I would firstly like to apologise for using the festive C word in August, and for borrowing the headline adopted as a strap line by a well-known animal charity…
Apologies over with, my point in using the headline is to highlight changing attitudes in branding, what a brand really means for a business and how businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of a strong brand presence.
When we talk about a business, too often the word ‘brand’ is associated solely to the logo that appears at the top of a website, letterhead or on a business card. Whilst this is a vital element in recognising a brand, it forms just one piece of the jigsaw. There are many other parts that fit together to create the whole picture.
In my experience, marketers will talk to business owners about brand cohesion, brand values, brand representation (or any other version of them), however, this marketing jargon only adds confusion and even the most seasoned of business owners can be left looking blankly at the marketer when the jargon starts to spill forward!
Understanding the terms used around ‘brand’ and ‘branding’, and the power that a strong brand carries, is essential to the success of every business. Simplifying marketing language and jargon is something I try to do with all clients, although I am guilty of being a jargon creator occasionally, sometimes it’s unavoidable…
Inside of the M25, in the large marketing and advertising agency arena, the language gets even more complex. Outside, in the world of SMEs and businesses not familiar with typical large agency buzzwords, a full understanding of what we can do to appreciate the true meaning of a strong brand, and what it can do for our businesses is what’s needed and in reality, it comes down to being able to put real meaning behind these terms.
A simple statement I make when explaining the difference between companies that build brands and those that don’t focus on their brand so much is… A strong brand means an automatic entry on the tender list, the others have to send an application! One focuses on reputation and lead generation, the other just focuses on the latter.
To understand the strengths of building a brand is probably best explained by demonstrating where businesses fail or fall over. Here are some varied examples I have experienced where businesses miss an opportunity to build their brand:
- Brand Presence – or put another way, lack of marketing. Yes, far too many businesses consider marketing a luxury rather than a necessity. If you don’t have your brand on display, no one will know you exist!
- Brand Assets – Thinking you have a great website and lots of nice useful marketing collateral and that is all you need. You cannot market your business properly or build a brand without the necessary assets.
- Brand Cohesion – Lack of cohesion with the design of marketing collateral misses the opportunity to build strong brands.
- Brand Loyalty – Not giving an abundance of reasons for clients or customers to keep coming back to you means you’re missing an opportunity to up sell or cross-sell and for those customers to recommend you!
- Brand Consistency – Inconsistency of marketing activity loses the brand recognition gained. You simply cannot switch marketing off and on, as I guarantee you will be losing opportunities to influence your market place if you are out of sight continually.
- Brand Confidence – Lack of confidence is hugely detrimental to a brand. A successful brand is always confident and assured around its business activities.
- Brand Reputation – An interesting one – not building the reputation of key people as part of the brand.
- Brand Voice – With the social revolution, not creating a tone of voice for the company and how it communicates with customers online.
- Brand Focus – Being too scatter gun with your marketing, and not focusing on targeting your perfect customer.
- Not leveraging past customer success stories as part of the process to influence others. I am now refusing to add any more jargon…
- Not monitoring competition, but worrying about what they are up to anyway. It’s about having the competition hanging onto your shirt tails, not worrying about what they are doing which goes hand in hand with brand confidence.
- Not leveraging industry peers with reputations who will actively promote your brand – sometimes unknowingly
- Too much talking about yourself, rather than communicating your experience empathetically. Don’t say you are great, prove it!
- Not establishing a set of brand guidelines for your business, so anything that represents you as a company could be inconsistent and potentially detrimental to your success. Or could be simply put, not policing your brand’s usage.
- Not scaling your marketing activity and relying on the same old methods and sources, while the methods and places to deliver continually evolve around you. Are you still placing that advertisement in the same old publication and getting the same old results?
If you haven’t worked it out yet, put simply… building a brand is positioning a company to be hugely successful within its marketing place by building a desirable reputation around you and your goods and services. It is about optimizing absolutely everything you do, but sticking to your brand guidelines rigidly in the process. It is about leveraging opportunities through monitoring and understanding your marketing potential. But, one key aspect of building a brand is consistency. Be consistent with your activity, delivery, voice, identity and continually look to understand how you gain business. Continually monitor results, but don’t just look at results as being purely lead generation. Results in branding is about reach, and how many get to see the good things you are doing as a business. The bi-product of reach and appreciation of your activity and building that reputation to become the automatic entry onto the tender list, while the rest wait at the tradesman’s entrance.
People and businesses will always buy from other successful people and businesses. It is a human trait, as it defines that all important word, trust. Trust is at the forefront of every successful brand. It is very difficult for someone who trusts you and your brand to go elsewhere, and that is something that definitely hasn’t changed in marketing!
The biggest difference between companies that consider branding as an essential, and those that don’t? Turnover, profit, growth and potential market leadership. With thirty years in marketing, I find this outcome of building a brand as clear as day and night!
To talk to the team about bringing your brand together and building your brand, call us today.