In the current competitive environment it is more important than ever to have a clear brand that reflects who you are and to make sure people know what sets you apart.
But why is it important? A brand represents a promise and a core set of values. It lets people make a judgement about who you are, and why they should choose you over your competition. Without telling your consumer why you are different, all that is left is the lowest common denominator - usually price. Whilst this fits some leading brands (Ryanair, Lidl, for example) unless it is at the heart of your business, it’s a slippery slope.
Remember, creating a brand isn’t an overnight fix - it will need to be nurtured and grown over time. However there are a few key points to building a strong brand.
Your logo isn’t your brand
From the beginning, lets explain the differences between:
Brand - A promise that represents your core values - what is it that you stand for?
Brand Identity - What do those values and promises look and sound like?
Brand Positioning - Where are you in the market compared to your competitors?
Brand Image - Given to you by your customers and potential customers - what do they think of you?
At heart, most of us are visual people which leaves us to believe that our logo IS our brand. It’s not. It is purely a visual representation of it. To truly have a strong brand you first need to understand who you are and what you stand for. The others will follow in time. But how do we achieve this?
Begin from the inside out
Knowing who you are is much more powerful than pretending to be something you’re not. In late 2013, Apple were voted by Forbes as the worlds most valuable brand. This all stems from its core values that are instilled into its management and employees. The late Steve Jobs once said:
"We believe people with passion can change the world for the better… and that those people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who actually do."
Do you have a clear vision of who you are and what you stand for? Do your employees all buy into this vision? More importantly, do you know what you don’t stand for? It’s easy to try and be everything to everyone and fall short in all. Without knowing who you are, how can you convince others.
What is it that truly sets you apart
Unfortunately when trying to set ourselves apart is when we start to sound like everyone else. How many of these do you think applies to your business:
- Forward thinking
- Fantastic Staff
Most of them? And yet they could probably apply to pretty much any company. Plus, is anyone going to advertise that they aren’t these things? i.e.
- Stuck in the past
- Rubbish staff
And if these are seen as a base requirement for someone to like your brand, why do these make you different?
Rather than coming up with a long list of generic adjectives, try to generate a couple of very specific core values for your organisation and what makes you different. For example we’ve seen that Apple wants to change the world, BMW want ‘Sheer driving pleasure’ and Nike wants to ‘Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world’.
How does this Brand manifest itself?
Again, it isn’t just about your logo, but applies to everything you do. Visually you’ll consider imagery, typeface, colours, tone of voice and layout to name a few.
But it also includes all customer touchpoints. When you think of branding would your mind naturally include:
- Your sales staff, their appearance and the language they use? (Face to face or over the telephone)
- What your virtual and physical shops say about you?
- What level of detail do you put into documentation and instruction manuals? The small stuff does matter.
- What about your after sales care?
One of Amazon’s core strengths is the way they handle any complaints and issue with deliveries etc, all of which enhance its brand image.
Billy Joel hit the nail on the head when he sung "Don’t go changin". Remember that a brand isn’t built overnight but nurtured over time. People often feel the need to change their logo on a regular basis, but you can’t build that trust and association with the world at large if you keep on changing who you are. Your brand identity can continue to evolve and develop, but unless there is a drastic change in the company strategy and ethos then your brand (and what you stand for) should remain.