5 Brand Building Principals
Gather all of your organization’s marketing collateral – external materials such as advertising, your website, media releases and newsletters; internal communications too.
Spread them out on your desk and compare them. Are the messages consistent from one audience to the next? Across media? Do they maintain a consistent look? Do they speak with a strong, clear voice, and is it the same voice internally and externally? Is there continuity?
If you can’t answer these questions with a “Yes,” then your organization may need to focus some energy on the brand. Your brand is the beating heart of your communications with your customers or clients, prospects, colleagues and peers, even with employees. Inconsistent messages can confuse audiences about who you are and what you offer.
1. Be true to yourself.
Branding is a lot like dating. Too often, we try to be what we think the other person wants, instead of just being ourselves. That’s why the results can be disappointing. The same is true of branding.
Many times a company builds its brand by focusing upon the desired audience, then inventing a brand that isn’t a true reflection of what the company is about; or it tries to be all things to all audiences. Find your strength and own it. Be that expert. That’s so much easier to sell.
Because the brand is central to both your product and service and how you deliver it, building a brand is a process that extends to all of your communication and marketing messages from how employees answer the phone to the design of a website and trade show display. It takes work, but the job becomes easier if the company begins with a message that comes naturally.
2. Speak to the heart.
Too many organizations use “corporate speak” – lofty, generic words that don’t say anything. While the words may sound impressive, they don’t say what is unique and compelling about our company. To separate from the pack, speak from the heart and make every word tell. Don’t just focus upon what you do but why you are passionate about what you do. When you speak at an emotional level, you naturally attract people and connect them to your organization.
3. Align your vision and your voice.
Do you look like what you are saying about yourself? Do the visual elements of your brand (font, graphics, imagery) convey the same message as the copy (tone, language and style)? Your message should be consistent across all elements and mediums. The brand provides guidance, a sort of blueprint for copy basics such as sentence length and length of paragraphs, bullet points, and use of first-person among other elements.
It also guides decisions about visual elements such as color, shapes, and photo style. You also need to project an aligned image across your multiple target audiences: employees, customers, prospects, and the media (both trade and consumer). There may be different messages for each audience, but you want to avoid appearing scattered.
4. Dig deeper, not wider.
Many organizations treat their brands like campaigns and update them year-to-year. That’s not good. Again, consistency is an important component to maintaining a strong brand. Rather than change the brand, refresh it by finding more depth in the story. What new angle can you take with it? A good brand provides both flexibility and depth that enables the organization to find creative new ways to express it without straying from the brand story. Here again, the brand – in this case the “story” – provides a blueprint to follow.
5. Live the brand’s culture.
An organization’s brand is not just the logo, the colors, the artwork and the website, it’s everything your team and customers experience about your company. And it begins inside your organization. If the employees of a company don’t buy into the brand’s culture, how can the company sell it to customers? That internal dissonance will be sensed externally.
That’s why organizations must be true to themselves, passionate about their brand, consistent with it and persistent about using it.
When these principles are applied to brand building, employees will embrace it and external audiences will comprehend it. The company will have a strong brand that provides a flexible framework for creativity so it can be refreshed when needed.