A company’s brand will become its defining image, permeating through all internal and customer-facing aspects of its business and holding the power to significantly impact its success. For this reason, creating and implementing a compelling, consistent brand strategy can be among the most daunting challenges growing businesses face.
The first step to approaching brand identity and strategy is to understand the following:
What is a brand, and why is it important?
A brand is a company’s identity which extends to all its interactions and operations in the long-term. Think of this as the way in which customers, clients, suppliers, partners, associates, employees and audience will view a business, feel about its products or services, and emotionally respond to its principles.
There are many ways to create and convey a brand identity which will support your business’ success. Done correctly, this can influence clients to be loyal to you and attract additional customers by extension, reinforcing your place in the market. It can impress your online audience and thus extend your market reach further. Employees can be influenced to work dedicatedly towards your joint goals, and partners to devote themselves to long-term cooperation and support of your business’s profitability. Not only will such a response from relevant stakeholders impact the sales of your business and add significantly to its growth potential, but it will also increase its longevity.
This being said, it becomes clear why branding has such power, and why a robust strategy is required.
So, how do you create a brand strategy?
Define your vision and values.
What are the objectives of your business? Do you aim to solve a particular set of problems, make consumers’ lives better, or simplify complex processes? Your business’s true purpose should be rooted in its value-add benefit to clients or consumers - rather than a desire to sell - and this should ultimately comprise the core of your brand strategy. According to LinkedIn, 85% of purpose-driven companies show consistent business growth, indicating just how impactful this approach is on achieving success.
Add a personal touch.
Consumers' tendency to make decisions based on emotion has been well-documented. Highlighting a personal approach within your branding will allow customers to more easily connect with your business and add to the recognition status of your brand, allowing you to both gain attention and drive loyalty.
Do this by focusing on emotional triggers in your visual and written communications, marketing strategy and advertisement efforts. This can include connecting with customers on concepts such as home, love, family, aspirations, needs and desires. Think of brand giants such a Nike and Apple as good examples with significant success in this area. Clearly identifying your target audience will support your selection of the most effective triggers for your business.
To convey your brand’s image effectively, you must remain consistent in its implementation and adoption within your internal company culture and throughout all touch points with consumers. From online advertising to in-store interactions, complaints and customer support, to order and delivery, there are many bases to cover here.
If done well, the repetition of imagery and messaging will safeguard your company’s identity, and reiterate your core objectives over time. Your objective is to support your business in becoming memorable and recognisable both as a product/service provider and as an employer through consistency.
Launch your brand from the inside out.
Far from being exclusively externally consumed, your brand’s principles must be understood, accepted and admired from the inside, with its strategy adopted by all employees. Not only will this authenticate your brand as a whole, but empower employees to deliver services and support to customers with the consistency required.
Your company’s main objectives will be the most significant driver of employee engagement and loyalty by inspiring team members to be driven by your purpose. LinkedIn notes that 73% of purpose-driven people are satisfied with their jobs, leading to higher workforce productivity and more positive business outcomes. In addition, employees motivated by their company’s purpose are 47% more likely to be promoters of their employers.
Remember: communication is key.
Now that you have constructed the basis of your brand strategy, understanding how to effectively articulate it is paramount. From creating awareness to driving demand generation, initiating lead generation and retaining customer loyalty, you will be required to adopt various tactics to ensure your brand messages are being delivered and consumed by your target audience.
Visual design will take centre stage as you begin to develop your imagery, cultivating an aesthetic that represents your brand’s pillars. Use your logo, colour scheme and style guide to replicate your company’s look and feel throughout your digital presence - across your website, landing pages, social media accounts and more.
Next, verbal branding should be used to covey the right messaging to your audience. Choosing the correct vocabulary will reinforce the central vision of your company, forming a robust verbal identity.
This is where a strong marketing strategy will come into play, utilizing communication strategies to run effective campaigns that will drive both awareness and sales.
Reward customer loyalty.
A loyalty programme is an excellent addition to a comprehensive brand strategy. While making your brand attractive and emotionally appealing to customers is important throughout your business’s journey, ensuring the retention of customers already captured should not be overlooked. This clientele ultimately holds the key to your long-term success and further business development.
Reward customers for repeated purchases, referring additional clients or following specific calls to action either online or in-store. Ensure that these rewards are delivered in a seamless manner, enhance customer experience, boost satisfaction and benefit external brand perception.
Your loyalty scheme should incorporate the same purpose as your brand’s core and offer value while keeping its visual branding and communication consistent with your already-established identity.
Introduce brand advocacy to your employees and customers.
Advocacy is the promotion of a brand and its message by internal or external stakeholders to their network of contacts. Advocacy supports a company’s growth and dramatically influences its perception to potential customers. Employees, management and consumers can all be brand ambassadors, utilising online tools to effectively share the necessary messaging in today’s digitally connected world.
This ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing is incredibly valuable in supporting your corporate communication and marketing strategy. Reports show that the opinion of consumers or employees regarding a brand are considered more authentic and reliable than communications from the brand directly. For instance, an average employee advocate is 2x more trusted than a company CEO, while just 33% of consumers trust brands compared to 90% trusting recommendations from people they know, according to research from Smarp.
To inspire advocacy among your employees, set up an internal initiative to allow them to share content related to your brand online across social media networks. You can even incentivise your workforce by adding gamification elements to this programme and rewarding the most active or most effective advocates.
Similarly, existing and loyal customers can be incentivised to share testimonials, opinions and content around your brand either via a loyalty scheme feature, or marketing promotions and competitions. This may take less persuasion than you think, as 41% of consumers that trust a company will share positive opinions of that company online, the Edelman Trust Barometer reports.
Continue to evaluate and adapt your strategy.
Yes, consistency is important to the ongoing success of a brand’s strategy. However, don’t let this stand in the way of managing necessary change. With international and local markets constantly evolving, adaptations to your image and implementation strategy will be both inevitable and essential to continue driving growth and competitive displacement in a developing landscape.
Start by monitoring industry trends. Watch what your competitors are doing to take advantage of these, and evaluate whether your current strategy is adequately capturing the new opportunities created by recent changes. Stay up to date on new tools, platforms and processes which could support your ongoing activities or optimize their effectiveness. Tailor your messaging to meet customers’ evolving needs and meeting changing expectations.
With such a significant task at hand, take your time to define your brand, its purpose, and build a comprehensive brand strategy around this. Compiling and implementing your company’s imagery and messaging will require careful consideration and ongoing commitment, with additional support needed from both customers and employees. Remember that this process will heavily impact your business moving forward, so invest the time in consistently monitoring its effectiveness, your brand’s external perception and evaluating potential development opportunities.