First things first.
Let's understand, what is a brand?
We need to have clarity on this because it will be our cornerstone moving forward. Most people think a brand is a logo, a symbol that identifies a seller and its offering.
This is understandable considering the background of the word itself. It has a Germanic origin that dates back to the late Middle English.
In the past it was used as a verb, branding, to describe the act of burning a mark into livestock, this way ranchers could distinguish their own. One could think the reason for a brand back then is similar to our use of it now, but it is not quite the same.
So let's do this again, what is a brand?
It’s not something tangible but for it is fairly easy to understand.
Your brand is the imaginarium your customers have of your business. It is the first thing that comes to their mind when someone mentioned your brand name. It’s the way they perceive you, talk about you and how they feel when interacting with you. It involves facts as much as emotions. One could even describe it as the reputation of your company.
Seth Godin, entrepreneur and marketing expert, sums it all up when he said: “A brand is a set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
Now think about your favorite business or influencer on Instagram, the one that always gets your double-tap. Whether it’s Rihanna or your favorite clothing retailer, make no mistake, they all are brands. And they definitely have a brand strategy that sets the pace on what they post, when they post it and the way they engage with you.
In creating a brand that is impactful and can grow over time you should keep these elements in mind:
A brand strategy is basically a long-term plan that will align all your efforts to create and solidify your brand’s Imaginarium. This will enable you to bridge the gap between your business and it’s goals regarding your business’ image, voice and customers’ perception. It will be the compass that you will be constantly checking to know you are moving in the right direction and giving intention to every single action you make.
So, either if you already have a brand or you are planning on creating a brand, you want it to be rock-solid. Have you ever felt that your current marketing is not helping you get where you need to?
To raise brand awareness you need to have a brand strategy that will guide all of the marketing efforts you put into reaching your audience. This plan will make it easier for you to develop a branding that aligns with your long-term goals and builds brand awareness for your intended audience.
You need to keep in mind that with this strategy you are building a system that touches all the areas of your business. It will dictate everything: the content marketing strategy, brand messaging, branding, social media strategy, etc.
Now let's review 5 essentials when creating a brand to build a rock-solid brand strategy:
You must know where you are standing before moving forward. In this step, you need to take an objective look and assess your strengths and your opportunities for improvement.
To do this you need to understand the current state your business is in.
This is the time to take a deep breath and be conscious of everything you and your team have been doing until this moment.
Make a list, what are the things that are working, where do you see gaps. Does your product or service have room for improvement? Have you been using a brand strategy?
You also need to look around. What is your direct competition doing? What are their strengths? Establish your value proposition. Identify key trends in your market, should they impact your performance?
Now, ask the ones that should know you best: your customers. Make a customer satisfaction poll. Get to know them and find out how they are currently perceiving your brand versus how you want them to.
This is not the time to establish the next action steps, only to observe, write down and reflect.
“Consumers in the United States are no longer making decisions based solely on product selection or price; they’re assessing what a brand says, what it does and what it stands for. They support companies whose brand purpose aligns with their beliefs. And they reject those that don’t, with one in five walking away forever.”` It is expressed in the fourteenth annual Accenture Strategy Global Consumer Pulse Research.
The survey of nearly 30,000 consumers states that nearly two thirds will rather buy goods or services from brands that share their beliefs and values and even will walk away from those that don’t.
Looking at this it’s easy to see the importance of a company's purpose that goes way beyond monetary retribution. This is how you establish long-lasting relationships with your consumers.
But how does purpose looks within your business? It is the reason your company exists, your ‘why’. The building block of every action you take and the essence that makes you relevant.
Take for example retail company Everlane that sales as they define it “modern essentials”. Many companies do that, right? So how do they differentiate themselves? Their webpage clearly states: “We believe we can all make a difference. Our way: Exceptional quality. Ethical factories. Radical Transparency.”
So how do they execute this purpose? On their webpage, you can find a break down of the item you are buying. From how much it cost to make, to where its made and how much the markup is. You can find out exactly at what factory it was made, where is it located and what their working conditions are. They also translate this principle into their social media. Every week they hold their “Transparency Tuesday” on Instagram stories where they answer questions submitted by their followers. Furthermore, they are constantly using the term “transparency” as part of the taglines they use for their marketing efforts.
As a sustainable company, they believe transparency goes hand and hand with sustainability and their marketing clearly reflects that. By being consistent in their purpose they have been able to engage with customers and are constantly selling out their stock. Since launching in 2011, in six years, Everlane grew from $0 to $100M+ in revenue. More than doubling their sales annually for four years in a row.
According to Hubspot, a buyer persona is “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers”. You can have one or several personas. When constructing it you need to include demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. Some of this you will base on facts others in educated speculation.
It is important for you to get to the bottom of your customers' needs and wants; to be really clear on the problem you are helping them solve with your company. This will enable you to figure out what is the best and seamless experience you can provide for them through their buyers' journey.
Remember that everyone in your company is an asset, so it is really important that you get as many points of view as possible when determined your ideal customer. And of course, when in doubt, go straight to the source: your customers. Make some polls, ask some questions and figure out what makes your customers tick.
You should study your audience closely to look for input that can later help you in your marketing strategy. For example, how does your ideal customer behave on social media? To what kind of content marketing strategy do they engage with most? It is important to note that what your customer wants to hear will always outweigh what you want to say.
The best you can do is to start thinking about your consumers as stakeholders in your company. They can make you or break you, it’s as simple as that. You need to know them really well to be able to provide a customer experience that wows them and turns them into brand ambassadors. To be able to communicate with them take into consideration the words from Russian-German entrepreneur, Milena Glimbovski: “Be your own best customer. Live your customer’s lifestyle.”
Goals are long term outcomes you want to achieve with your brand and objectives are single achievable outcomes that help you get there. These are really helpful in guiding teams to a common cause throughout the organization and setting proper expectations for the company to meet. It is important to keep in mind the difference between the two and how they complement each other.
Goals are focused on the bigger picture and aren't really measurable. Your company's goals should be in tune with the purpose of your brand. They are “what” you are looking to accomplish and don’t really touch in “how” of it all. Some examples could be: increase profits, grow brand awareness, create a more inclusive workplace culture, etc.
On the other hand, objectives are the “how” you get to the “what”. So if your goal is to grow brand awareness, one objective could be to increase social media engagement by 40%. Objectives are measurable actions that also hold a specific time frame. They can be tailored to fit different departments so this way everyone is contributing to the broad company goals. Furthermore, every person can develop actions that answer unique objectives, specific to their role.
Having clarity in your company's goals and making sure your team understands them can give you the peace of mind of knowing everyone is moving in alinement. Even though each team member may take different steps they will all be heading in the same direction, working to meet the same end.
“You have to create a consistent brand experience however and wherever a customer touches your brand, online or offline. The lines are forever blurred,” explains Vani Kola from Kalaari Capital.
It is not only important to know your brand's purpose or objectives. The way you execute your communication to your target audience is quite crucial. Addressing the first four essentials in this article will give you plenty of material to figure out your brand personality and the brand messaging you need to put out there. Once you have this you should incorporate it in your brand strategy to make sure you are cohesive in your brand promise.
These cohesive efforts should extend to marketing elements such as branding, visual identity, tone of voice, taglines, social media strategy, etc. Your audience should be getting from your content strategy a coherent but not repetitive brand messaging.
Having consistency in what you say and the way you do things will ultimately gain your consumers' trust. Once you have this relationship is pretty natural for them to become an advocate for your brand. This is a great way of getting potential customers interested in you and in the most organic way possible: through word of mouth.
Think of your current personal relationships, who do you trust more? Your friend, who has an erratic personality and never follows through, or the one who is constant and always there for you. Customers don’t stray off much from your same conclusion.
Kevin Quiring, managing director from Accenture Strategy, states the following: “In this era of radical transparency, consumers are voicing their opinions, values, and beliefs, scrutinizing the actions of organizations and their leadership, and holding them accountable. They can see through inauthenticity and won’t tolerate it”.
If fact, according to the Accenture report mentioned earlier, 36% of consumers have been disappointed by how a company acted leading them to betray the consumers’ belief in what they stand for. 47% of the consumers decided to end their business with the said company as a result.
I hope this gets you in the way to building your next kick-ass brand strategy. At first, it may seem a little daunting but your company will be better for it.
If you still feel a little bit unsure of your next step don’t hesitate in reaching out to us. We love helping businesses like yours in building tailored strategies.