As with most facets of a successful business, having a plan for your brand is key to your company name being accepted and recognised in daily life. Without a strategy or set of guidelines in place your ship is likely to be sailing off in an uncontrolled direction, leaving it wide open to drifting across a highly competitive ocean. As Forbes magazine states, a brand is shorthand for what you are. It is important that you set off on the right course.
What are the key points that should come into play to develop a successful brand strategy? These components make up the strong foundation we create when working with clients on their branding, and can be observed in other leading worldwide brands.
1. Understand who you are and what you offer
How can your market fully appreciate your brand for what it really is if you do not have a deep understanding yourself? The best way to gain this knowledge is to preform a brand audit involving all of your company’s key decision makers and coordinated by experienced marketing specialists. This process will take you through who your company is, what it does, what it offers, who your competition is, your vision, mission and values, and the advantages you offer over competitors. This foundation makes other points on this list much easier to achieve (Shhhh! Secret techniques that will enhance your marketing collateral), and should be kept to hand as you develop your brand strategy. Your employees also need to know this information; indeed, they are a very visible part of your brand.
2. A clear message
Focus all your research and understanding of your company into a set of clear messages that will hook your target market. Feel their pain and offer your solution using a clear message that resonates with their needs. This message is the single most important thing that the organisation delivers every time. Every business activity should be measured against this message.
3. Connect emotionally
There are two ways your target audience can connect with your brand – either rationally or emotionally. An emotionally invested client may well offer loyalty to ‘their’ brand over another company’s solution, or find the brand easier to remember. There should be a little echoing voice inside their head leading them to the brand when they are thinking about products in your market. Rational connections also help, especially in business-to-business markets, but the emotional connection can help encourage favourable (or memorable) impressions of your company. Insurance comparison sites have taken certain meerkats or rotund opera singers to their limits to build an incredibly strong emotional connection with their market. You can immediately tie the brand to the emotions, the brand’s specific industries and could most probably reel the company names off the tip of your tongue. Effective emotional branding that works. Simples.
Being a ‘design-guy’, this component to me is one of the most important in the list. It is simple to achieve, yet so often companies miss the mark when it comes to presenting a consistent brand, image and style. Rogue fonts creep into flyers, logos are squashed and skewed, messaging can be off point and seem out of context with other material. Your clients will perceive your company as being confusing and disorganised. Having a set of guidelines to hold as your company’s style ‘bible’ will help to reign in the variations throughout your brand, especially when the importance of this point is fully adopted by employees. Can you imagine if Coca-Cola sold their leading flagship product with anything other than their iconic logo and font? It is inconceivable due to the value the company has invested in their brand image and strategy. Another consistent brand can be seen in NHS trust logos – all using the same style and layout, they confirm a consistent and cohesive service.
In such a fast changing and small world, a brand must remain flexible to stay relevant. Flexibility frees you to be creative in your campaigns. For example the Old Spice brand took a different approach to their campaigns, relating their products to a new generation of their market while still staying true to their brand (The secret step to improve your video marketing). Tactics and strategies can become stale over time, especially with mass exposure. A refreshed approach from an agile brand can bring a breath of fresh air when most required.
Taking a critical look at your brand is a hard but rewarding process to go through. Nobody would criticise their children’s looks – it’s not natural and very difficult to achieve impartially. Just as company services and products change and grow, so should your brand strategy and guidelines. Give it room to breath and live. Going through a review of your brand (10 signs that you need to invest in visual branding support) should not be seen as a judgemental, nit-picking session, but an honest and open exercise with one prime target – to improve your brand and ultimately your business.