February 4, 2016
Basic Principles of Branding & Strategy
In this, the first issue of a seven-part campaign, we discuss the foundation for successful digital marketing – branding.
Why Branding Matters
When it comes to brand building, many organizations make the mistake of shooting in the dark without a clear, unified brand message and strategy. Developing a proper brand identity and voice, then applying it with consistency will ultimately make all of your marketing communication endeavors more effective, resulting in an impressive ROI over time.
While it is easy to get hung up on favorite colors and content tone, a successful brand transcends the decoration to convey a deeper purpose that resonates with an audience. Similar to if you were building a house, you’d wisely concentrate on the foundation and layout before concerning yourself with appliances and countertops.
Gaining clients and making money might be your company’s internal objective, but your purpose should emphasize a willingness to achieve more than just profitability. For example, IKEA’s vision isn’t just to sell furniture, but rather to “create a better everyday life.” This approach is appealing to potential customers, as it demonstrates their commitment to providing value beyond the point of sale.
Ultimately, a well-defined brand strategy with a concise message cannot be truly effective without consistency. Marketing tactics are bolstered through a cohesive brand language but can fall flat easily when the style or tone is scattered. At the end of the day, consistency contributes to brand recognition, which fuels customer loyalty.
Building a brand is no easy task and can feel a bit like climbing Mt. Everest. The key is to take it one step at a time:
Phase 1: Research & Audit
An in-depth and strategic research and audit process lay the groundwork for all future branding efforts. To gain a historical perspective and a better understanding of your brand equity, you should begin by analyzing all of your current marketing materials including your mission statement, vision, value proposition, organization chart, business plan, marketing plan, annual reports, existing market research, employee surveys, CEO speeches, press releases, news stories, brochures, current website and more. In addition, interviews should be conducted with both internal staff and external customers. During this phase, it’s also important to review and analyze your competitors’ brands as well.
Phase 2: Define Your Brand
You can begin to establish your brand architecture by deciding what exactly you want to brand. Do you want to brand your company as a whole? Or perhaps you want to brand individual products/services within your company. Next, you need to determine the singular core purpose of your brand – your Brand Promise. For a more detailed description of the brand, you need to research your brand drivers. Simply put, brand drivers are a list of benefits that consumers receive by using your product/service. To wrap up this phase, establish a brand persona. If your brand was a person, what traits would they have? Sincerity? Excitement? Sophistication? Assigning human traits to your brand can increase customer loyalty and result in increased brand equity over time.
Phase 3: Position Your Brand
Now, it’s time to position your brand within the mind of the consumer. It’s important to remember that your brand may mean different things to different people. It’s essential to segment your target market into small groups and establish value propositions for each group.
Phase 4: Express Your Brand
Finally, all the hard work can begin to pay off and your brand can begin to take shape in the form of look and feel. During this phase, it’s common to establish a name, logo, typography, color palette, imagery, and tone of voice.
Phase 5: Build Awareness
Your branding efforts will be for naught if nobody knows or understands your new brand. All of your research, positioning statements and visual assets should be combined into one comprehensive, cohesive Brand Book (commonly referred to as a Style Guide). When done properly this book will ensure consistency, both internally and externally. Don’t overlook the importance of consistency. Learn it. Live it.
Phase 6: Measure Your Brand
Building your brand takes significant time, research and resources. Once your brand is established, you can’t just let go and forget it. A brand needs to be monitored and measured on a consistent basis. Measuring internal and external performance will include speaking with both your staff and customers. Ask your team if they understand the target audience, customer insights, and brand drivers. Ask your customers if they recognize your logo, know what your brand stands for and hold a sense of loyalty to your brand.
It’s no surprise that emotion is most often the driving force behind a customer’s decision to give you their business, and when the right emotional chord is struck the groundwork for a relationship is laid. An effective brand strategy should consider all the above parts and dictate the desired experience through all touch points consistently and clearly. When done right, a solid brand strategy will fuel all future marketing efforts, boost customer loyalty and provide a significant return on investment over time.
What Else Goes Into The Recipe For Successful Digital Marketing?
Check out step 2 of our Seven Steps to Digital Marketing Success series, covering Website Design & Development.