing is a great way to share brand values without an obvious sell or promotion.
Customers are searching for advice, help or insight from brands and are very likely to share if that information is original, clear and easy to share.
There are benefits to sharing information on blogs as it does provide yet another way for your customers to find you without necessarily looking for you or your product.
This is twofold. Firstly, be present in your communication and ensure your brand’s tone of voice and character are applied.
An accurate tone of voice is essential in promoting your brand correctly to the right audience and should be clearly outlined in your brand guidelines.
Secondly, own what you have created, whether that is your website, content or communications.
Too many brands find themselves tethered to certain agencies or platforms and don’t own what they have paid to create. Consider open source web platforms such as WordPress that allow you to fully own and control your site.
The ability to respond quickly to market changes, particular events or customer enquiries is essential to ensure your brand is reflected correctly online.
Consumers have become incredibly brand literate over the last decade and can tell when something is wrong.
Honesty regarding imagery is essential to maintain brand integrity and should reflect what customers see when they engage with your brand and its employees. Stock photography is incredibly useful in finding images for anything from people and teams to products and concepts.
Often created by highly qualified professionals, the images look great and convey a level of professionalism a brand aspires to.
But if they are used to reflect values, scale or competence that the company lacks, your customers will find out, and the effect can be disastrous.
It is always best to own your photography as you can ensure it can’t be used anywhere else, but more importantly, it can truly reflect your company and its brand. Invest in good photography and your customers will trust you more and engage with you and your brand more effectively.
Competence is key in employing specialist staff or outsourcing to branding professionals.
Branding should not be something that should be left to anyone who isn’t capable of fully implementing the changes needed or the monitoring that is required.
A company’s brand is an asset and should be treated with as much time and support as any other business-critical resource.