Brand Matters!

While doing some online research recently I came across an article on branding that I wrote back in 1997! Clearly it’s a topic that I’ve been interested in for some time. Two things struck me about coming across this piece:

1) Wow! The Internet was still in its infancy in the late 90’s, yet content from “way back then” is online.

2) Everything I said about branding back in 1997 is still relevant today (and it’s not rocket science)!

What baffles me most about branding is that, despite the relative simplicity of the concept, far too many companies simply don’t “get it.” They may understand the concept of branding. They may understand the importance of branding. Yet in their daily actions and interactions with customers and potential customers they often miss the mark.

I will admit that while the concept of branding is simple, the process of doing it well is not. Effective branding requires a focus on every detail of consumer and customer interaction with your company.  Branding is often mistakenly thought to be about the logo, slogan or “company colors.” While those elements are certainly part of the brand, they are not “the brand.” Brand might be thought of as the organization’s personality and encompasses elements of its product or service (including how its employees interact with its customers and prospective customers), its pricing, its distribution channels and, of course, its promotion.

All of these elements must work together – consistently – to develop and maintain a strong brand. Importantly, strong brands can take years to create and can be destroyed in an instant. And that, of course, is what makes branding so challenging.

I have worked with a number of organizations on branding–and rebranding–initiatives. A critical first step: conducting a brand audit. Literally evaluating every facet of your customer (or intended customer) interaction with you from their point of view to see how what they may be experiencing aligns with what you want them to experience in support of your brand. Is there alignment? In most cases, there is not. Sure the logo may be used consistently. The web site may be included in all communication materials. Your company may have social media sites that are “branded” consistently with all of your communication materials.
But, those elements are just part of the branding process. To brand effectively, you need to consider:
  • What do consumers experience when they attempt to connect with your organization? Is the phone answered promptly? Are emails and social media posts responded to quickly?
  • What do your employees look like — does their style of dress, appearance and demeanor support or detract from your brand?
  • What do your facilities look like — do they reflect the brand image you wish to convey?
  • If your product is something that is shipped to consumers, how is it shipped? What does the outside of the box look  like? What’s inside the box? If you’re an upscale product company does your packaging reflect that image?
  • What do other people say about your company and its products or services (including your own employees when they’re “off the clock”)?
These items are just the tip of the iceberg. Chances are your organization has a myriad of opportunities to interact with your target audience(s) online and off at every stage of the buying cycle. What messages are you sending? Are those messages consistent with the brand image you are hoping to convey? (And, importantly–have you clearly defined the brand image you hope to convey?–That’s a critical first step down the road to effective branding.)

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