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I think it’s safe to say we’ve all heard the stories about the big brands like Nike and Coca Cola and how they have changed but maintained the essence of their brands through time. And yet, there are many companies that seem to feel that they need to “change” their brand every couple of years to stay “current”. And for some maybe that’s true and effective. For most of us, I think when we are building our brand identity it’s probably for the life of our business.
When branding your business from the start it’s important to make sure you are looking long term. I met with a client yesterday and they indicated that a successful advertising campaign became attached to their brand identity by using a tag line. It stuck for years and ultimately they feel hurt their overall brand identity and made them realize that they hadn’t kept their eye on the true goal – brand equity.
Brand equity is the term used most often to illustrate the effect a brand has on consumers. Are you buying something just because of the brand name, something that of course Nike and Coca Cola have successfully accomplished. When you discuss either brand with people from all over the world they know what those companies sell and that they are quality. Great brand equity.
Don’t Rush the Branding Process
If people were to discuss your company brand would they say the same? Now, I’ve been in business a very long time and when I first started my business I really didn’t give the name a long term thought. A mistake. Maybe. But I’ve been successful in my market and have a great reputation. I do believe that when people hear my company name that they do have an idea as to what we do and that we are a quality, integrity based company and I’m good with that.
However, if I had to do it over again I wouldn’t rush to just get started.
Building your brand for your business should be a major element in all that you do. What is it that makes you different? Are you the low-cost alternative or the high quality option? Do your employees have the most training and experience for what you are offering? Are you reliable? You need to determine your niche (your area of specialty).
Now, I don’t know the whole story around the jewelry store, Tiffany’s, but I think most every woman know about that blue box that all their products are packaged in. When I see that blue box, I think something special is inside. And yes, you expect it to be expensive. Not only did they brand their name, they carried that through to everything they sell, how they sell it and how it’s packaged. They’ve built tremendous brand equity.
Is Your Branding Niche Well-Defined
They are also an example of once you’ve determined your brand niche that you also need to instill in and train your employees about all the attributes that differentiates your company from your competition.
One of the elements of these “global” well-known brands is consistency and understanding all the elements associated with the brand. Is everyone on board with the company’s mission and vision. Are the benefits and features of your company’s products clearly communicated? In other words, do you and your customers have a clear understanding of what is to be expected?
There was an advertisement that truly illustrated this point for me many, many years ago. It showed a man sitting in a chair looking at “you”. It had a long list of questions, but basically it was saying, I don’t know you, I don’t know your company or what you or your company stand for, now, what is it that you want to sell me?
In building your brand you want to make sure you are answering those questions.
So where do you start to evaluate your brand and is it too late. It’s never too late to re-examine and re-engineer your brand, especially if you don’t think it’s working.
Five simple steps to branding your business:
- The Logo:
This is the symbol of your business. Does it make sense based on who you are and what you sell? If you are constantly finding yourself having to explain your logo it may be time for a change.
- The Message:
May seem simple or understood, but you might be surprised to find out that your employees may not know what you want to communicate. Write the key messages down. Every employee should know your brand attributes. I’ve seen companies that have established a brand university within their companies to educate their employees. Some provide mission/vision and attribute cards so employees can have to refer to regularly. Seems to work for them.
- The Integration:
As I’ve mentioned before, the building of your brand goes beyond you. It extends into everything. From what you sell to how it’s packaged to how it’s sold to how it lasts and beyond. So every aspect of your company needs to build on that brand idea.
- The Talk:
There is the saying “if you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk”. Basically it is saying that actions speak louder than words. So you and your products have to deliver. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter how great a logo is or that your message points are easy to understand customers will not come back or recommend you to friends.
- The Consistency:
It’s very important that all that you do reinforces your brand. Remember Tiffany’s and the blue box. Everything they do reinforces their high quality proposition. One area that many companies fail in consistency is in their promotional programs. Are you guilty of giving little to no thought about the promotional item you may leave behind after a sales call or be giving away at a trade show? This particular item is a long term, experiential element of your brand. It’s a long term reminder of who and what you are, so give it some due and think about the next time you ask for a cheap pen to give away.
Branding takes time to develop so don’t expect great recall overnight. But if you follow these very simple steps while your develop your brand identity I do believe you will have long term brand equity.