Your brand is not just your logo, it’s not just your service, neither is it your literature or website…it is all of these things and more…to give you a ‘fantastic’ example. If you totalled up all of Apple’s physical assets, its patents and product range you still wouldn’t reach the value of the company as defined by its stock price… why? Well a big part of that is brand value. Hard to neatly assign but real none-the-less. Therefore, quite simply: Brand is important.
The original purpose of developing a brand was to give customers the confidence that what they were buying was something they could trust. Take Pears soap. Started in 1807, it became a big seller in the United States based on the brand trust they developed by supplying a high quality, consistent product promoted with clever advertising that positioned their product (brand) as distinct from the mostly local products sold by itinerant salesmen and made from unknown and often useless, or even dangerous ingredients. In short, you never knew if what you were buying was useful or safe. But, with Pears, customers realised they could trust in the product (brand) and so they bought it in massive numbers.
When it comes to brand thinking there are many exhaustive lists that detail every aspect of building a brand. In this blog all I would like to share are some thoughts on what I think are key considerations that go into developing a brand.
Develop a brand strategy
This, by definition, has to be a long-term plan and will be part of the overall marketing plan. As we have said in previous articles, a company’s marketing plan must tie into the business plan and be designed to meet the objectives. These plans might well have goals that will see a company structure change and build, likewise the brand strategy should understand this and cater for this so that it is capable of meeting the company objectives both now and in the foreseeable future.
Define your brand
Defining a brand can be harder than you might imagine as, in essence, you are trying to encapsulate every aspect of the business that directly connects to your customer needs, feelings and perception viewed with a competitive perspective. To this mix you should consider your company vision, mission, what your product does for your customers and the feelings they might already have for what you do. It can be aspirational too, in as much as setting the qualities you would like them to associate with you.
View your brand as a promise
A good brand tells your customers or those thinking about choosing you what to expect. It’s along the lines of that ancient phrase: ‘my word is my bond’. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver, don’t fail to live up to expectations or do things you are not good at if you want to protect your brand. (this seems obvious, but we all know how many companies fail in this regard.)
Don’t confuse your customers
Make your identity easy for customers to relate your brand to their expectations. So many brands seem to overcomplicate their offering as they try to appeal to broader demographs, chasing audiences and in so doing, confuse the customers.
So, are you an innovator, a reliable (even boring) deliverer of set standards, are your prices at a certain point, do you specialise?
When I think of John Lewis, IKEA, TK Maxx or Wagamama for example, I’m pretty clear on what they do/offer, and the service I will get through all aspects of any transactions. But, on the other hand, you could argue Tesco’s brand has suffered considerably over the past 10 years. It seemed to have taken its eye off the ball in terms of what it was offering customers. Yes you could get mobiles, insurance, buy from an Argos-like catalogue, and build up Tesco club points that seemed hard to figure out and difficult to redeem. It also guessed wrong by trying to build massive out of town shopping superstores and ignoring the change in customer habits with the rise of Lidl and Aldi (as they all did). It has, in my estimation, left many customers wondering just where their offer stands between the cut-price outlets and the high-end Waitrose and M&S food options.
Assimilate your brand.
Branding extends to every aspect of your business. Never more so than today.
Originally branding worked on a top-down model. The company clearly set out what the product was and what you could expect from it. Cereals like Kellogg’s cornflakes, for example, would have strong advertising and a colourful box, which carried its clear brand message on and perhaps some game or freebie for the user to further interact with. This model was very much a linear one with an almost direct communication between the brand and the user.
Not so today. In fact, it is almost the opposite. With social media and our ‘phone-centric’ worlds we choose who we receive branding messages from, and crucially, we can comment, reflect and give feedback and opinions not only the firm but to all our friends and followers. Therefore, it is crucial that every aspect of your business that interacts with customers is aligned fully with the brand. This could be how you answer your phones, what staff wear, the demeanour of sales staff, whether you have queue busters, a no quibble, easy return policy, well written emails, easy-to-use phone systems, clean vans….etc. The list can be almost limitless and only really constrained by what your company does. Just consider the list above for a second. We come into contact with companies every day who address these issues differently and because of that we make judgments, many of which we pass on. I recently ordered a new sofa. I was subsequently kept informed with its build status then invited to choose a date and time for delivery. They offered two-hour window slots. The day before the delivery I received a text reminder and on the day the driver called an hour in advance to confirm where he was and exactly when he would arrive. They carefully brought the sofa in, were good natured, helpful and professional. This company I would recommend and would use again. But there are many others that have left me taking whole days off and have delivered either the wrong product or a damaged one.
In closing, I would simply say that a list like this one should only be viewed as a collection of points I wanted to highlight. Branding is not a standalone tick-box job to be done once and then left to its own devices. It is a fundamental part of a business’ marketing plan and should be an ongoing concern and worry.
If you would like to talk to Echo Engage about your branding, or your marketing in general, we would be happy to do so. We offer 45min-1hr free consultation meetings, either at our Weston-super-Mare office or via Skype.
01934 411 246