A Brand Is Everything To A Business…
and without it, a business is simply just another business without a means of differentiating itself from others like it. Your brand is your gateway into the world, more specifically to your customers, and is how you express who you are and what you do as a company. It not only communicates your values, your integrity and your mission, but it is also vital in forming real long-lasting relationships with your customers. We’ll dive into what impact branding is and how you can use it to increase brand loyalty and awareness.
On the flip side of the equation, bad branding can mean bad business or no business at all. In other words, your branding efforts will ultimately determine how people will view your business and whether or not they will support it.
How will people view you? Positively or negatively?
Will the way your business communicates encourage others to engage with you?
Will people want to share the experience you created with their friends and family?
What sorts of remarks will they make and share with others about their experience with you?
Will their experience with you foster trust and have them coming back for more?
Impact Branding, What Is It?
Impact branding is exactly as it sounds. Branding initiatives that have an impact on your business. These types of branding initiatives often have the greatest effect on a brand and how it is being perceived in the world. Executing impact branding is extremely important to strengthen your brand’s overall reputation and equity.
Think of it like this. Your brand is not what YOU say it is; it is what your customers say it is. That means establishing a strong and sought after reputation is more important than anyone once thought. Inevitably, your reputation will determine how potential customers decide to perceive you, interact with you, support you, and if they will choose to do business with you.
That is why your primary goal as a personal brand or a business is and should always be to humanize yourself and establish a connection. When it comes to humanizing your brand, I like to use a method called “Empathetic Marketing,” whereby I place myself in my customer’s shoes and develop brand material that engages them from where they are, what they need and how they feel today (there will be another article on this topic – stay tuned!).
Your secondary goal should be to surpass any expectations your customers have so that your reputation can begin to precede you. Always aim to go above and beyond.
Branding, in many minds, is the external appearance of a company such as their logo, company colours, packaging etc. Though all of those fall within branding, the overall brand includes so much more than that.
The Three Brands
I like to break brands down into three categories so to get a better sense of a brand’s strength and positioning.
When looking at a brand we can break things down into Online Branding, Offline Branding, and Tangible Branding.
Online branding includes your business’ website, social media presence, email marketing, online customer service and support and any digital environments or experiences a business creates for their end-users.
Offline branding includes your business’ physical location and how you present it, indoor/outdoor signage, customer service experience and any physical in-person experience that you provided to your customers.
Tangible branding elements are things people can touch or see and includes your logo, business cards, brochures, letterheads, T-shirts, vehicle signage etc.
In many instances, brands tend to struggle with one or more of the subcategories mentioned above. The good news is that any business can position itself for impact branding. The bad news is that it takes strategic planning, a strong framework and continuous effort to get it to truly work.
Where do branding efforts usually go wrong?
Here’s a list of 7 things to consider.
Poorly designed logos can send the wrong message to your customers. If your logo is too complex, confusing or does not seem to represent your business and the products or services you provide, you will only end up turning your potential customers off.
When releasing advertising material consider the messages you are putting out into the world. Of course, when advertising the goal is always to attract more business, but the wrong message can cause more harm to your brand than one would think. Everything from the image being used, to the colours, to the words and tone of voice must be taken into consideration. 46% of a brand’s image comes from what they say, and how they say it. (Source)
Remember this quote:
It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently ~ Warren Buffett
Targeting The Wrong Audience
You have a product or service and are now looking to put yourself in front of potential customers. In most cases, this is where businesses tend to go wrong because their brand message isn’t being aimed at the right audiences. What happens here is businesses will have a product or service that will serve a specific type of customer but then their messaging and design don’t align with the audience they are after. Don’t believe me? 80% of consumers don’t think brands actually understand them as a person. (Source)
In this world, brands and branding campaigns are everywhere. Business is highly competitive regardless of the industry you are in and brand messages are targeting people left right and center. Since we as people are constantly being bombarded with texts, push notifications, advertising and branding campaigns we have developed a shorter attention span over the years. Seriously, our attention spans have decreased so much that a goldfish can pay attention longer than the average human (Source). Another stat to consider is that there will be 5-7 brand interactions before a consumer remembers a brand. (Source)
The stakes are high and the competition is fierce. Once you have managed to get your brand in front of the right people you must do everything in your power to keep your customers eyes on you.
Because there is another person or another business fighting to get customers too and they are working just as hard or maybe even harder to take those customers away from you.
Ignoring social media
Considering that each social media platform is FREE, any business not leveraging social media right now is leaving a ton of branding, relationship building, and sales opportunities on the table. Sure, social media can seem like this big confusing or daunting thing. In reality, it is straight forward once you have it figured out. Your audience expects that you will deliver content that is relevant to your business and their current pain point or desire regularly. Your mission? Consistently post content that matters to your audience (not to your business) and engage with them with every post. 45% of people will unfollow a brand if they do too much self-promotion. (Source) BUT 94% of consumers will be loyal to companies that are transparent with their practices. (Source)
Not being consistent across all channels (Online / Offline / Tangible)
When you choose to invest in your brand, you are choosing to invest in your business long-term. As mentioned previously, most businesses fall short in one or more of the branding subcategories and though those shortcomings can be fixed, few tend to make the effort to improve. The thing to consider is this… consistent branding across all channels increases revenue by 23% (Source). What would that additional revenue mean for your business?
Ignoring Local Social Media Branding Opportunities (Tying back into #5 and #6)
This one is important for large corporations and franchises to consider. In most instances, you will see corporate brands leaving franchisees to fend for themselves when it comes to social media as a whole. Generally, this will lead to one of two issues. The first issue is that most franchisees will ignore their social media entirely due to not knowing how it works, how to create content or what to share. This in turn leaves online local branding initiatives to a minimum for franchisees that are heavily dependent on establishing strong ties to their local communities.
The second and also very common issue is that franchisees begin to try and use their social media to engage with their local communities which then begins to create an inconsistent brand for the overall corporation. Franchisees are the face of the corporation and are the drivers for corporate growth and revenue. Allowing a corporate brand to embody a personal touch from those who invested in the corporation as a whole would allow for stronger ties to the communities you both serve.
The side effects of ignoring your brand
Ignoring your brand or participating in bad branding can have a wide array of negative side effects. The most common are:
Sending The Wrong Message:
This is one mistake many brands make in one form or another due to the inconsistencies they create when shifting between their online branding and offline branding. Inconsistencies within a brand can give your consumers the impression or send the wrong message. Your customers will begin to think that you either don’t care about what they need or that you simply don’t understand them.
When it comes to building trust between your company and your consumer, it is established at an emotional level. Failing to recognize that personal connections are created through meaningful and relevant content can lead to a loss of trust.
There are many examples of bad branding, but in this particular case, I’ll highlight one of the most commonly overlooked mistakes. The first is poor grammar and typos, which in many minds isn’t that big of a deal. If you don’t take the time to review your grammar you can leave your audience with the idea that you are careless. This then leads me to my next question… If you don’t care about your brand, then why should your customers?
Quality of Branding is perceived to reflect the Quality Of Product/Service:
Inconsistent branding or missing the mark of a company’s online/offline branding can lead to the perception that your products or services are not of the highest quality. Imagine this scenario as an example: You are a Realtor looking to attract more clients. You have a beautifully designed website that represents you well and insists that you know what you are doing. However, when it comes time to follow-up with your clients or address their questions and concerns via email or text you happen to drop the ball. What message is do you think is being conveyed to your prospective clients?
How do you create Brand Synergy across all channels?
Take the time to consider each and every variable that plays a role in how your brand is perceived. Ask important questions such as: How is my brand considered in the minds of my customers? Does my audience consume my brand more digitally or physically? Then, as necessary, make the adjustments where needed.
Here’s a simple framework to follow:
- Break your brand down into the three subcategories mentioned above. For each subcategory create a branding guideline that you would like your business to follow. This would include things like personality, tone messaging, and overall customer experience.
- Review all online, offline and tangible branding assets to ensure that they meet your newly established branding guidelines.
- Develop a system for each subcategory that your business can follow. Then use that same system to review each piece of material before it is released.
- Automate as many of the tasks as possible so that you can focus on delivering superior quality service/products.
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