Your brand strategy is a crucial element in connecting with and communicating your message to your target audience. It ties in to your customer’s needs, creating those powerful emotional connections that leave your audience wanting to learn more. It’s often also a powerful differentiator, serving to set your company apart from the competition.
With your brand strategy playing such an integral role in your brand’s identity and ability to connect with your target audience, getting it right is obviously paramount. But what are the must-have elements in a successful branding strategy? To learn the key ingredients that turn ordinary brand strategies into extraordinary business and marketing assets, we reached out to a panel of branding and marketing pros and asked them to answer this question:
“What’s the most important ingredient in a successful branding strategy?”
Meet Our Panel of Branding Experts and Marketing Pros:
Kaeli Sweigard is a digital marketer specializing in Facebook ads. She helps female coaches build their online business systems so they can increase their revenue and live their dream.
“The most important ingredient in a successful branding strategy is…”
Being as specific as possible about the transformation you provide for the specific group of people you serve. If you are for everyone, you are for no one. A company has to be willing to polarize if they care to win any attention and loyalty at all. If you and the rest of the company are not clear on the why of the company, that is a problem. Without being clear on your why as a foundation to everything you do, your messaging is less likely to be consistent, compelling and less likely to convert. Sell the hole, not the drill. Why does your customer want that hole? What will it do for their life? They don’t care so much about how the drill works — that is secondary. They buy the drill because they want the hole.
Brendan Binger is a Marketing Director turned web agency founder. He is driven by memorable online experiences that delight users and increase profits.
“Quite simply, the key to a successful branding strategy in today’s saturated market is authenticity…”
This is the single most powerful differentiator that brands can deploy to distinguish themselves from competitors and leave a lasting impression.
Being authentic can mean a number of things. Charging your branding and marketing with emotion, for one. Creating an emotional connection with the viewer is an effective way to ensure a lasting impression. This capitalizes on the way that the human brain catalogs and stores memories. Memories with a stronger emotional association are logged as being more important and remembered in greater detail.
Making your brand voice more human is another great tactic. Many brands make the mistake of using a very corporate brand voice. This type of voice comes off as being sterile and distant. Injecting some humanity and emotion into your brand’s customer-facing language can go a long way.
Being more conversational in customer service is another way of being authentic. Positioning your brand so that any customer can reach you at any time and receive a human response in a reasonable amount of time.
Lastly, sometimes authentic brands put themselves out there. Whether that is taking a public stand for something that the company believes in, or owning up to a mistake in an honest and humble way, it resonates with customers and immediately garners respect.
In today’s market, successful brands are those that are evidently driven by a greater purpose, connect with customers on a one-to-one level, display their humanity, and are not afraid to stand for something. Today’s consumer wants to support brands that have values, not corporate monoliths driven by profit.
Steve Zeitchik is the Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of SociallyMined, a cutting-edge digital media agency that combines proprietary technology and a strong team and network to help their clients create or strengthen their brand, significantly increasing engagement and amplification with a relevant audience. They have worked with companies in multiple stages, from early-stage to Fortune 500 in diverse industries around the globe.
“The most important ingredient in brand strategy is to have a strategy…”
While that sounds basic, many companies (including many very large and well-known organizations) that we work with at SociallyMined confuse strong graphic design or a marketing effort with a branding strategy. No different than a business plan or a plan needed for a new technology, one needs to plan out a full campaign for branding thoroughly. It starts with defining what the brand is about – philosophically and practically. By thinking ahead and mapping out the overall strategy, everything can be built to communicate a cohesive and effective message. While it starts (ideally) with something as early in the effort as logo and web design, it needs to be consistent through presentations, videos, social media messaging, and any marketing collateral. Each output from the company needs to build on the messaging of the brand, strengthening the engagement with the brand’s community. Most importantly, every individual in the company – regardless of their role – needs to be clear on, and believe in, what the brand message is – because they are the truest representation of the brand – and as ambassadors to the brand personified, they can help make the brand or break it.
Nate Masterson is the Marketing Manager for Maple Holistics.
“I think that one of the most important aspects of a successful brand strategy is…”
Defining what your brand’s values are from the get-go. These days, consumers are more aware of the role that businesses play in shaping the world we live in and our society and therefore have greater expectations from businesses as they function within the larger scope of society, rather than simply selling products or services.
For instance, if you’re creating a strategy for a brand of cleaning supplies, you may want to emphasize the idea that the products have been created with environmentally friendly materials that are fully recyclable and that you donate a small percentage of your profits to a charity that helps clean up the environment or raise awareness about environmental causes, etc. Not only does this help you reach a wider audience, but it will build confidence and loyalty in consumers who are concerned about this issue and put you in a more favorable light as a brand that cares about more than just profit as a bottom-line motivation.
Monica Mizzi is a Freelance Marketer and Digital Marketer at MonicaMizzi.com. Her portfolio includes features in The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and airline magazines, and she has led successful digital marketing campaigns for small businesses and multi-million dollar companies alike.
“The most important ingredient in a successful branding strategy is consistency…”
There’s no use having a comprehensive and targeted branding strategy in theory, if in practice, it’s all over the place.
This is often evident when comparing a company’s brand voice on different mediums of communication. For example, a company may project a professional and to-the-point brand voice on their website, but on social media, they write in a very jokey and casual way.
This inconsistency can confuse customers about what brand image you’re really trying to project? Are you trying to appear like an authority, or their friend? An insular company, or one who’s willing to get answers from their community?
Satyajett Salokhey owns the blog Wall Insider. He designs experiences to tell fantastic stories.
“Telling is the new selling…”
No matter how you convey the story. This strategy works best for any medium, like image, text, or video.
The best strategy for branding is telling a personal story. Consequently, it will also help prospects to be more comfortable buying your brand, or the product associated with it. As a matter of fact, not pushed on them and not forced by constant calling or bombarding with emails.
People will doubt why you are selling so hard. They will ponder your efforts in selling and the quality of your products.
Create an experience that connects your brand to lives. It also justifies “why” your brand matters. To clarify, let’s see how branding through personal story affects the target audience.
How to promote your brand with personal stories:
There are many ways you can attach a personal story to your brand — your story, their story, any story.
Brands personal story:
Most people are immune to advertisements, often ignoring or skipping ads. Instead, they are very keen to know what goes on behind the scenes. For example, they might not like being told to buy the product. But content that gives them a reason why they should buy the product, a video of behind-the-scenes production, or journey of a public figure will undoubtedly influence the audience as a personal brand. It lets the audience see your purpose of doing what you do, and why it matters to you to make an impact. It is a two-way conversation, an invitation to your prospects to be part of the creed. You build a community. This is the very reason why vloggers and Instagrammers are doing so well — it sells. Online influencers do not explicitly sell one product. They have their brand established and sell multiple products, from books to merchandise, shoutouts, and so on. They share personal space with their audience.
Sharing your customers’ story:
The story you are telling doesn’t necessarily have to be the story of you. Instead, it could be a story of people who have had a positive experience. Additionally, this confirms that it is not you who have benefited from the brand. Product reviews and recommendations help to build trust in your brand.
This can be done by adding testimonials to your site if you have an existing costumer base. Or, you can go out and ask people to use the product and give feedback. Use it as content you can share on your publishing channels (social media, blog, etc.) efficiently. Or, you can share the beautiful experiences your customer had using your product via email.
Tabitha Jean Naylor
Tabitha Jean Naylor is a small business owner who does marketing consulting for other small businesses both here in the US and abroad at TabithaNaylor.com. She has over 15 years of sales and marketing experience working with start-up companies through NASDAQ listed organizations.
“Being consistent is the key ingredient to branding…”
Too many companies want to be all things to all people, which is the exact opposite of targeting a specific audience. That’s why you have so many businesses rebrand, because they don’t know what they want to be, and they’re constantly trying to hit a moving target. Consistency is all about creating content that speaks directly to the wants, needs, and pain points of your audience. Successful brands provide one thing the audience craves: satisfying expectations. For example, when you fly Spirit, you know exactly what you’re going to get: low fares and a mad scramble for seats. You don’t necessarily expect the most comfortable flight in terms of seat space, but you know you’ll get where you’re going for a lot less than flying American Airlines. Why do you know this? Because Spirit’s message to its audience is consistent. “Fly us for cheap fares.” That’s it, and no more. Spirit doesn’t deviate and try to woo its audience with the best in-flight entertainment or the best comfort experience. Stay consistent and deliver each time, and your brand will be the better for it.
Megan Franks embraced her natural design tendencies in graphic design from a young age. With a grandma who was a professional calligrapher for United States Presidents and a father who has been a graphic designer since the first release of Photoshop, you could say Megan was born with creativity running through her veins. She currently resides in Maui, Hawaii as a co-founder in a web and graphic design company, Brand and Brush.
“Many aspects build upon each other to make a brand strong…”
It’s not just the fonts or colors selected that carry a brand (although those do play a large role), but what I have found in my decades of experience to be the biggest area of impact in branding is the follow through. The most perfect logo and style can be chosen, but are useless if not carried out correctly. There have been companies that have spent thousands on developing the “golden look,” but only replace a sign or two with the new design, or worse yet, they decide to add a line to the logo in a less than desirable font. Having an old brand mixed with a new brand is confusing to consumers. What is the point of going through the months of planning and many dollars spent if everything doesn’t get the new, updated look? A lot of times, clients call our branding company because they know they can’t design; it’s a skill set they recognize is out of their reach, but then they assume they properly know how to take the logo and translate it into signage properly, which still requires special hand holding from a professional designer.
Andrei Vasilescu is a renowned Digital Marketing expert and CEO of a Money Saving platform in the name of DontPayFull. He has been providing cutting-edge digital marketing service to various international companies and different online coupons of various brands for years.
“Tell your audience repeatedly what they want to hear…”
The most effective ingredient in a successful branding strategy is publicity. Even a poor product can become the most desirable among the masses by the effect of massive and intelligent publicity. Take some surveys and use your own business network to learn the opinion, response, and what people are thinking about your brand. Once you get what people want from your brand, start telling your target audience that only you can provide the best and people have already found your brand the most useful, lucrative, authentic, or whatever goes best with your product. Commence a vigorous and loud publicity invasion through all online and offline media and be physically present at public places. Make your publicity effort present everywhere so that a person finds your brand at least twice a day. These will embed your brand name in the subconscious minds of people, and they will pronounce your brand name in the first chance whenever your trade relates. This method has already proven to be one of the most effective strategies to build a very powerful brand. But, do not forget to be loyal to the words you have committed along with your brand.
Shel Horowitz is an international speaker/TED Talker, multiple-award-winning author, and valued consultant/copywriter.
“While all of these are elements of a successful brand…”
Branding is NOT your logo, colors, slogan, etc. Branding IS the total of the customer/prospect/investor/journalist/etc.’s impression of your company — based on messaging but also on direct experience — and every story they’ve ever heard about direct experience with your brand.
Thus, quality of service, strength of purpose, ethics, and consistency make up the biggest piece of a brand. Your walk has to match your talk. As an example, if you say you have empowered employees but a clerk has to call HQ to okay a simple request (as happened to me in a Blockbuster store — not surprised they’re no longer with us), you’ve stabbed your brand in the heart. Your prospect won’t believe anything else you say if such a simple thing turns out to be a lie. Your brand must embody the magic triangle: honesty, integrity, and quality.
Antonella Pisani left the corporate world 2.5 years ago to form her own business. Prior to doing so, she was VP Global eCommerce at Fossil and VP Digital Marketing & Customer Experience at JCPenney. In addition to leading FACT goods, she also owns an eCommerce consulting business.
“Create a unique, emotional connection…”
In conjunction with a brand’s purpose, creating an emotional connection with your audience is the most important ingredient to creating a strong branding strategy. Brands are able to do this by creating a tight-knit community that transcends your business’ products and services. Consumers like to form close relationships and to feel cared about. By making consumers feel like they are a part of something bigger by sharing their experiences and thoughts with others, will help to build a successful brand image. Make sure to give your audience tons of opportunities to become a part of your family, such as by hosting meet-ups or Twitter chats, providing a space on your website for consumers to chat with one another, or sending them gifts, discounts, or coupons for being a loyal customer. The more unique your approach is to retain them as customers, the more likely they will want to buy from you over and over again.
Christy Batta is an award-winning graphic designer based in Washington, DC who consults for nonprofits and businesses doing good work for others.
“In my experience…”
The strongest brand strategies are established by first defining the core personality traits that your brand should get across to anyone who interacts with it. Putting clear and relatable adjectives at the forefront – such as brave, cheerful, or thoughtful – helps focus branding efforts on creating an emotionally engaging and memorable experience and helps you avoid getting caught up in industry buzzwords that are less likely to grab your audience’s attention or curiosity.
Zack West is the Director of Marketing for Novomotus, a US-based digital marketing agency specializing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and 3D Assets.
“There are a range of dynamic considerations to make when branding that…”
Can never be fully addressed without specifics of a business’ market position, goals, and resources. From a top-level perspective, however, ensuring that everyone is on the same page will offer a greater chance of success in any pursuit be it initial prototyping, engineering, production, or marketing. I’ve never subscribed to the idea of creating impenetrable walls between departments and believe that many of the most successful businesses today are those in active support of open channels of communications between departments.
To give a real-world example; a company’s Engineering team may have little to no idea how to effectively verbalize their impression of a product, but that impression could still be vital in communicating potential applications to end users. Fostering better communication between Engineering and Marketing might help better articulate a product’s use cases while also allowing employees to experience a greater sense of inclusion in projects. The end product of working towards such inclusionary workflow, harboring open communication, is one of more unified interpretation by various teams. When everyone knows what’s going on, it’s a hell of a lot easier to present a clear and concise message to the consumer. Of course, for every rule there is an exception and, again, every business has its own dynamics to consider. What works for one company may be counterproductive for another.
Meg Weinkauf, founder of The Faithful Leader, PhD student in organizational leadership, professor, certified branding strategist, startup connoisseur, and lover of people and storytelling.
“The first question to ask is…”
How do you create a brand without knowing the story first? It’s impossible!! I guess it is possible, but it’s not what the people want. Humans were wired for story. People want to know the humans behind the brand. Conversely, the brand is made up of the humans. Every single person related with a company makes up the brand. The reputation of the founder(s) impact and shape the brand. However, the greatest ingredient comes from within — it’s where the magic happens — the internal place where the organization and vision is birthed. You see, most people want to start with building the brand at step three that is the how and skip out on the first two critical steps of development. For an individual, this is a process to look within and pull out what is there and then communicate his or her awesomeness to the world.
- Step 1: Uncover
- Step 2: Define
- Step 3: Launch
Every step has a process. Step one includes a process of self-discovery, step two is one of defining and crafting the story from within (but cannot be done without step one), and then step three is launching the brand. Step three is especially unique because there might be mindsets and baggage that gets in the way of the launch. This is because the how is easier to construct than the why behind the brand, which is linked to the person, and goes much deeper. For years, marketing and branding was all about projecting the outward appearance which sometimes was used as a mask.
Nowadays, people want to know who the real you is, not a fake picture, but the authentic and true person behind the brand. It’s a historical reversal that is forcing self-discovery and authenticity, which in turn will make the world a better place. When people face their internal stuff, the true self emerges and that is where the magic happens. Although, it takes courage to go on the journey of self-discovery. However, I’ve never met anyone who regretted the process.
“While consistency is important, flexibility is the difference between good and great…”
Many people will say that the way to create and execute a successful brand strategy is by keeping things consistent across all platforms/mediums. This is certainly an important aspect of brand strategy. However, brands can lose their following or become irrelevant if they choose consistency over change. There are times when a brand needs a revamp – if you notice that you’re not attracting your target market or that your audience is less engaged, it’s time to consider making some changes to your brand strategy. Consistency can sometimes lead you to do what you’ve always done. Don’t get trapped in that repetitive cycle of putting out the same content time after time, especially if your brand is desperately in need of a refresh. Knowing when to change and being flexible with making those changes is the most important part of a successful brand strategy. Flexibility allows you to take your brand to new heights. Don’t let consistency hold you back – let your brand soar.
Seth Coyne is a business growth advisor and digital marketing consultant. He prefers to be addressed as Jedi Master Seth. He is also the author of Generous Wealth: How To Make More Money By Giving It Away And By Helping Others. A sufferer from paralysis himself, Seth has committed to donate 20% of his royalties to provide support and relief for paralyzed veterans of the US military. His goal is to raise $100,000 for them by the end of 2020.
“The cardinal sin of marketing and branding is being boring…”
So, if you get nothing else right, your branding must stand out and capture attention. It needs to be radically different from everything else out there. You need to be completely unique in at least one small way. Unfortunately, many seem to do the opposite. “Everyone else is on Facebook? I guess I need to be on Facebook. Everyone else is crafting fancy mission statements? I guess we better do that, too.” If you want to gain more customers, then the one thing that your branding must accomplish is to capture attention in a way that shows how different you are.
Angela Betancourt is a global strategic communications specialist with over 12 years of experience developing, managing, and executing comprehensive and integrated communication campaigns and strategies within the U.S. and international markets.
“The most important ingredient in a successful branding strategy is a point…”
What is the point of this strategy (and the long terms goals you want to achieve)? Is it to tell your audience that you are the best, the most honest, super sustainable, or cares about human rights? Is it to highlight inclusivity? Is it to position yourself as a leader? Are you the most innovative? As a trusted brand? As the brand of the people? That you are family orientated?
The answer to that can inform your strategy and give you the purpose and direction you need. If you are honest with your point and what you want to accomplish, and you do that with, what I think is the second most important ingredient authenticity and its twin, long-term vision, you are more empowered to build a successful brand strategy.
Marc Prosser is the Co-Founder of FitSmallBusiness.com, a digital magazine for business owners.
“One of the most important things to consider when developing a branding strategy is…”
If you cannot easily say what you brand stands for, how are you going to be able to communicate it?
In the case of FitSmallBusiness.com, our brand promise is to help small business owner make better decisions through educational articles. In a previous company, our brand promise was that we offered a better trading experience (faster execution, low spreads, great charting) for active traders. Many people try to make their brand mean different things to different people. There can be only one brand promise, and it has to make sense to one’s potential customers. If you are going to make multiple brand promises, your message is going to be confusing and unclear to your target audience.
Reuben Kats is the Web Developer and Account Manager at Falcon Marketing.
“The following information has to be used in order to see the results a business needs to survive…”
When a person makes a landing page for products they anticipate to sell, they must get creditable sources that will allow buyers to surf over more products. They should use high-resolution photos that ensure quality branding and establishment. One needs to design their landing page to attract all ages, and it needs to be convertible and responsive on all devices. When a website is properly built or coded there will be issues that may lead people to go off the site immediately. When designing a website, one needs to be aware that everything is functional. One should add a live stream that uses direct links that automatically populate updates, news, pop culture news, and anything relevant to the industry.
I have seen many websites that took forever to load. Most users are not going to wait more than 10 seconds for a website to show up on their screen. If one has an integrated website with hyperlinks to other sites, they need to understand that that may add more loading time to the website. The next step is using keywords to bring their marketing to the top of the search results in any search engine. People who divide their landing page into sections most likely get more conversions and actual sales through a mobile app, as well. Most companies use landing pages in order to market their company on Bing Ads or Google Adwords.
Dineen Pashoukos Wasylik
Dineen Pashoukos Wasylik helps entrepreneurs protect everything they work so hard to create. Dineen is certified by the Florida Bar as an expert in intellectual property law. Her expertise is helping businesses understand the copyright, trademark, and trade secret issues they face, so they can protect assets and prevent lawsuits.
“It is critical to incorporate legal compliance and protection in your branding strategy…”
And too many businesses overlook this crucial step when launching or expanding their brands. The whole point of building a brand is to build trademark rights that accrue value — look at companies like Coca-Cola or Starbucks or McDonalds, all of which have built billion-dollar brands around simple, every day products. So to build your brand, you have to have a basis understanding of trademark law, including how common law rights accrue through use of a brand as a source identifier, why it beneficial to have a registered trademark, when you can use the ™ and ® symbols, and a sense of when the time is right to invest in a registered trademark. You should include the legal analysis from the day you pick your brand names and designs, and you also must make sure you own (or at least actually have the right to use) the copyrights in photos, drawings, and artwork associated in any branding initiative. It is heartbreaking to see a new company invest time, money, and effort into building a brand only to find out that their brand is infringing a competitor, which would have been revealed if the company had worked with legal counsel for name clearance from the start. Just because the corporate trade name or .com is available does not mean a name would make a good brand. Look for an intellectual property lawyer who will help you clear trademarks, logos, and other branding, teach you how to use those things as source identifiers to build your brand whether or not you seek trademark registrations, advise you of the pros and cons of seeking registration, and who will apply for trademark and copyright registrations if warranted.
Hannah Joslin is Sr. Director of Communications for Ulzi, a revolutionary personal safety app that gives you peace of mind and freedom back. Ulzi makes AI affordable, so YOU can make the world safer.
“The most important ingredient in a successful branding strategy is…”
Authenticity. People are not robots, and the younger your target demographic is, the better they’re able to call BS on your strategies.
Be authentic instead of using an overly-polished sales pitch. Be relatable as opposed to cold and professional.
People want to trust you as a person before they’ll even bother looking into your credibility and professionalism. The way to build true brand loyalty is to show your target demographic that you understand and RESPECT them.
When it comes to tail-end millennials specifically, there’s never been a bigger push for corporate transparency. People will forgive your PR blunders (and buy in more), if they believe your beliefs and see the real person behind the Facebook ads.
Lastly, corporate social responsibility. CSR is your best friend. Not just for your reputation and for the planet, but because you won’t even make it off the ground if your audience thinks you are exploitative of your employees, the environment, or are ‘getting rich’ at the expense of others.
Involvement with nonprofits, charities, and other socially responsible organizations shows you care about your demographic and the world they’re being given. Even a CSR effort completely unrelated to your product still builds your likability and brand loyalty. What’s even better is if your core mission and vision are inherently socially good.
Jack has been marketing director for a variety of different brands. In September of 2016, he decided to open Digital Ink Marketing, a full-service boutique digital marketing agency that serves businesses in the New York area and beyond.
“The most important ingredient in a successful branding strategy is…”
The brand’s personality. Before you can begin to market your brand, you have to know whether it is serious, silly, sophisticated, or insouciant. You can market to virtually any demographic regardless of what your brand’s personality is like, but mixing somber with irreverent is only going to cause confusion. That’s not to say that once your brand’s personality is locked in that it can never change. You can always reinvent your brand if necessary. Old Spice, for example, used to be marketed without any humor, instead positioning itself as a mature and refined brand. It’s now famous for its humorous ads having reinvented itself as a cheeky brand that likes to have fun.
Mazdak Mohammadi is the owner of blueberrycloud. Mazdak has helped hundreds of local, small, and larger brands exploit the unique opportunities available to them within the arena of digital marketing. Notable brands include Glacier Media, Rogers Foods, Cushman & Wakefield, and the Canadian Coast Guard.
“The most important ingredient in a successful branding strategy is…”
Asking the right questions. Start your branding or rebranding exercise by asking yourself: Why do I exist? Whom do I serve? What does my target market need and want? Who else can give them what they need and want? Why do they choose my competitors? These questions help you identify why people choose to buy from you. This becomes the core competency of your brand, and must become the crux of your messaging. Identifying your core strength as a business is the essential first step in the brand or rebranding process.
Once you know what you’re exceptional at then you can begin creating a new logo, website, brochures, etc. that reflect your core competency. In building a brand based on your core strength, you are able to communicate effectively who you are and why people should choose you. You’ll spend much less time and money trying to acquire your customers this way because people who are your customers will buy much quicker, and people who aren’t your customers will quickly receive the message and go elsewhere without wasting your time. This approach to branding is very effective and promises long-term positive results.
Mae Cromwell is the Director of Content Insights at PACIFIC Digital Agency. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College, and kick-started her career working as the Marketing Strategist at Tonic Design Co., and the Creative Strategist at Upworthy, before landing her role at PACIFIC.
“A successful branding strategy has to…”
Marry the customer’s wants with the brand’s objectives. Too often, there’s a disconnect and it damages the relationship that brands are trying to build with their consumers.
Brands used to be in a position to dictate to consumers: this is what you want, and this is why you want it. Then, social media and the Internet’s seamless integration into every avenue of our lives opened the floodgates. Now, brands are overwhelmed with consumer opinions, desires, and pain points, and some are too reactive, pandering to what they think consumers want regardless of what it means for the brand. This leads to a type of volatility and frenetic identity that is not sustainable. But there is sweet spot that lies between these two extremes.
Brands need to know who they are and what they have to offer to consumers. They need to listen to their target audience, learn from them, and find where their product or service offering enriches the consumers’ lives. And they need to view each and every customer touchpoint as part of a greater ecosystem and ensure that their core messaging is consistent – and appropriate – across those touchpoints. Thinking about how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together is critical to creating a successful branding strategy.
Andrew Tillery is the Marketing Director at MAP Communications. MAP Communications has been providing live answering services and call center solutions for some of America’s finest companies.
“The single most important ingredient of successful branding is consistency…”
Know Your Audience
Anyone who has ever stood in the salad dressing aisle of the grocery store can appreciate the paradox of choice. It’s a truly modern problem with which generations before did not have to deal. No matter your industry, there will always be competitors, which is why it’s so important to hone in on your target audience. By finding out the exact demographics of who your ideal customer might be, you can appeal to them with your branding.
Once you’ve determined who you’re selling to, you can focus in on the kind of branding they might like to see. Take a look at the other brands they are already into and compare your values, beliefs and design. Finding the commonalities can lead you to the right track for your brand.
Play With Persona
Think of your brand as a person. That’s right, go ahead and build out an entire character as though you were writing a novel or screenplay about them. How would they greet friends on the street? What would they order for dinner? Are they a cat person or a dog person? None of these answers ever need to make their way into your branding strategy, but they can help inform the kind of persona you’re trying to execute.
Once you’ve got a clear idea of your brand’s personality, you can begin speaking to customers in that voice. Create engaging social media posts by writing in an authentic voice that sounds true to the brand persona. While there are no hard and fast rules to this kind of writing, it’s important to keep your character in mind. A high-end champagne company, for example, probably wouldn’t want to come across as too casual to its online followers. A children’s educational toy company, however, might want to embrace a laid-back tone to appeal to the parents who are reading their updates.
Identify Your Values
While your ultimate goal in business might be to turn a profit or impress shareholders, you also need to have values, beliefs and purpose. These can help drive the emotional aspects of your brand positioning. These values also help inform the persona you developed in the previous tip. By fleshing out your brand’s voice and personality with relatable values and honest beliefs, you add a human element to an otherwise potentially cold and corporate machine.
Don’t think your company has any particularly strong values one way or another? Think again. Take time to reflect on the problem you solve for your customers, or the joy you bring to their lives. Even if you struggle to put your values into exact words, you can direct the focus of your company to your integrity. That’s something everyone will respect and, ultimately, keep coming back to.
Build Your Platform
Consistency is key with branding. After all, can you imagine if the Apple logo looked slightly different every time you saw it? Consistency sends a signal to your customers that you are trustworthy, reliable and professional. Build your platform to be as consistent as possible from the beginning and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Start by commissioning a great logo. Work with a talented graphic designer and invest the time and money to get it right. Next, create brand guidelines for all employees to refer back to over time. This should include specific color palettes, type styles and images with which you’d like your brand to be associated. While you’re at it, build out an entire brand book with instructions on editorial guidelines and signage specifications.
Pierre de Braux
Pierre is a content strategist at Spiralytics, a full-service performance marketing company. He helps brands build content assets that help drive brand awareness, loyalty, and sales. When he’s not at work, he pines for a faster internet connection so he can watch cat videos in high definition.
“Whenever we have to address the need for a branding/re-branding strategy…”
The one thing I try to focus on to tie everything together is brand personality. Not to be confused with brand identity, which is how a brand visually showcases itself, brand personality is a description of your brand’s character as if it were a person.
People’s relationships with brands go far beyond the end product or service and customer loyalty/advocacy are significantly enhanced when brands are able to interact with their audience on a personal level. So, fostering this deep connection aims to create an emotional competitive advantage that differentiates a brand from its competitors.
When developing your brand personality, think about the Big 5 Personality Traits and the typical characteristics associated with each. Then, with the knowledge you have about your market, determine what kind of voice would best relate to your target audience. Is it sincere, funny, sophisticated, or rugged? How will your brand provoke and elicit emotions?
Once you know what brand personality to strive towards, ensure that your tone of voice/message remains consistent across all brand touchpoints to strengthen your brand identity and foster deeper emotional connections.
Steve Pritchard is the Founder of Cuuver.com.
“The most important part of a successful branding strategy is…”
Defining the brand’s identity. This should be the first thing any brand manager does when creating a new brand or rebranding a company. Whether it be through a mission statement, a positioning statement or just a simple brand mantra, you need to clarify internally the characteristics of the brand and how you want people to think about it before you can begin broadcasting about it. How would you want people to describe the brand? If it were a person, what would its personality be? What is the brand aiming to achieve? It is essential that you do this in order to keep your brand consistent, so it should guide all of your brand activities. If you don’t know exactly what your brand is or what its values are, how can you convince other people to buy into them?
William Gadea is the Founder and Creative Director of IdeaRocket, a maker of animated videos for business.
“Good brand work tells your customers who you are…”
Great brand work tells your customers who they are. It tells them your company embodies their values and aspirations. Great brand work insinuates its way into your customer’s identity.
Apple is an example that is cited for good reason – the positioning and execution was brilliant. You own an Apple Computer because you’re creative, and you’re creative because you own an Apple Computer. Who doesn’t want to
be creative? Who doesn’t want to Think Different?
There is a myth that this kind of aspirational sell is only good for the B2C space. Not true: WeWork is an excellent example. Their catchphrase is Love What You Do. Who doesn’t want to be passionate about their work? Who doesn’t want their company to be full of passionate people? It’s a B2B sell, but they are still selling a lifestyle.
Saud Ibrahim is the Digital Marketing Manager at The Jacket Maker.
“The most important ingredients for successful branding are…”
This is the starting point, everything else follows. You have to come up with a compelling story, as to why people would care about you and your product offering.
Based on your story, you have to create great products. What are great products? Which are totally in sync with your philosophy and provide exceptional value.
Even if you have a great story and great product, how do you communicate that to your target audience? You would need to create great content that promotes your brand. When we say content, we are referring to everything audio, visual, textual. Anything you are using to communicate to your customers.
You have a great story, products that provide value and content to market your product, but how do you get people to see your products. The integral point to understand here is that coverage comes at a cost.
Marie Lanyon is the VP of Marketing at HEXONET Services and heads up all things marketing at HEXONET. Marie’s experience includes working with a variety of startups and leading and building teams at advertising agencies. She has experience in creating branding strategies for multiple companies and thrives in rebranding.
“Commitment to seeing it through…”
It takes a lot of work, challenging conversations, inspiring moments, and a greater meaning and vision to complete a branding or rebranding process. So often you’ll see a leadership team take a deep breath and congratulate themselves on a job well done when really there is so much more to consider. A successful branding strategy looks beyond the initial branding process and considers how it will be rolled out across all areas of the business, shared with employees, and deployed publicly. Considering and listing every point of contact someone may have with your brand is an excellent place to start in setting your strategy up for success. Once these points of contact are listed, ask yourself and your team: how can we best communicate our brand and what we stand for through this channel. Commitment, consistency, and ownership in your brand message are key.
Anna Lundberg is the founder of One Step Outside, helping people around the world build businesses and create a lifestyle that allows them an unimagined sense of freedom, flexibility and fulfillment. Since leaving her corporate job in 2013, she’s now reimagining what success looks like and is passionate about inspiring and supporting others to do the same.
“As Simon Sinek said in his now-famous TEDx talk, ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’…”
It’s all very well that you have some amazing product or service but communicating a bigger vision for what you’re trying to achieve will attract people who believe in that same vision and ultimately will be more likely to buy from you. Your purpose is the reason why you exist, why you get out of bed in the morning and get to work and why anyone should care.
You may have a very clear idea of why you started your business — because you wanted the freedom to make your own decisions and the flexibility to spend more time with your family, for example — but you’ll need to think about the bigger picture in terms of the result you’re trying to help your clients get, or the impact you want to have in the world. Call it your ‘purpose’, your ‘mission statement’, or your ‘why’ — but you need to have a clear idea of your reason for existing (and it can’t be “to make money”!).
Greg Corey is the founder and principal of Porchlight, an Atlanta-based retail design agency.
“A brand is so much more than just the name and logo…”
A brand is a perception, and I think the #1 thing it needs to show is some personality and that it’s more than just a product. You need to focus on identifying your brand with key human elements to understand who your brand is and what you want it to sound like. What demographic are you, not just what demographic are you marketing to.
Once you get your brand up and running, you need to keep it going in the right direction – in print, online, on shelf and/or in the media. You can’t rely on only one avenue to reach your market. I also see brands constantly changing themselves for the wrong reasons/because they’re trying to talk to a new customer. If you want your brand to stand for something, you have to let it stand. You don’t need a re-brand, you just need to evolve your current brand.
In the end, brands should understand how to speak to their target just like people speak to each other. Especially today, you have so many opportunities to talk directly to your consumers. Social media, for example, gives you an opportunity to have a real two-way conversation with them. And I’m not talking about bots or automated responses, I’m taking about real, human-to-human conversations. Once you have that personality set, think about how to speak to your customers on packaging, on your website, etc. Over time, your product will be identified not by its features and specs, but by why it’s needed and how it will help people’s lives.
Stephanie Farber, creative principal, founded Creative Blend Design in 2004. In addition to creative services, she develops, designs, and deploys targeted, multi-channel marketing plans, and continually expands strategic partnerships as technology and marketing channels evolve.
“Defining who you are as a business is essential to successful branding…”
As branding professionals, our job is to help clients zero in on what motivates them and why, as well as what they do well, so that their message is communicated with clarity, confidence, purpose,and perhaps most important, consistency. We do this simply by listening,understanding, and ultimately through forging relationships.
Once we’ve defined a client’s motivations, core values and services, we can then address competitive awareness for bettering value, process and brand. Brands are ever-evolving,which demands messaging that is engaging, along with an effective yet fluid strategy that delivers impact and staying power. This includes a strong,verbal, visual and tactile mix for creating that lasting impression on the consumer. The more senses we can engage, the better.
Jason Flanagan is the owner of Nicole-Rhea, which curates a collection of Artisan Crafted Homewares. He strives to find beautiful, functional, artisan handcrafted products, post them on an easily navigable website, and share the story behind the artisan and their craft.
“The most important ingredient in a successful branding strategy is…”
Fully understanding how your audience perceives your business. When you get started, you might be surprised by how others see you and what your company does, but it’ll help you to either anchor yourself in this perception if it’s the one you want or update your branding to move in another direction. Pay attention to what your audience is saying online through reviews, social media, and really anywhere that you can get feedback. I even recommend sending out brand awareness surveys. If you really, honestly listen without getting defensive, you’ll have everything you need to guide you in your branding strategy.
Paige Arnof-Fenn is the founder & CEO of global marketing firm Mavens & Moguls based in Cambridge, MA. Their clients include Microsoft, Virgin, venture-backed startups as well as non-profit organizations.
“The single most important ingredient is authenticity…”
Here are a few tips from my experience to help establish an authentic brand:
- Be original. What makes you unique or special?
- Be creative. How do you want people to think & feel after interacting with you vs. your competition?
- Be honest. Let your brand be known for speaking the truth, and you become the trusted advocate and go-to source.
- Be relevant. Brands aren’t created in a vacuum.
- Be consistent. Develop a cohesive message, and live it every day.
- Be passionate. Everyone loves to work with people who are passionate about what they do; it makes life much more fun and interesting.
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