Brand management can seem harder than it actually is because so much of what you hear sounds like this: “Mumbo blah psychographic micro-culture blah-nalysis.” You can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to hear words like those from marketing consultants. I know people who have. And if you’re a huge corporation that can afford to track complex target data, bully for you. Fascinating stuff. But also, it makes branding sound difficult, almost mystical.
Marketing doesn’t have to be quantum computed to work really well. If you’re a successful, 21st-century business owner in Kansas, effective branding isn’t difficult at all compared to what you’ve already built.
For one thing, if you’re providing great products/services for customers, most of the branding job is already done. All you have to do is showcase your best qualities in a consistent manner where potential customers will see them. Let’s take those thoughts one at a time …
A brand is consistent
The single most important step is to make sure your brand always looks the same, no matter where people find it. Don’t keep an old logo on your invoices when a new one is used everywhere else. Make sure your business cards, literature, vehicle graphics, apparel, website—everything—is consistent in terms of colors, text fonts and logos.
This creates what marketers like to call a “peg” in the minds of consumers. When I see your logo on the street, on television, on Facebook, etc., and it always looks the same, your company begins to feel “everywhere” to me. People are very visual (as opposed to text-oriented), and your logo is the beginning of your brand. Consumers will hang new information about you on this mental peg. If you have a powerful slogan (like “Just Do It” or “Because You’re Worth It”), this, too becomes part of the peg.
Does a brand need a slogan?
Not always. A brand needs to be instantly understandable, and sometimes a slogan can help with this. If your company name is, for example, Wiesen Roofing, a distinctive logo is often sufficient to build a brand on. But if you run a holistic food market called Inner Limits, a slogan can add both explanation and a sense of vision to your brand. Something like “Foods for the Whole Person” might work in this example. Your logo should also provide plenty of graphic clues about what your company does.
It isn’t rocket surgery
So there you go; you have a logo and maybe a slogan, and they always look the same, no matter where people see them. They describe what you do and, ideally, make a statement about what your company stands for. You have the product and you have the peg.
Hanging new information on the peg
Who is your company? Why should people choose you over a competitor? This kind of information should go into your brochures, fliers, social media, onto your website, etc. And again, you should say it pretty much the same way, every time. These exposures provide consumers with a deeper layer of information about you, and again, it’s provided in a consistent manner. As they hang this information on the peg, your brand takes on a more meaningful place in the consumer’s mind.
Personalizing the company
In our digital age, it’s more important than ever to put a personality to your brand. People used to shop in physical stores before deciding where and what to buy. Now they do it mostly online, but they still want a sense that there are living, breathing humans behind the brands they buy from.
Social networking (Facebook, YouTube, blogging, etc.) is perfect for this. It’s a more casual marketing environment where consumers expect you to “loosen the necktie.” They also check you out socially to make sure you’re a decent person, and that you have expertise in your industry. If you’re kind of cool, all the better. This is the Internet-age version of a handshake or casual store visit, and it should never be underestimated.
It’s worth mentioning again that your brand has to make a promise that’s true. When customers buy from you, they should get exactly what you promised. This is where a brand identity really starts to take off, in the form of word-of-mouth marketing and return business. If you can’t deliver on the promise, marketing won’t help. If you can deliver it, your branding is already most of the way there.
Wynn Ponder has been a branding professional in Wichita, Kansas, for over 25 years. He now manages video marketing services at US Logo Companies in Wichita.