Company Branding – Why Your Identity is Critical
Whether you know it or not, if you have a business and have interacted with clients or customers in any capacity, then you already have a brand identity. It might not be a very good one or a very effective one, but a brand identity nonetheless. What it boils down to is that your brand identity is what your customers think about you – the impressions they have when hearing or seeing your name. So, how do you know if yours is effective or “good”? A good brand encourages customer loyalty, is built over time and requires thought, strategy and most importantly, consistency.
What is Brand Consistency?
Brand consistency encourages customer loyalty. People will stick with something (or someone) if it’s working for them. With the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, people can become very accustomed to your particular brand and they will likely show a great deal of loyalty to you and to your company. Your customers will feel good about your business if your brand is appealing to them, and that encourages a sense of trust, so it’s important to build it into your marketing framework and deliver on it regularly.
How Branding Contributes to Your Success
So how does an effective branding strategy contribute to the overall success of your business? To answer that question we look at what happens if it stops working. When something is working really well, you almost don’t even notice that it’s there. You simply take for granted that it will be readily available and it will always just work like it’s supposed to. On the flip side of that, when something doesn’t work, doesn’t fit, or just breaks down in general, everyone feels it in a really big way. It can even spark downright outrage in the most extreme scenarios. The same rule applies to your brand, if it’s working well, it runs like a well oiled machine. If it starts to break down, you’ll know it in a really big hurry. You can cause yourself and your team a lot of long-term problems simply by not paying attention to brand consistency.
How Can You Build an Effective Brand?
If you haven’t established a brand for your product or service yet, take a moment to do a little research on various similar products or services out there and how they are conveyed to their potential customers. Make a list of what style of marketing resonates with you and why. Put yourself in the shoes of your potential customers and ask yourself if the way these products or services are conveyed would spark interest from you. This list will help you determine your “Target Market”. Once you have determined who your target clientele will be, you can start to research their general likes and dislikes. The more you know and understand your target market, the easier your brand building will become.
When building your logo, create a look and feel that will reflect the dynamics and values of your target market. The more that your potential clients can identify with your marketing, the more effective your branding will be.
The first step in brand building is defining what your brand actually is. This step is critical, as it ultimately determines what your brand truly stands for and how you are going to convey it. When defining your brand, you should create a checklist of its core strengths. Look at the skills and expertise that you possess especially those which stand out. You also need to establish what your brand stands for and what is important for you (your brand values). Your values should in one way or another demonstrate that you are somehow contributing to environmental, social, and/or economic well-being of your customers.
Please note, that none of this will happen overnight, remember to build it up slowly. Jumping in too quickly with a new brand or advertising campaign is typically a recipe for disaster. Going too fast can often be perceived as pushy or arrogant and can repel more potential customers than it will attract. Ease into it by doing some test marketing. Watch what happens and how people react to it. If some parts of it seem to be working, refine and hone that part of it. If something is clearly not working, ditch it. Quickly.
Testing your new look and feel with a test group is also a great way to see where you’re on target and where you’re not. Gather up the data to see if your brand appeals to your target market like you had hoped. If it does not, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Trust me, you would much rather re-work your brand in the beginning of the project than have an ineffective and costly advertising campaign that has had no impact, or worse, has actually repelled your potential customers.
Examples of Effective Branding:
- Prospects and customers know exactly what you will deliver. It’s easy to begin conversations with new prospects because they quickly understand or already know what you stand for.
- You gain new customers quickly and easily because your prospects’ experience with you supports everything your brand advertises.
- You can charge a higher price than your competitors because your market knows why you’re the better choice and they are happy to pay for it.
Examples of Branding that is Neither Effective nor Ineffective:
- Your customers may not have a consistent view or impression of your product, services and/or company, but in general , you think it’s positive.
- You haven’t thought a lot about branding because it has never really seemed important, but you admit that you could do a better job of communicating consistently with your customers, you’re just not sure how.
- You’re not really helping your business, but you’re not necessarily hurting it either.
Examples of Ineffective Branding:
- There is no brand strategy and it clearly shows. It’s more difficult to communicate with potential customers and convince them to purchase products or services from you.
- Your customers don’t have any impression of your product/service or why it’s better.
- What you do, what you say and the way you say it may by contradicting each other and confusing your customers in the process.
- Your competitors typically have an easier time acquiring new customers.
Common Marketing Mistakes
Many companies struggle with the ability to create and maintain a consistent and effective brand when there is little or no branding guidelines or attention to the overall consistency. There is a skill and an art form to it that not many businesses seem to get right. As far as consistency goes, the most important factors are the visual ones – ensuring the same font, colours, design etc are used in terms of the logo and general branding. This can cause customers to doubt your efficiency and they can start to perceive your business as being “Wishy-Washy”. One way of controlling this is to develop a set of brand guidelines. These guidelines don’t have to be extensive – just simply the outline of which fonts, colours, designs are in-line with your company brand.
Brand consistency is a vital part in making your brand successful. A lot of time, effort and attention is put into creating a brand and it is just as important that this brand is protected in terms of consistency. Despite how busy and hectic your schedule can become, it is critically important that a certain amount of time is set aside regularly to nurture the brand you have created and built. Develop a set of brand guidelines that can be used across your brand by both employees and service providers (Sign Makers, Printers, etc). Overall, brand consistency is important for;
- Increasing customer recognition
- Differentiating you from your competitors
- Reinforcing your identity
- Encouraging trust and loyalty from customers
Does This Mean I Can Never Change My Logo?
Not at all! In fact, a refresh can do a world of good for your overall branding. A refresh can help your brand to stay current. Right now you’re probably asking yourself, “but how can I keep my branding consistent if I change my logo?” The answer is simple, your logo by itself is not your branding, your overall company appearance is your branding. By maintaining certain elements, colors, fonts and placements you can change your logo but still maintain your brand.
If you look at the evolution of large corporate logos across the years, you will see that while their logo has changed numerous times, each and every version is similar enough that you always recognize the overall brand. The key is to keep the changes subtle enough that the previous logo is still recognizable but it has changed enough to refresh the look.
A great example is the Pepsi logo shown in the image above. If you compare the very first logo to the latest version, they are completely different and seemingly unrelated. But, if you focus on the variations from one to the next all the way up the line, you will see how each one incorporates just enough of the previous version to maintain the familiarity of the brand so as not to confuse or repel customers.
In short, take small steps, check the reaction, take another small step, check the reaction, repeat as necessary.
~ Candace Wieler | Candace is MAC5’s Sr. Graphic Designer handling client logos, branding & Graphic Design needs and her passion lies in the ability to create something extraordinary out of almost nothing. She can be contacted via Email