What makes a strong brand? Think about the rock star brands like Apple, Harley Davidson, IKEA, Google or Levis, or some of your favourite brands at a local level that you enjoy doing business with and recommend to your Facebook friends. How do the standout brands manage to endure and continue to engage people year after year?
The best brands share some critical attributes that are achievable for any brand – no matter the size of your business or budget.
Trouble is when it comes to brand building, most businesses spend all their time, $$ and effort focusing on the window dressing – that snazzy logo, sexy font and smooth tagline, rapidly followed by the glam brochures and ads and website with all the bells and whistles to get the identity out into the marketplace.
Don’t get me wrong, they all have their place, but the fact is if your brand lacks the all-important fundamentals to support it, and give it substance and sustainability then you won’t have a brand for long.
Getting those fundamentals right has an enormous impact on your brand building success, and it’s an area that deserves more attention.
Difference – The American poet and teacher Audre Lord once said “There are no new ideas, only new ways of making them felt.” But while new ideas may be few and far between, you can create unique takes on the old ones to develop a brand that you truly own, has a distinct personality and stands out in a crowded market. Don’t forget though, your point of difference has to make a difference – to your target market, not just to you. Your target market has to be able to perceive that difference and value it if your brand is going to gain any traction in the marketplace.
Relevance – Target markets come in all shapes and sizes. Some are hip, some are conservative, young, old, fun, serious, affluent, budget conscious and so it goes. Know who it is you want to reach, what matters to them and how they respond. Then ensure your brand and all its associated messages resonate with them, otherwise you miss the connection and lose your audience.
Clarity – Crystallise your message into a single, focused, meaningful idea. Why is your product or service better than your competitors? Answer that question and you have a brand worth noticing. Then show it and share it at every opportunity.
Consistency – When we work with clients to develop their brand, brand strategy and marketing collateral and campaigns, we often to rein them in, sit them down and make them take a good hard look at every element of their brand. Why? Because they can get so carried away with trying to be all things to all people that their branding starts to resemble a bag of licorice allsorts. In terms of appearance and message, their logo and tagline say one thing, their advertising says something else, their website is different again. Simply put, stay on message. Make sure you are consistently delivering that crystal clear message through every point of contact with customers and prospects. The aim is to enlighten, not confuse.
Credibility – Your brand can’t afford to over-promise and under-deliver. It doesn’t pay to get carried away with creating a brand image that promises the world or is designed to make you appear bigger and better, if you can’t cut the mustard when it comes time to deliver. Consumers are savvier than ever before and can smell ‘eau-de-too-good-to-be-true’ from miles away. When the customer connects with you, you’d better make sure you are who you say you are. Always but always keep it real and build honesty and authenticity into your brand if you expect to be taken seriously.
Congruence – You walk into a classy hotel, one you’re paying a premium to stay in. The foyer, reception, restaurant and other public areas are immaculate – clean, classy, elegant. Wow, you can’t wait to get up to your room, but when you do you find it’s not really that clean, the tiles in the bathroom are cracked, the TV remote doesn’t work properly and it all looks a little tired. Suddenly that ‘luxury’ brand image that you read about on their website or saw in their TV ad doesn’t quite ring true. It takes the edge off your experience and you decide then and there you won’t be coming back. Brand congruence is about making sure all the elements of your brand are in step with each other. It only takes one weak link for the negatives to creep in – customers equate incongruity with lack of authenticity, reliability and care.
Reputation – Build it, deliver it, guard it with your life. Your brand means nothing without the good reputation you grow from it.
Adaptability – Your brand identity has to work equally as well in print as on a website, look just as good on a shop front sign as it does on your business card. From big to small, in black and white or in delicious vibrant colour. So make sure that wow design and fancy font is going to hold up well under all conditions.
A strong brand has to be more than a grand vision. It should clearly represent what you do and deliver. Every business wants to be a customer’s first choice. Building a brand based on these 8 solid and deliverable foundations is one of the best ways to make that happen.
People don’t care about your brand, they care about them. So if you build a brand that they get and that can deliver a relevant, positive and engaging experience through every interaction they have with you, you’re on a winner.