All too often, when thinking about brand, businesses consider simply the logo and visual identity of the company, rather than take a wider view. Of course, these pieces of the jigsaw are important, but they are the tangible elements that make up a brand, rather than the brand itself. Truly successful brands are built around much more than just a logo, tagline or agreed colour palette and yet for many businesses we meet, this is exactly what their brand has become.
If it’s not my logo, what is it?
Your brand is actually the sum total of everything you do - your proposition and how it is delivered and communicated to your customers on an ongoing basis, the products you offer, how they work and the service you provide, including the way in which everyone within your organisation interacts with your customers on a daily basis, right down to their telephone manner. All of these things and more add up to the way in which a customer thinks and feels about your company and how successfully they believe you service their needs. Think of your brand in terms of a commitment, or promise to your customers rather than a collection of visuals: What are you committing to provide? How will you communicate and then deliver on that commitment? Over time, how will your commitment grow?
Once it’s done, it’s done …right?
For most businesses creating a brand identity that sums up exactly who they are, what they do and how and why they do it is a task undertaken at the start of their journey. Once complete, attention then turns elsewhere. However, it is vital that business owners and those that help them create their brands in the first place take the time to re-examine and re-evaluate the components of the brand regularly. What worked for you at the beginning, given the customer groups you were targeting, may not work for you two or three years down the line. Customers needs and wants change - in fact the customer groups first identified at the start of your journey may well change over time too. Brands have to strike a chord with the end customer to motivate them to take action to buy the product or use the service. Businesses that don’t pay attention to the changing requirements - and changing demographics - of their customers may well find brand loyalty a hard thing to cultivate.
Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, company brands are developed based on an individuals’ view, rather than considering what the brand is trying to do and who it is trying to attract. In these scenarios, it is always better to adapt the brand if it doesn’t epitomise everything that the business stands for, than soldier on with a brand that misses the mark. It is rare that there will be much equity established in a misplaced identity.
Consistent communication is key
When it comes to actually communicating the brand to both customers and prospects there is one vital rule - be consistent. Always use a consistent logo, in a consistent format. Always use colours consistently. For example, if purple is used to highlight an action that a customer/prospect can take on your website, then use purple to denote an action in other forms of communication too. Consistency breeds familiarity – make yourself instantly recognisable via consistent and clear brand visuals and messaging to avoid confusion. You have seconds to engage a customer and motivate them to take action; constantly changing the way you are asking customers and prospects to access information is time consuming and confusing from their perspective and they may ultimately decide to go elsewhere because of it.
Knowing when to stop
Another common stumbling block occurs in the creation of multiple, separate brands and identities for different parts of a proposition - for example for a specific product or a service in a particular industry sector. This ‘house of brands’ approach is more common within the FMCG sector and is very successfully delivered by organisations such as Proctor & Gamble, who effectively run each brand as a separate business, each with it’s own unique and targeted identity and importantly, with the independent budgets to support it.
Adopting this approach as an SME is often extremely challenging, particularly if the necessary budget to support the building of awareness and consideration for two or more brands, rather than one, just isn’t available. In this situation a ‘house of brands’ approach can lead to confusion which will ultimately result in a dilution of brand equity in all areas rather than success. In this scenario it is again better to fix it rather than allow the problem to perpetuate. A more successful and manageable strategy here could be to create strength through a ‘branded house’ approach – think Virgin. When deciding to take action though, it is important to understand the equity established in each brand before deciding which one to stick with. We have experience of situations where the product brand has become more synonymous with the business and has a more positive impact on customers than the overall business brand. In these cases careful consideration on which brand to retain are crucial.
Whichever route you choose, be it a complete re-brand or the development of an existing brand, is vital to have a robust plan in place for the roll out of that brand. It is also imperative that you commit to it and above all are consistent in the way in which you communicate it. If you don’t believe in it yourself, how can you expect anyone else to?