Building Your Brand: Both Easier and Harder Than You May Think

by Linda Pophal

 

The most important element in brand building is that small business owners take the time to determine what they want their brand (or identity or reputation) to be and then take steps to ensure that all elements of the marketing mix (product, price, place and promotion) are aligned consistently to convey that desired brand image. Branding is not about a logo or a tagline—although those are important communication elements that help remind consumers about the company and its products. Brand, though, really is driven by every interaction that a customer or prospect has with a company and by the sum total of all of those perceptions, which leaves behind some impression.

It’s really the same type of concept you might use when considering an individual’s “personality” or how they are perceived by others.

We work with individuals and organizations regularly to lead them through a brand evaluation and assessment process, and then through the creation of strategies and tactics to influence consumer perception in support of their desired brand image. This part doesn’t have to take that long, assuming the company’s leaders are aligned in terms of what they wish their brand identity to be (which isn’t always the case). Another impact on time required would be the need to do an assessment of how the brand is currently perceived. That’s an important way to determine, objectively, to what extent how you wish your brand to be viewed is a reflection of your target audience’s reality. The gaps discovered, then, provide some guidance in terms of areas where you may need to focus.

What does take considerable time, though, is actually building and managing a strong brand.

Again, it’s not just about a great logo. It’s about having a strong product/service that meets the needs of a target audience, represents value to them, and ensures a positive experience at every touchpoint. Building that brand will involve focusing on product attributes (the product itself, packaging, distribution, etc.), staff attributes (particularly for service organization where the staff is, in effect, the “product”), pricing issues and, yes, promotion. All of these elements must work together to help influence consumer perception.

There are two big mistakes that we encounter when speaking, or working, with organizations about brand management:

  1. Thinking that the brand is about logos, colors, taglines and advertisements
  2. Not focusing on the product/service experience

In fact, a new buzzword making the rounds in the content marketing world these days is omnichannel marketing—the recognition that consumer and customer experiences with an organization and its products/services need to be consistent across all touchpoints. Personally, I think it’s a concept very much aligned with what we used to call branding!

How do you know if your efforts are working? It’s all part of a well-designed brand management process. Ideally, results should be measured based on the perceptions of your target audiences—your customers and prospects, or those you are attempting to influence. How closely do their perceptions match your desired brand image? That’s a very good measure of branding effectiveness because, after all, you don’t define your brand… they do!

 

Recommended Reading

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

 

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