How would you describe your organization’s brand? Is it the tagline you created when you opened your very first location? The logo that’s emblazoned on your fleet of vehicles? Or maybe you believe it’s simply your business name.
In a way, none of these answers are wrong. However, they’re not exactly correct, either, because your business’ brand isn’t one single element. It’s actually a combination of all the things that help people identify your company. It’s the feeling people get when they think of your company and your products or services. Moreover, a brand is whatever sets you apart from all the other companies out there.
So what makes a brand successful? The most valuable, well-known, and trusted brands in the world aren’t always the ones with the flashiest logos, funniest commercials, or the cleverest taglines — although it’s likely you’ll recognize the brand by each of those elements. When you think about technology brands like Apple, Amazon, and Google, for example, you could easily describe their visual attributes — the outline of an apple missing a bite, the word “Amazon” underlined by a seemingly-smiling arrow, and the sans serif typed Google name, each letter appearing in a different primary color.
You can’t deny that your mind fills with more thoughts than just the iconic logos of these companies, though. Apple conjures ideas of sleek surfaces, product names beginning with a lower-case “i”, big reveals, and the firm’s late turtleneck-clad CEO. Amazon brings to mind an endless expanse of products, punctual two-day delivery, online convenience, and Prime membership. Google makes you think of stark white backgrounds, always being able to find anything online, behind-the-scenes brainiacs, and reliably-ranked lists of results. These are the stories of the brands — the connections they make and feelings they evoke with consumers.
To expand on this idea further, try this exercise. Take a few moments to focus on what the following brands bring to mind:
Did you visualize logos? Hear taglines or jingles? Remember the last time you drank a Budweiser, drove a Chevrolet, or saw a UPS truck on your street? Think about Sam Walton and how he turned his small Arkansas store into a billion-dollar powerhouse? Imagine what it would be like to take your grandkids to Disney World or sling an authentic Gucci bag over your shoulder? Brands evoke a variety of different reactions — but if a company is successful with its branding, those reactions are positive, trustworthy, and encourage you to make another visit, call, or purchase … or at least want to.
Putting branding into practice
Now that we have a better grasp of branding, where do you think your company stands? You certainly have a company name, and you probably have a logo of some sort, and maybe even signature colors and fonts. (If not, we know some folks who can help with that, wink wink!).
As we’ve just shown, there’s much more to branding than just visual elements. An effective brand evokes feelings, memories, and other associations. These perceptions are built in lots of ways, including:
- The way you and your team treat customers and clients,
- The reliability, quality, ease-of-use, and value of your products and services, and
- How what you do or make solves someone’s problems, improves their lives, or makes them feel good about themselves.
Before you say to yourself, “Well, I’ve been in business for years and never really had a brand, so why do I need to think about it now?” — think again. Let’s say you run a medical practice. Your name and specialty are printed on your door and your business cards, and you have a listing in the phone book (yes, it still exists). You may not have a logo or a tagline, but you have a brand — however, it’s not one you’re controlling. Because in the absence of a brand, consumers, or in your case, your patients, staff, professional colleagues, and potential patients are creating your brand for you based on their perceptions, like:
- Your “bedside manner” and medical reputation,
- The personalities and expertise of your nurses and medical staff,
- The way your office staff speaks to your patients and prioritizes their needs, and even
- Your office’s location, size, decor, and technology.
You could be perceived as the doctor with the nurses who never smile, or the office that doesn’t return calls promptly, or the waiting room that looks the same as it did in 1992. Is this the brand — or the reputation — you want? If not, it’s time to take control and create a brand that makes you proud.
Whether you’re opening a brand new business or looking to refresh your existing company’s brand, you’ll follow the same basic steps. (The only exception is that if you’ve been in operation for a while, you’ll want to perform a brand audit first to see what brand elements you already have as well as what people are already thinking about you. And we can help with that!).
When we help organizations build brand strategies, we don’t do it in a vacuum. We work closely with them to really understand what matters to them and how they want to be known. Every single business needs a brand identity that’s unique to them, although some of the considerations will always include:
- Your company’s core values (e.g., trustworthiness, eco-friendliness, reliability, 24-hour service, etc.),
- The way you want your customers to feel (e.g., safe, important, pampered, prioritized, etc.), and
- Your unique selling proposition (i.e., what makes you different or a better choice than other businesses).
The end result is a branding strategy that includes those all-important visual elements plus a comprehensive plan for communicating and promoting your brand — also known as creating brand awareness. A successful brand strategy will not only make you and your products and services easily recognizable within the communities you serve, but will also help you cultivate your own brand evangelists — people who love you and what you do so much that they sing your praises whenever they can. You deserve a great brand, so give us a call today!