In past centuries, a brand was a mark you might find on cattle to identify it as belonging to a particular rancher. But today, most people don’t think of cows when they hear the word “brand” or “branding.”
According to Ashley Friedlein, President of Econsultancy, a brand is “the sum total of how someone perceives a particular organization. Branding is about shaping that perception.”
Just like Tiffany’s is associated with pale blue boxes and finery, or Redbox is associated with cheap movie rentals, your brand is connected to something in the mind of your consumer.
How do you control that connection and incite the right emotions in your customers when they think of your business? Here are five essential elements of building a strong brand.
1. Express your business’s authentic identity
A brand isn’t just about the surface appearance of your products and services. You may decide that you want to portray your company in a particular way, but if your audience can sense any inconsistency in the message, you’ll lose their trust. To build a strong brand, you have to look deeper into the inner workings of your company and understand what makes it tick.
What qualities define your goals and inspire your product development? Identify those elements and create a simple, unified message. Then communicate that message to everyone who works at your company.
2. Keep your promises
Do you make any claims or promises in your marketing materials? Make sure that you keep those promises. This is especially vital if you’re heading up a brand-new business or a startup, since you don’t have a reputation yet and any negative feedback can have severe repercussions.
If a customer complains, make it your mission to resolve the issue. You won’t be able to satisfy everyone, but you should work hard to please even the disgruntled, unreasonable consumers who haunt your business’s phone lines and Facebook page.
Staying true to your word may cost you a bit of profit here and there, but in the long run, you’ll build customer confidence and a reputation for consistency. Offer the same quality every time, and your buyers will keep coming back for more.
3. Streamline for strength
If you try to do too many things at once, you’ll end up diluting your brand and confusing the customer. Let’s say that you’re in the business of making unique, adorable moccasins for babies and toddlers. You’re doing so well that you decide to expand your product line to vests and hats, which also sell well. Then you add some wooden toys to your product line, and then some art prints for the nursery, and after that some kitchen decor. Now you’re wandering into broader territory.
You’re telling your customers that you’re about home goods, rather than beautiful, hand-crafted moccasins and toddler accessories. Keep your product offerings focused and streamlined, and you’ll send a stronger message to your target audience.
4. Tap into emotion
Consistency, honesty, and strength are vital to your brand, and your customers will appreciate those qualities. But sometimes it takes more than that to win the sale. You need to appeal to your customers’ emotions.
Think of the Harley-Davidson brand, for example. The company doesn’t just sell motorcycles—they sell a lifestyle. As Hubspot’s Carly Stec points out, when someone buys a Harley, they are initiated into a community of Harley owners. They feel a new connection to something bigger than themselves. They get a sense of freedom and power from owning and riding their new bike.
That’s the kind of emotional appeal that you need to offer your customers. What need does your product or service satisfy? What pain does it alleviate? Find those pressure points and use them to incite passion for your brand.
5. Stay flexible
Is your product not satisfying your customers’ needs anymore? Does it feel stale or outdated? A good brand is consistent, but not stagnant. Large companies do extensive research on their market segments and update their logos and branding periodically to maximize consumer appeal. For smaller companies, you can use an online logo maker to update your logo design as part of a rebrand.
Look for ways to keep your customers’ attention by updating or augmenting your product or service. Why leave it the same if there’s a way to make it faster, more user-friendly, or more durable? Stay flexible and up to date, and you’ll prevent competitors from edging you out of business.
Keep in mind these five elements as you map out your brand strategy and you’ll be on your way to differentiating your products or services and building a strong, durable brand.