Creating a Lasting Brand Image

Why do some brands become cultural legends that stand the test of time, while others ebb, flow and eventually sink? The brand is the cornerstone of any business and is, unfortunately, often misunderstood. That is possibly why the brand is also often so mismanaged. Brands are not, are not, ARE NOT logos, taglines or corporate colors. Brands are not advertisements. Brands are not Facebook pages.

As a marketing professional, consultant, author and instructor I’ve had a special interest in branding for a number of years. I think it is the yin and yang aspects of branding that draw me in: branding is both deceptively simple and exceedingly complex. Simple because it is all about consistency, clarity and alignment; I think of it as “sameness across time and space.”

But, effective branding is also exceedingly complex. After all, time and space are constantly moving, changing and shifting and are comprised of multiple parts and inputs that can be very, very difficult to monitor, measure–and manage!

When I work with clients and students on branding issues, I try to simplify the concepts as much as possible (although I’m not always sure I’m 100% successful)!. Two of my top tips when it comes to effective branding are:

  • Consistency, consistency, consistency – across all communication materials and channels
  • Looking beyond logos, taglines and communication materials to cover every potential customer touchpoint

Your brand is your personality. It’s what others think of you based on their multiple interactions with you and your organization, whether those interactions are personal, word-of-mouth, or represent information gleaned through other sources (e.g. the traditional or social media). Your audience defines your brand; you don’t. The best you can hope to do is to manage your brand by ensuring that all of the various touchpoints that can influence audience opinion are aligned with your intended image and delivered consistently.

That means the obvious, of course: the attributes of the products and services you deliver. And, yes, your brand is impacted by the visual images you convey (which includes your logo, your colors and the quality of all of your communication materials).

But it means other things as well:

  • It means that if you manage a hospital and wish to convey an upscale image, you need to be concerned about how your staff looks to visitors–what they wear, what they say, what they do even when they don’t think anybody is looking!
  • It means that if you’re a clinician that sees patients during the day and spends a lot of time at your childrens’ athletic events in the evenings, you’d better be even more concerned about being an overly rapid advocate for your child than you might otherwise be. It means if you’re an aggressive driver, you’d better watch those hand gestures!
  • It means that if you’re a spokesperson for your organization and you love to party, you’d better realize that what you’re observed doing – on or off the clock – is reflecting on you and your organization.
For effective branding, it means that anything and everything that leaves an impression leaves an impression. It’s as simple – and as complex – as that.

Creating a lasting brand image means first clearly conveying what is commonly referred to as your “brand promise.” What does your organization aspire to be? And conveying it in terms that are understandable–and actionable–to your staff. Why? Because they are the ones that will be charged with “living the brand promise.”

Once defined and conveyed, you need to continually communicate your brand promise internally to those who will live it and monitor the delivery of that promise through the various touchpoints that impact your audiences’ perceptions. You need to reinforce and repeat the positive delivery of your brand promise. You need to identify and intercede in any potential negative brand impacts–even the seemingly “little things” that you might be tempted to just let go.

That’s what the truly exceptional organizations do – and do very well. Who are they? Each year Interbrand creates a list of the top global brands; interestingly, they really don’t change that much from year to year. Some of the names of the list have been in business for literally more than a century.

Do the companies on this list always do everything right? No. But, perhaps even more important than always doing everything right, is how they effectively respond when things don’t go so right. Even if you don’t aspire to be on this list of the top global companies, you should aspire to be on the top of the list in your market area and among your target audience. Are you?

Recommended Reading:

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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