Branding involves creating a
symbol that is widely associated with a particular company
or product. A successful brand image can multiply the value
of your business. A brand is not just the logo and tagline.
A brand is defined as a "name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.
Therefore it makes sense to understand that branding is not about getting your target market to choose you over the competition, but it is about getting your prospects to see you as the only one that provides a solution to their problem.
The objectives that a good brand will achieve include:
- Delivers the message clearly
- Confirms your credibility
- Connects your target prospects emotionally
- Motivates the buyer
- Concretes User Loyalty
To succeed in branding you must understand the needs and wants of your customers and prospects. You do this by integrating your brand strategies through your company at every point of public contact.
Your brand resides within the hearts and minds of customers, clients, and prospects. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions, some of which you can influence, and some that you cannot.
A strong brand is invaluable as the battle for
customers intensifies day by day. It's important to spend time
investing in researching, defining, and building your brand.
After all, your brand is the source of a promise to your
consumer. It's a foundational piece in your marketing
communication and one you do not want to be without.
Branding Beyond the Advertising & Marketing
You go to the hotel. The room is musty and a tad dirty. The food is barely passable. Service is brusque and spotty at best. When you complain to management, you’re met with indifference, or worse, silence. You leave disillusioned and disgusted. For all the resort’s slick marketing, they’ve fallen woefully short.
Branding goes well beyond marketing. It will not be successful without ensuring that all aspects of your business reflect and support your intended brand. One of your most valuable assets—your people—must be well-trained in articulating and delivering on your brand. This step is particularly important for service organizations that don’t have concrete products. Their offerings are soft assets like knowledge, experience and people.
When employees don’t deliver the brand, it can be the kiss of death for a business. Don’t believe me? Visit a hotel review web site like Trip Advisor. Peruse travelers’ comments and you’ll likely come across more than a few who cite poor customer service for their negative hotel reviews. Conversely, employees who represent the brand flawlessly and consistently can propel a business to stardom.
Brand: The Sum of All Its Parts
Despite what many believe, brand isn’t about your logo, tagline and glossy brochure. Instead, a strong brand integrates multiple components, all of them necessary, including customer interactions, employee communications, corporate philosophy and advertising/marketing efforts. Your brand extends to your employees, customers, the media and even the general public as the above story illustrates. If these components don’t consistently reinforce your brand, customers will become dissatisfied. The negative impact of their perception, should they voice their opinions to other potential customers or even the media, could have a ripple effect on your business. This can erode your brand equity and create misperceptions about your company in the market, that in turn could lead prospective customers, employees and investors to pass on your organization.
On the other hand, brand consistency throughout all levels of the organization helps drive an organization to grow and prosper. Strong brands can drive an increase in sales. The company is better suited to attract and retain the best employees. Vendors can see value in your brand and look to establish partnerships with your business, while investors will see the business and your brand equity as a valuable commodity.
Branding Through Your
Your employees are one of the most critical touch points for your customer. Here are several steps to ensure that they are representing your brand in the best light possible.
- Develop a Company
A thoughtfully planned philosophy that guides how your company operates is the first step to reinforcing your brand among your workforce. The prestigious Ritz Carlton Hotel Company is an excellent example. They have created the following five “Gold Standards” for their business operations that reinforce the brand and detail an employee’s role in delivering on this brand:
- A vision to revolutionize hospitality in America by creating a luxury setting for guests and a credo that states the company’s commitment to the genuine care and comfort of its guests.
- A motto that exemplifies the level of service for its guests: We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.
Three Steps of
- A warm and sincere greeting that uses the guest name, if and when possible
- Anticipation and compliance with guest needs
- A fond farewell that uses a guest’s name, if and when possible
- “20 Basics” that outline the responsibilities and expectations for how the company delivers on its service (including #13—Never Lose a Guest)
- The Employee Promise (“At The Ritz-Carlton, our Ladies & Gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests.”)
- Maintain Brand Consistency
This step is essential to building a strong brand. However, it is often one of the first steps to unravel. You must establish consistency throughout all aspects of your organization. But setting the standards is not enough. You must constantly evaluate your actions. Establish checkpoints for each aspect of the business that interacts with customers and the general public. Ensure that each employee is empowered to identify and address inconsistencies in your brand. Fail to deliver on brand with one customer, and he or she might forget. Fail to do so for another, and he or she might not be so forgiving. It only takes a scant few to dispel the brand you are touting.
We spend days sometimes weeks developing our "marketing message." Examining and experimenting with taglines and logos. It's also not unlikely to spend hours of overtime determining our company colors before we set out to launch. There is however an area that is almost always forgotten in the planning phase of a new company or the restructuring of an old company. That area is training staff to understand and reflect our message and brand.
Truth is marketing starts from the inside out. Do your employees believe in your product and the services that you offer? Are they standing 100% behind you in the mission of your brand? Are they living your brand? It is important that your employees are informed and involved in new initiatives and strategies that are taking place within your company. If your staff is unable or unwilling to support your marketing efforts it can have detrimental results. How can you begin your internal branding campaign within your company?
Synchronize Your Brand
Personality, Values and
Your marketing team should be working closely with your Human Resources team to ensure that the common values of your company internally and externally are in sync.
Get Your Employees Behind Your
Align your criteria for recruiting and rewarding employees with the criteria of the brand value. Look for the right skills and aptitudes that will represent your brand promise effectively.
Reinforce and Repeatedly Explain
Brand Values and Behaviors
Use your internal communication to reinforce and explain the values and behaviors that reflect your brand promise. Continuously do this until they become second nature.
If you thought the
process of involving your staff was
not important take into account that
your employees meet, greet, and
assist your customers in many
different ways. They are the face of
your brand. Engage your staff right
from the start and encourage
individual input. Use your staff as
a focus group - after all who knows
your clientele better than they do?
By doing this you will not only get
support from your staff but you will
be given insight and ideas that you
otherwise may not have considered.
What Role Does Your Logo Play in Your Branding Strategy?
Before beginning the process of logo creation be sure that you have developed your brand strategy. Why? Your logo is like a small ad for your company, without the strategy behind it a logo can put across the wrong message and in return weaken your strategy. You want to keep your brand message consistent to help increase consumer recognition.
How do you know when you are ready to move to the process of having your logo created?
- The mission of your logo is to portray the values and goals of your company. Make sure that these are clearly established before venturing out to find a logo designer.
- Be clear about the message you want your brand to convey so that your logo can clearly reflect that message. You must have a strong association between your brand and your logo. Remember it is only one piece of your branding strategy.
- Your logo should reflect professionalism and growth no matter how small your company is.
- If you are designing your logo in-house to save money be sure to market-test your efforts.
- Make sure that the logo you select is not dated but can be used effectively year after year. Keep in mind it is how consumers will recognize your company.
The conclusion of the role your logo plays in your branding strategy can be summed up in the following statement.
and a strong
uses design to
attracts the target
audience that you
want to attract - a
message that creates
confidence in your
between you and your
your logo fulfill
this mission? If
your answer is no it
may be time to
brand strategy and
looking at a new
logo to re-position
Determining Your Brand's Objectives
What are the objectives that you hope to achieve with your brand?
Your brand should be comprised of the company personality, image, core competencies and characteristics. The impressions that you make as well as the words people will use to describe your company to others, are the basic framework of your brand.
With a strong brand you build credibility, have more influence on your market, and motivate customers and clients to purchase from you. If done correctly, your company will be looked at as a leader not a follower.
To determine your brand objectives ask yourself the following question:
- What is it that you want your brand to do for your company?
- What do you want others to know and say about your products or services?
Sample objectives may include:
- Being recognized by receiving a specific award
- Picking up a certain number of choice projects
- Gaining a specific number of new clients in the next year
- Positioning your company as an industry leader in the next five months
You will find that by defining your objectives with specific timelines it is easier to develop a plan of action to achieve those objectives. By defining your objectives you are able to map out a plan on how to achieve those objectives. Say for example your objective is to position your company as an industry leader. How can you go about doing this? You could:
- Have members of your team speak at Trade Shows
- Schedule lectures at professional group gatherings within your industry
- Write and publish articles in newspapers, magazines, or online media
Once you've determined your objectives. the next step is to build and develop your brand strategy by listing out how, when, and what you are going to do to accomplish and meet your brand objectives.
Use the questions above to determine your brand objectives. List each objective and map out how you plan to accomplish and succeed in meeting those objectives. Don't stop there! Once you've finished take time to list out what you can do in the this month or this quarter to meet that objective. Be specific and schedule those action items in your business calendar.