A brand is not just a component pixel element like a logo, colors, or font. According to Seth Godin, a brand is “the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” They are emotional and human, carrying pieces of long-standing visual impact and are the result of customers developed perceptions and expectations. Companies can enhance the value of their brands by delivering consistent brand experiences over time. This article on the elements of branding philosophy is a great place to start when building your brand strategy.
When thinking about your brand’s purpose, you want to establish what promises you intend to follow through in your business. These brand promises become the emotional hooks to draw customers in and turn them into advocates for your brand. For example, Nike brand promise is to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world; with Starbucks, to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time. Toms is one company that gives away a shoe for every shoe it sells, and they regularly run campaigns to encourage participants and increase generosity within their audience. The focus is not on the product or the business, but rather what values, capabilities, and vision of your company that aligns with what your target audience is seeking. Your promise should improve over time based on any changing trends and customer needs.
When you figure out the true purpose behind your brand, you can elements to share that purpose and become part of the brand themselves. Elements such as a brand identity and a brand positioning statement help your brand have a figurative “face” to your audience.
A brand identity is the visual component (think logos, typography, colors, packaging, and messaging) that complements and represents those larger ideas. They are meant to attract new customers while making existing customers feel at home. It’s important that you maintain consistency with your brand identity across all channels, and that the message portrayed by individual components are clear and the same no matter where it’s displayed. You can build a style guide or utilize brand management software to help stay consistent.
With a brand positioning statement, comes your declaration on where your brand should be positioned in the marketplace. Simply put, it says what you do, who you serve and how your company (uniquely) does this. It typically reads along the lines of…
[Brand Name] provides [unique value] to [target audience] than any other [your industry] by [evidence].
Your positioning strategy is shaped by the brand promises, and forces you to define your target audience and the unique value you have to offer.
A brand’s purpose and positioning can be informed through market and customer research. With a research strategy in place, you can dive deeper into how others view your brand’s message and position in the market. One of the best ways to start is to simply talk to people. Starting a conversation with phone interviews and in-person meetings allow for detailed discussions and emphasize the human element of research. For a faster, more scalable approach, look to online survey tools like Survey Monkey.
All brands must differentiate themselves. Those unique elements of your brand are key, as they may be the reasons why someone would choose your brand over a competitor. These unique selling propositions (USP) can be identified when developing your brand positioning statement, whether it be a specific benefit, a call to a certain need, or a unique claim not being done by a competitor. Brands can differentiate themselves by constantly catering to their customers in creative ways. For example, companies like 800Flower cut out the middleman and obsess over the customer experience when delivering their in-house products. They segment their audience according to their purchasing behaviors and motivators, and playing a proactive role in the growth of the customer relationship with marketing messages of appreciation.
Your brand performance is all about how you will deliver your brand promise, which will shape your customer base. Over time, brand performance is built on a foundation of trust. When customers observe trustworthy behavior from your business, it leads to brand preference and advocacy. BMW is one example where they experienced success due to consistent delivery and continuous improvement of their promise, earning them the distinguishment of ‘the most reputable brand in 2015′ by Marketing Magazine.
Brand personality is a branding tool that deals with your tone of voice and visual cues. A prominent brand personality carries human traits along with your messages to help you create a recognizable and memorable brand. They usually appear in a brand guide, mentioned in the form of a list of 3-5 traits, such as Dove’s brand personality of “real, simple and empowering”
If a personality isn’t established, customers may have trouble connecting with your brand and experience a handful of mixed messages. Writing up a brand story can allow you to show an authentic expression of your personality, and what your brand stands for. It incorporates all the aspects of your positioning statement – from how you do work, engage with clients, or generate ideas – and most importantly, working authenticity