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By Stephen Murphy | Branding Strategist
One of the trendiest words today. And yet, one that people can find the hardest to explain. Ask them what a brand is and you’ll be amazed at the different definitions you get back.
Just what is a brand then?
I’ve got one word for you: reputation. That’s right. Your brand is your reputation. It’s what you stand for. It’s the emotion and image that the mention of your name evokes in people.
For example, you say Coke and I hear Christmas and fun. You say Apple, I hear quality & cool. Basically your brand is the perception that people have of your organisation and your products.
Your brand is comprised of every single aspect of your organisation: from your logo to your tagline, adverts to customer service, social media to delivery and every other experience your customers have with your organisation and your product, good or bad. All these elements make up your brand, in other words: your reputation.
And that’s why a brand is so powerful. And that’s why the strength of your brand is so important. Without your brand, all you have is a commodity.
So how do you improve your brand right now?
While there’s no one single approach to branding, since it depends on the industry you’re in and how you’d like to position yourself, there’s a few pointers I’d like to give you which will lead you in the right direction:
1. Define what you stand for.
This is your starting point. Remember how I mentioned earlier that your brand is effectively what people associate you with? Well, you’re the one who needs to define what should come to people’s mind when they see or hear your name. The strongest brands, the ones that resonate with people most, are the ones that have integrity. In other words, the ones that stand for values which the business’ actions reinforce and the organisation actually breaths and believes. This being said, and as cliché as this may sound, you need to think about your vision and your mission as an organisation first of all. How does your product or service help people? How does it make their lives better? What one word would you like for your brand to be associated with?
2. Identify your target market.
Once you know how you impact people’s lives, you’ll find it easier to identify who your target customers are. And that’s essential because you need to be able to appeal to these people. Who are they? Are they stay-at-home moms? Are they young business women? Are they free-spirited, adventure-loving people? What is their lifestyle? How would they use your product? Your aim is to figure out what they like and value, and then build a brand they’d be happy to identify with. This is key.
3. Be Consistent.
This is absolutely critical. Whatever you want to be associated with, whether it’s quality, user-friendliness, innovation or anything really, you need to make sure you’re consistent. Your message in terms of tagline, adverts, customer service, packaging, etc. should reflect that. If you fail at any touchpoint, that is any interaction your customer has with your organisation, your messaging will be unreliable and your brand will suffer. A consistent brand experience for your customer will build loyalty.
4. Keep your promise.
This is in line with the above and is as simple as it sounds. If you fail to meet people’s expectations, they’ll be disappointed, and disappointment hurts your brand. What I mean is, if you promise a 24-hour response to queries or a 3-day delivery, friendly customer care etc., make sure you keep that promise. The reality of whether you do or don’t keep your word determines how customers perceive your brand. Which brings me to my next point….
5. Know how customers perceive your brand.
Oftentimes, people within an organisation live with the idea that their brands stands for one thing when actually customers perceive it completely differently. You work towards building a brand, consistent with the values you stand for, but ultimately it is down to how well you get that message across to the general public. If the message is inconsistent or diluted, due to contradictory experiences with your product or service, people will get a different idea of what your brand is about. This is why investing in research every now and again can be really valuable. It’s a vital tool to help you ensure your clients and you are on the same page. It can also identify any adjustments you need to make before they become a major issue.
6. Differentiate yourself.
Look at the competition. What do your competitor’s brands stand for? Make sure your brand is associated with something different. What is your unique value proposition? What makes you different? If you can’t answer that question right away, then you have some serious thinking to do. And if you can answer it, does this extra value you offer translate into the perception of your brand? Do people understand it? Give them a reason to choose you over the competitors.
So! Ever thought of how customers perceive your brand? Are you different? Do you make a lasting impression? Think about it.
Ultimately, this is the purpose of a brand – to make you stand out and to give you an edge.
If you’re still reading this, stop. Go to work on your brand!