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BRAND IDENTITY IS the key element FOR standing out FROM COMPETITors

Starting a business? A brand strategy is key to your consistency as a company.

Decades ago, branding was defined as a slogan, sign, symbol or design. Then, a combination of these elements is what identified the products and services of an organisation. In today’s digital age, branding is a lot more complex. Your company is much more than a set of services, employees, products and services. Your brand identity is your public face.

This is why your business needs a branding strategy. The rules for branding continue to evolve. With demographic shifts, younger generations, social media and content marketing, creating and maintaining customer loyalty has become more difficult than ever before. Today’s hot company might be old news in a few years.

A powerful branding strategy helps your company to stay on-trend, become inspiring, remain relevant and ensure a community-centric approach. The objective is to make people stop and pay attention.

Customers will be loyal to brands they feel they can identify with, a company that makes them feel valued. After all is said and done, they want a brand that is their best friend–this is where a powerful branding strategy is required. Read on to learn more.

Why you need a branding strategy

A powerful branding strategy is the foundation which helps guide your company’s entire reason for existence. It’s more than just about reaping in the profits. This is about improving the lives of your customers.

All you need is a strategy to design the map for your business to follow. Of course, it must be supported by real research of current and prospective customers.

In addition, you need a branding strategy to attain a well-defined audience. A target audience cannot be as generic as “Females” or “Athletes.” A target audience is better defined as “City-dwelling females who practice green-living and use car-sharing services.” With something this specific in mind, everyone in your company should understand your target audience to ensure all areas of the business are driven to satisfy your ideal customer.

A branding strategy helps to align your marketing plan with your business objectives in order to achieve your big picture goals. This isn’t just about the success of one purchase–this is about the life of your brand and the experience your target customer receives.

Yet, branding isn’t just about customers–a powerful branding strategy also creates loyal employees. There are certain company names which scream recognition and command respect just by mentioning their names. Employees want to feel proud of their work place, and branding can do that.

Plus, your branding strategy is what sets you apart from your competition. Through globalisation, competition is at an all-time high. With technology, prospects can conveniently compare every single one of their options. Companies are not just competing with other businesses, they are competing with an increasing amount of noise distracting their prospects.

Decades ago, you could get away with airing a TV ad and perhaps buy ad space in magazines and newspapers for recognition. Try that today, and you’ll be stuck waiting for orders to arrive. You can’t “buy” consumer attention, you must earn it. Your prospects have to fall in love with your brand experience.

Yet, what is most important about having a powerful branding strategy is for building customer loyalty. It is a lot less expensive to keep a current customer than it is to acquire a new one. If you have a strategy in place, which creates an emotional connection with your customers–you have just increased the bang for your buck.

Customers who become emotionally attached are more likely to stick with you. Moreover, your marketing efforts are enhanced when they come from a strong brand that has a seat in the hearts and minds of your consumers.

Start by defining your brand

This is essentially the process of self-discovery. If you have never done this before, it can be time-consuming and difficult. Yet, you have to answer these critical questions:

·       How do your products or services benefit your consumers?

·       What is your mission?

·       What do your current customers think of your business?

·       What qualities would you like to associate with your company?

Defining your brand requires research into the habits, desires and needs of your customers and prospects. Don’t base your answers and findings on what you think they think. You have to know what they think.

Stand apart from your competition

Why should consumers choose your business over a similar company? What types of intangible qualities do your products or services exhibit? Is your customer service better? Are your services more efficient? What adjectives would you use to describe them?

The goal is to have a position in your customer’s mind so that they automatically think of you differently than your competition. Then, think of this: what word will your company own? What do you think of when you hear the name Google or Instagram? A new pet grooming company might focus on the word “caring” and offer highly-trained associates who treat your pets like their own.

Have a personality

As stated earlier, you want to create an emotional attachment to your customers and prospects. The only way this can be done is through a branding strategy with a personality. How can you show your customers daily what you’re all about? A mission statement will cover the basics, but a personality requires action. How can you achieve your brand’s promise while providing value?

If you offer convenient service, what does that mean within your business? How do you ensure your services are always convenient? How can you use this as a template for your branding strategy?

Be creative about how your brand sees customer engagement

Remember when Beyoncé launched an entire album on iTunes, along with music videos? This was an astounding marketing tactic which rocked the music industry and her fans–to say they were thrilled would be an understatement.

This is why your branding strategy needs to see consumer engagement where others don’t. What type of engagement experience would you like to create? A powerful branding strategy includes surprises and variety.

While it is good to have some consistency, you don’t want to be too predictable. You must always stretch your thinking. More importantly, never take your audience for granted as every brand is vulnerable.

As a result, your branding strategy needs to give your brand an update every five years–at a minimum. Consumers are constantly reevaluating their needs. Don’t be reactive, be proactive. Customers are reinventing themselves, so should you.

Inspire your customers

Modern brands are about influencing lifestyles. Your branding strategy should be about inspiring communication. Why do people gravitate to Instagram or Pinterest? They are all looking for inspiration and a novel method for doing things that need to get done.

Your branding strategy should incorporate the ability to communicate, educate and inspire your audience. If not, your brand message will flatline. Plus, today’s consumer will study how your branding messages are delivered. This is why execution must be flawless.

When you communicate inspiration and hope, you increase your ability to earn customer trust and loyalty. Your value proposition offers more life, which propels your consumers to react. They want to feel that they are spending money with a company that inspires and educates them.

Create a brand ritual

Have you ever seen a Stella Artois commercial, with its 9-step pouring ritual? Now, when you order a Stella Artois beverage, you want it poured exactly as it is in the commercial–you want the same experience. Who doesn’t? Now, take a step back and see how effective that branding strategy is for Stella Artois. It gives a perceived experience and likely adds to the price point.

Consumers are often willing to pay more for something that comes with an established ritual. Another popular brand ritual is drinking a Corona beer with a wedge of lime. How can you not? It’s a must to have that wedge of lime with your Corona. A brand ritual increases engagement with your company in a way that is fun and widely-practiced. It also helps people share common ground.

Interestingly enough, creating a brand ritual does not have to be expensive. Here are some attributes for creating a brand ritual:

·       It should stipulate a behaviour that already exists.

·       It needs to be repeatable.

·       It has to be specifically and directly associated with your brand.

·       It must make sense to your customers and prospects.

·       It should be easy–if it is difficult, it won’t work.

·       It needs to be shareable, understandable and replicable.

You are, in essence, giving your consumers an enjoyable means for engaging with your brand.

Ensure your brand strategy aligns with the core tenants of your brand

It is imperative to have solidified positioning of your brand. While it is important to have a refresh every few years, you don’t want your brand to eat itself with each new campaign—otherwise, you leave your consumers confused.

Take a look at the career of Christina Aguilera. She is certainly one of the most powerful and prominent pop stars of the late 90s through the 2010s. She started out as a teen pop angel, but soon moved on to her “Dirty” stage where she wanted to break out of her “innocent” image and become more sultry. Her fans didn’t mind, but it did alienate a few who were attracted to her initial stage image.

Then, after her “Dirty” phase, she tried a more retro look–which was appealing, but again, confusing. It’s as if she did not have a core brand and changed with the wind. After that, she stepped into the EDM world without as much success as her previous work. Her branding changes left her fans wondering which Christina they were getting with each new album.

This is why you need clear positioning. It is specific language your customers and prospects will believe. Even through a changing creative canvas, your brand shouldn’t go in 10 directions with each new marketing push. You aren’t running with what’s cool for today. You want a consistent message that can be easily woven into new marketing campaigns.

Remain relatable

Since consumers want to be best friends, how can your branding strategy create an identity that is easily relatable? What you shouldn’t do is complicate your mission just to get attention. You want to have the ability to reinvent without frustrating your consumers and prospects. Your customers want to know what they can expect from your company.

Your brand identity should be powerful enough that when it grows, it only gets stronger in collaboration with the changing needs of your clients. The point is, you must keep it simple. People don’t have the time or interest to try to figure out where your brand is trying to go. Customers want brands to be both transparent and forward-thinking.

To illustrate, if you own an organic meal delivery service–your brand identity can be as simple as freshly prepared, organic meals delivered in under an hour. Doesn’t that make you hungry just thinking about it?

As your brand matures, you can modify your taglines–but your brand identity remains the same. It must communicate that your products deliver a better experience than your competition, without having to get complicated. 

Time your branding strategy perfectly

Being relatable and on-trend is important, but so is timing. Today’s marketplace will stand for nothing less. You have to be ready when your consumers are ready. This is why you should not launch a new product or service if your customers are not ready for it. Plus, you also need to have the support needed for sustainable success. Customers want brands to over-deliver.

It is important to establish a reputation for excellence first. If you do, then your products and services can pre-sell themselves. Just look at Apple in the mid-2000s through today. People salivate over the latest iPhone iteration and stand in line for hours just to get one. That is branding strategy at its finest.