If there’s anything in business greater than the sum of its parts, it’s a brand. A successful brand is one that creates a positive gut feeling in people that determines how they subsequently view a product or service offered by that brand.
Get your branding right and you should see a steady upturn in sales and customer loyalty, as well as brand awareness and favourable public perception.
But how do you create that gut feeling? How do you develop a brand that people know, like and trust?
Let’s look at some of the key ingredients:
· A clear brand definition
Strong brands are those that have a clear purpose, well-defined values and deliver on the promise they make to their customers about what they offer.
Ben & Jerry’s is a perfect example of a purpose-driven brand. They’re clear about the issues they care about and state their values-led sourcing on every product page, as well as featuring videos of their suppliers throughout their site.
Although we might not automatically think of ice cream as being a value-driven product, Ben & Jerry’s makes its values an integral part of the brand. Indeed, the company’s mission has been distilled down to “using ice cream to change the world”.
· A brand positioning statement
A brand positioning statement is a short, concise explanation of what your brand does, who it targets and the benefits of the brand.
Usually, it will be used as an internal tool to steer marketers so that they can ensure all marketing messages are consistent. It might also be disseminated across an organisation to make sure every employee has a clear understanding of what the brand stands for.
A brand positioning statement focuses on “what” a business does whereas the mission statement explains “why” it does it. A business plan and/or brand strategy cover the “how, who and when”.
· A strong brand identity
Having a strong brand identity gives your business a recognisable personality in terms of how it looks and sounds, as well as being clear about the promise your business makes to its customers.
Your brand identity will include things like your business name, visual identity (e.g. logo, brand colours, fonts, types of images used), tone of voice, marketing messages, values it stands for and more.
When brands have a strong identity, people are more likely to be loyal to them because the brand feels familiar, instantly recognisable and delivers a consistent experience.
Starbucks is a great example of a brand with a strong identity. Step into any branch anywhere in the world and the experience is likely to be comparable to other branches you’ve visited in the past, from the furnishings, signage and logo to how the staff talk and behave.
· Advertising and communications
Strong business brands use the advertising and communications channels that are most likely to reach and make sense to their target audience. This can include TV, podcast or radio ads, print advertising (e.g. magazines, newspapers), outdoor advertising (e.g. billboards, posters, etc.), websites and social media advertising, guest blogs, content marketing, or mobile apps.
Being successful isn’t about advertising anywhere and everywhere (we’d call this a “spray and pray” approach to marketing). Instead, it’s about being strategic and meeting your potential customers where they’re most likely to be.
In 2018, KitchenAid ran a hugely successful #MarksOfMaking campaign aimed at a niche but dedicated group of cooking enthusiasts who are likely to buy KitchenAid products. The campaign included a short 60-second “anthem video”, print advertising, online video, some online advertising, social media campaigns for different platforms, partnerships with influencers and some paid search advertising, all of which was carefully targeted to the people who would recognise the campaign as a reflection of their values. They only marketed where they knew they’d reach their niche.
· Sponsoring and partnerships
Many brands use sponsorship and partnerships to grow their reach. This can work in a number of different ways:
- Sponsoring an event that their target audience is likely to attend or watch remotely (e.g. sports events, business events, fan conventions, craft fairs, etc.)
- Sponsoring a team or group (e.g. local sports teams, Cub or Scout groups, charity events)
- Partnering with a brand that shares a similar audience or is in a closely related field
- Partnering with celebrities and influencers who appeal to their target audience to promote their products and services
With this approach, the brand makes a strong statement about its values through who and/or what it is happy to be associated with.
· Fantastic customer service
The customer experience – in particular, customer service – will impact how people perceive your brand, for good or bad. Strong brands invest in and focus on their customer service because they know it’s key to maintaining positive public perception.
Customer service lends a human face and voice to your brand; indeed, a call to customer services may be the first and only human interaction someone has with your business. If you’ve been working hard to show your brand is authentic, this must be reflected in the customer service experience.
It’s vital that customer service representatives talk and behave a way that feels aligned to the overall brand identity. Customers will find this reassuring because it will confirm that their perception of the brand’s values was accurate and can be trusted.
· Product and packaging design
It’s important that any physical products sold by a brand support and reflect its values. A pet shop known for its compassionate attitude towards animals, for example, would not want to sell aversive or unsafe equipment that might cause harm (e.g. prong collars or choke chains for dogs or rabbit hutches that are too small), even if there is consumer demand.
Similarly, your packaging design isn’t just about the visual identity of your brand; it’s an opportunity to convey your brand values too. For example, a business that champions sustainability would strengthen its brand by using sustainable packaging.
· In-store experience
For businesses with bricks-and-mortar premises, the in-store experience is part of the overall brand identity.
Apple took this knowledge and ran with it, adding Apple Stores to its offering and subsequently becoming one of the most successful brands in the world.
Apple recognised that having greater control of a customer’s brand experience via in-store visits could have a profound effect. In Apple Stores, products are designed around “experiences” and “solutions” rather than in categories. In fact, Apple says customers don’t buy products, they buy the brand. This is the ethos within each store, so much so that Apple refers to some of its stores as “town squares” or “gathering places” to emphasise the almost tribal unity/community of its followers.
What Apple exemplifies is that the in-store experience should feel like an extension of the brand’s identity in the world at large. Again, this creates a feeling of familiarity, of knowing what to expect and reassurance.
· Pricing strategy
All businesses have to decide how to price their products or services. This is influenced by a wide range of factors, in and outside of the organisation.
One of these factors is brand positioning. Does a business want to be known as a premium brand? Does it want to offer bargain prices or encourage people to buy in bulk? How does the pricing strategy tie into the key marketing messages or values of the business and vice versa?
Successful brands make sure their pricing is in total alignment with their overall look and feel.
· Workspace experience and management style
A strong business brand isn’t just about how it presents itself to the outside world. It should also be reflected in the internal culture of an organisation.
Innocent Drinks provides us with a great example of a business that inhabits its brand in the workplace. According to an Employee Benefits article, the smoothie company runs a confidential drop-in “People Clinic” every week where employees can get advice about any work or personal challenges they’re facing. Every few years, it offers employees a chance to apply for scholarships to fund something meaningful that they’ve always dreamed of doing.
The company embraces diversity and inclusion – for example, its gender pay gap is far lower than the UK average and women occupy many of the company’s senior roles. Innocent has regularly been voted as one of the best companies to work for because it treats employees with the same level of care and attention as its customers. Indeed, many job seekers would do anything to join the company, such is its reputation.
Bringing it all together
The challenge of creating a successful brand is bringing some, if not all, of the elements above together and making them a cohesive whole. This is the secret ingredient, the thread that runs through everything. Get it right and your brand could be bigger than you ever imagined.
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