There is a lot of “Noise” these days around that term, “Brand” – some of it makes sense but, frankly, most of it is simply “Noise”
We are way past the point of justifying whether you need a “Brand” for your business or not. In this digital, interconnected world we now live in, a brand is an essential component of any business if it is going to be able to successfully impact on its target audience.
Take it as given – if you haven’t got a brand your business will suffer! There is no way that a business today can thrive without a strong brand, not in the medium to long term anyhow.
Let me explain why……
First, let’s start with what a brand is not. It is not:
- A logo
- A positioning statement
- A fancy colour scheme
- A staff uniform
A brand may contain these elements but it is not just the elements themselves. Creating a brand is initially in the domain of marketing practice – where the creation of a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates your product/service from your competitors is first tackled. Having an effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets.
Secondly, maintaining & growing that brand is entirely another thing – & the responsibility for that rests squarely on the shoulders of the staff of the business concerned, because they are the ones who will either deliver on the brand promise or not.
This is the big part of branding that few people truly understand, because what a brand stands for will ultimately be decided by your customers, through the experiences they have of your business in dealing with you (or attempting to deal with you) – and in this regard customers are merciless! You don’t get more than a couple of chances to provide experiences which deliver on the customer’s expectations.
If you let them down, repeatedly (more than twice) your brand will come to mean to them something entirely different than what it means to you!
This is where a lot of larger organisations totally miss the point of what building & maintaining a brand means. I’m not going to name names here – I don’t have to, just ask yourself what large companies you are aware of that have a habit of “Rebranding” themselves every few years?
With few exceptions the rebranding has little to do with “Modernising” their image but everything to do with trying to wipe away years of poor service with a new “Look” for the business – but the moment you deal with them again (thinking, “Well maybe they have changed”), you understand that it’s all just smoke & mirrors, with no real substance at all.
What’s totally missing in these instances is the acknowledgement that there is a wasteland of strategic thinking and fundamental misunderstanding about brand that leads to these “Rebranding” initiatives that are doomed to failure because the understanding of what the brand is actually comprised of is not fully appreciated.
Your brand is a result, not a fancy logo featuring the latest colours or a really catchy phrase. It is a result of the many actions and decisions a business makes. This means all of them – not just the one about what to call itself.
- What promises (to customers & potential customers) do we make?
- Do we consistently deliver on those promises?
- What experience(s) do we want our customers to have as a result of dealing with us?
- How do we support our people in their ability to deliver on those?
Looking at brand as a “Result” will shift your thinking about the things that your business does (& does not) do to build that brand. Recognising that brand is a result means that you will also recognise that everything you do is connected to that result.
We’re way beyond a new name here!
Your logo, positioning statement, colour scheme, et al, are mere representations of the result (read; experience) that your customers associate you with – it’s nothing more than a trigger for a (hopefully) positive memory of you that will encourage them to continue dealing with you & to recommend you to their friends & colleagues.
Back to my original question – “Why do you need a brand?”
Simple – without one, very few of your customers will remember you & practically none of your potential (new) customers will even notice you. In a world where online engagement is increasing we are all time & attention poor. Social media – as the medium for “Word of mouth” business referrals in the 21st Century – bombards us daily with hundreds of notifications, news, ads & greetings from friends. Just try getting their attention without a brand – you can’t.
If you haven’t got a brand or your brand message is confusing or (worse still), inaccurate, your customers are being taken from you by your competitors & your new customers – well you won’t have too many of those.
And this brings me to my final point, your brand message has to be consistent – across all communication channels & in all dealings with your customers & potential customers, before, during, & after a sale is made.
Look at your current marketing communications – your;
- Social media presence
- Physical premises
- Staff appearance
- Staff expertise & interaction (that’s all staff – not just sales & customer service)
- Advertising & PR messaging
Does all of this align? Does it all reinforce those promises you are making?
If it doesn’t, you have a problem.
Finally, do your customers think that all of this aligns & that you deliver on your promises?
It’s in that customer space that the real value of your brand will be determined.
Ausbizlinks www.ausbizlinks .com.au
Dennis Hall is the Principal of Ausbizlinks with an MBA in Marketing Management & has been involved in the online environment for over 15 years. He helps local businesses develop sustainable online marketing programs by applying a strategic focus to laser target what a business needs to be doing & when. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org