Does your brand really fit your company? Does it give the right message to existing and prospective customers? Branding is an integral part of who and what your company is. If you’re not clear what it is, you risk letting your customers define it for you, and there lie dangerous waters.
We all know the word branding comes from branding cattle or horses, so ranchers could identify which were their animals on the range. It was simple and effective. Taking the concept from its roots and introducing it to your business – not so simple.
If you are in any doubt about whether your branding is working for you, not against you, take a good look at your philosophy, identity, essence, personality, image, character and culture.
Now, does your brand image talk to what you are, what you want to deliver, how you are seen by clients? In short, ask yourself: is there a strong, relationship between what you offer, the way you and your team members interact with clients, and the brand itself?
Start looking at advertisements in newspapers, or commercials on television. Not the silly ones, but the ones that try to promote a strong corporate brand and see how well, or badly, they work. For instance, some time ago there was an ad campaign for a leading financial institution that showed employees helping customers with their shopping, or fixing their car. The idea was to promote their high level of customer service, but in reality a bank teller is not going to repair your car, so there was a disconnect. The brand should have promoted trust, reliability, security and all the things we expect from a financial institution.
Do you really understand what your company stands for? Love them or hate them, Starbucks delivers exactly what its brand promises. They deliver the same smiling service and the same great coffee in every darn location whether in North America, Europe or other far off climes. This is a brand that knows itself and that resonates with its customer base.
Take a look at your brand: does it work? Are you delivering on it, is it clear? Does it represent who and what you are? If you were to ask your customers what makes them continue buying from you, what would they say? Would it reflect what you consider your brand to be? And now for the $64,000 question: do all your employees understand what your brand means? If they simply point to your logo, you have some education to do.
Organize a half-day, or evening, retreat for your employees, or the people closest to your business (advisers, friends, family) and ask them the following questions and discuss their answers. See how in tune they are with your brand. You will be surprised at the different takes you get on what they believe your company to be and in the process you’ll be able to define, or redefine your brand.
Perhaps it’s always delivering first-rate products, at fair prices reliably, or no job is too small, or outstanding customer service. Maybe it’s to become an industry leader, give back to the community, or display exceptionally high environmental standards.
Ask yourself, what do I believe in?
Do you want to be seen as a warm, friendly, family company, or perhaps a slick team of hi-tech professionals doing the job and doing it well? Is heritage your thing, or do you want to be seen as leading edge?
Character is an important element and can mean many things, it can represent your corporate ethics and how they are portrayed in the quality of what you sell and the way you deal with customers.
Corporate culture is something that can’t be written down, it’s the sum of all the parts discussed above; it’s what makes your company unique. It’s either the reason for your success, or for its disharmony. It’s the very essence of your brand – what makes your company good, bad, or indifferent. Get it right and your employees will deliver on your brand promise naturally, allowing your company’s brand to stand out from the rest of the herd.
If you discover a disconnect between what your branding is saying about you and what you really are, don’t be afraid to rebrand. Whether your company is a one-person business or has multiple employees – a retail store or offers a service, branding is a vital component to connecting with existing and potential customers. It’s important you make it effective.