1. Know Thyself: That famous maxim is an all-important first step to effective branding. Working to understand what employees believe about your company—its personality and its attributes—is an invaluable undertaking. For one rebrand of a global company, we interviewed employees across all departments, levels and geographies to ensure we had a comprehensive view of the company’s view of itself.
2. Know Your Customers: Don’t assume you know what your customers think; take the time to ask. Interviews with your existing clients can provide insight and perspective that can be key to establishing your brand. It is not unusual for a phrase or idea repeated by several customers to become an integral component of a brand.
3. Know Your Benefits: Determine the core desire of your customer base. In simple terms, find out what keeps them awake at night. When you articulate how you can meet that need and provide genuine reasons for them to believe you can, you’ve successfully defined your benefits for your customers. Remember, you are more enamored with your capabilities than your customers are; what customers care about is how your products or services will benefit them.
4. Know Your Value: Understanding your value proposition—the value you promise to deliver to your customers—and ensuring it permeates through your messaging makes your brand accurate and consistent. When we create brand messaging, the value proposition is an important litmus test to ensure we are hitting the mark.
5. Pull It All Together: In the end, your brand represents your company in a number of visible ways, from your logo and tag line to imagery, words and tone. All these aspects need to work together to depict and support your brand. While those doing the writing and those doing graphic design are often different people or groups, collaborating with one another can yield branding that is more cohesive—and ultimately more effective.
Maintain – Don’t Dilute Your Brand
Once you establish your brand, it takes real work to maintain its consistency and quality. As you create more assets, you should repeatedly go back to your “brand map” using your core messaging and value proposition to ensure you stay true to your brand’s key attributes. If you’ve created something that does not align with those, ask: “Did we stray from the brand, or has the company shifted?” Either answer calls for a course correction.
While it typically takes some time for a company to “outgrow” its brand, a more common issue is that it dilutes the brand. This often happens when companies have a variety of business units that—rightfully so—have selling points that are distinct to their area of the business. The result is often the development of sub-brands, many of which stray drastically from the look and feel of the primary corporate brand. This can weaken the strength of both.
The proper approach to branding various business units is to convey the distinct benefits of each area within the context of the corporate brand. When the words, tone, look and feel of your various business units blend cohesively under the umbrella of your corporate brand, everybody wins. The business units benefit from the structure and magnitude of the corporate brand, and the corporate brand is reinforced and upheld by more specific cases where the brand is manifested. This unified and interconnected structure creates brands that generate the value discussed at the start of this article.
Your corporate brand plays a significant role in how you generate sales and attract and retain employees, and it also contributes to the financial valuation of your company. Be sure you get it right by being authentic about who you are while accentuating the way you address your clients’ biggest concerns. Once you have it in place, nurture and maintain your brand. Don’t dilute it by creating competing sub-brands that ultimately work against the unifying power of your primary brand.
Remain true to an effectively executed brand so it can serve you and your customers well.