If you’re a company trying to grow and succeed in the age of Amazon, social media, and massively connected world we live in, great branding is incredibly important.
Today’s consumers have hundreds of options to choose from, and more information on their hands than ever. Regardless of what you’re selling, chances are there might be a similar product out there.
But people don’t buy Adidas because they think they can’t get a set of track pants anywhere else. They buy Adidas because they love the brand, love wearing the brand, and associate the brand with quality and style. Increasingly, customers feel tied to the brands they use and their social values as well, adding another dimension to the business-consumer relationship.
If you’re looking to retain a loyal following, reach new customers, and establish an identity for your brand, here are five things to focus on to improve your branding and become a more successful business.
- Know Yourself, Know Your Audience
The first thing to focus on when improving your branding is what your brand is. Make a realistic assessment of what your company’s values are: are you high tech? Sleek, sophisticated? Fun and down to earth?
It’s often tempting to try to be too many things at once, so make sure to ask multiple people involved with your brand for their opinion on brand identity. Once you’ve established a set of core values and an identity, check to see if anything doesn’t fit into that throughline. Having a focused brand philosophy will not only make your branding more effective and believable, it will aid you in making decisions in the future about where your brand is headed and how it can best get there.
After really getting to know yourself as a brand and clearly defining a set of values, it’s time to focus on who you’re selling to. By learning more about your target audience of consumers, ever easier in the days of analytics and big data, you can create content and branding that will appeal to the people you’re trying to reach.
Take Wendy’s. Targeting mid-millennials and younger folks, and knowing that they reside on Twitter more prominently than others, Wendy’s has a sassy social media presence that appeals to that generation and how they interact. Learn from that example and behave in a way that makes sense for who you’re talking to.
- Invest in Good Design
This one’s simple: a one-time investment really pays off. Instead of patching a hole in your ship with scrappy duct tape while every hour it springs a new leak, it’s a much better move to hire a professional and board the hole shut. This is essentially how good branding works.
Yes, good graphic/sound/etc designers are expensive, but their work can stay with you and benefit you forever. Good design from an early stage helps define you and make your brand recognizable. As mentioned before, consumers might scroll past twenty similar products before picking one they like. By having a logo and set of design features that is striking, clean, and attractive, it’s more likely that you’ll be chosen at first glance.
Designers are also extremely adept at adapting your logo and branding across products, so if you launch a new spinoff line or venture into new territory, a good designer can make it recognizable to everyone that that’s still you. Having good designers on board can also help you avoid rebranding gaffes and backlash. Given the importance of consistency and brand recognition, investing in good design needs to be at the top of your to-do list.
- Remember: Everything is Branding
As every politician who has failed to keep their work and personal life apart can tell you, there’s no such thing as a meaningless statement or action. The same goes for brands. No interaction you have with a customer, regardless how small or how seemingly private, should be inconsistent with your brand. No social media post or even page like is incidental.
Say that an irritated customer reaches out directly to you in your Facebook inbox. From that point on, everything in that interaction can affect your branding. Respond too slowly, and you may develop a reputation for not caring about your customers. Respond quickly, and your brand becomes a good responder. Say something too brash, and you may have a screenshot circling the internet the next day along with a comment about how rude your brand is.
This is not to say that you need to be terrified and walking on eggshells every time you do anything. Rather, make sure to recognize and respect your core identity and values as a brand and stick to those. If you’re a sleek, high-tech company that prides itself on class and elegance, reflect that in your response. If you’re down-to-earth and humorous, you can respond more colloquially and maintain that same vibe.
- Keep It Human
Especially in an age where brick-and-mortar stores are going out of fashion and so much work is done via digital presence, the human touch remains key. There are two aspects to this: being human as a brand and utilizing real people to further your branding.
Being human as a brand may sound like a strange concept, but it’s simple. Instead of focusing exclusively on a product or service you’re trying to sell, focus on how that product affects people.
Increasing consumer power has led to a base of customers that expect to be respected and know that they can vote with their money. While in the past it may have been possible to sell a product and rely on people needing it, the slew of options nowadays means that companies have to focus on people. This means advertising that reflects how your product can help them, and how people are engaging and interacting with what you’re providing.
Make sure to use photos in your media that involve real people using and engaging with your brand, and talk directly to consumers. No one wants to feel that the brand they know and love is just a multi-million profit enterprise.
A perfect way to utilize real people for branding and organic growth is via social media and brand ambassadors. By partnering with social media influencers or hiring charismatic and motivated individuals to represent your brand at in-person events, other people will see your brand in a positive light because of the endorsement of people they look up to and like. Hiring brand ambassadors or promo models is fairly simple in the age of the internet and can have a huge payoff from a pretty small investment.
In an age of a million choices and a battle for consumer attention, improving your branding is essential for any business. Good branding can outweigh the size of an advertising budget, the intrinsic quality of a product, and can hold customer loyalty in the long term.
As a brand, make sure to establish a set of values and a clear identity that you can build your branding around. Know who your audience is, and define a message and personality that will suit your relationship to that audience.
By bringing on good designers and branding experts early, you can create a recognizable set of visual and other branding cues that will be instantly recognizable and coherent with your core identity. Making sure every action and interaction your brand engages in is in line with its branding will further tie together your image, and will make people know what to expect. Lastly, by relying on the human touch and becoming a people-centric business, you can utilize the power of real people to make yourself heard.
Good branding may take a lot of work, but a few definitive steps can change everything for the better in the long term.