Branding is the perception of how an organization and/or product is regarded by the outside world.
Organizations that are intentional and deliberate about their brand perception are companies that invest in communicating the right message with the right feeling to the right people. When someone mentions an Apple product, what do you think? I think technology, innovation, and a certain cool factor. That hasn’t always been the case, but Apple has spent billions of dollars establishing and maintaining that impression time and time again.
It’s important to reiterate that brand is about perception and not necessarily about reality. A company may be as good or better than Apple, but we may not know about them. If we do know them, we may not elevate them to the same level because we don’t see them portrayed in the same light.
A few years ago, Apple stopped releasing how much they spend on Marketing and Advertising. The last year they released that information, they increased their spending by 50% to set a record of $1.8 Billion. Since their marketing/advertising budget increased year over year, we can only infer that they’re spending more than that now.
Question: The rest of us will never have a budget anywhere close to that, so what can we do to help our brands succeed?
Answer: Brand intentionality and brand consistency.
Here are four ways to do that.
1) Define a Brand Message
Pardot give some sample branding messages in slogan form. Nike: Just do it. Salesforce. No Software. Subway: Eat Fresh. Walmart: Save money. Live Better.
Our brand message is Conversations. Ideas. Solutions. We want to be so helpful and approachable that people will feel comfortable brainstorming with us to develop better results together.
What do you want people to believe about your product services?
2) Set Brand Standards
This is your bible, your constitution, your rules of engagement, your do not vary from these under pain of torture and death. Just kidding. But really.
HubSpot has compiled 21 great samples brand guides for inspiration and education.
How can your logo be used and what is forbidden? Do you have samples of it in color, black and white, grayscale, reversed out of another color? How much whitespace is required around your logo?
What are your corporate colors: primary, secondary, and tertiary? Are there any colors that are forbidden? I.E. You’ll never see orange in a Lowe’s store, because that color is Home Depot’s signature color.
What are your corporate fonts for headlines and body copy? Does everyone on your team know what they are, when to use them and have a copy on their devices?
Do all your images require people in them? Are they black & white, duotone with your corporate colors, or full color? Should they be featured predominately or are they supporting cast?
What about tone of voice? Are you educational, corporate, witty, or conversational?
3) Appoint a Brand Manager
If you don’t have someone responsible for oversight and education, people will do their own thing. This needs to be someone’s job. Someone who is passionate about your brand needs to be the final say in ads, website, social media, and even phone scripts.
If there isn’t someone policing your brand standards, your people will go rogue. One of the clearest examples of this is in email signatures. People will include a quote from one of their favorite persons, change to their favorite script font and favorite color, add a graphic of their college team’s mascot, and anything else to personalize it. Unless those are tactics specifically designed to advance your brand’s message and image, they should be only used in personal email accounts.
4) Remain Consistent
The purpose of the previous 3 rules is to help you be intentional and consistent. One of the biggest traps marketers fall into is changing their brand before it becomes accepted by their audience. You can’t blame them. They’re tired of looking at the same Pantone Reflex Blue, Futura Bold Condensed font and photos of smiling, happy people in a black and blue duotone. But we’ve learned that when we get tired of repeating ourselves is when people just start remembering our message.
The iconic Chick-Fil-A cows have been promoting chicken sandwiches since 1995. I’m sure the ads are feeling old and stale to the people who have been using them for the last 25+ years. They’re iconic, because 1) they work, and 2) they have been used consistently for the last 25+ years.
If an organization changes messaging ever 6-12 months, it will never have time to become part of your target audience’s subconscious.
If you don’t think you have a brand, then anonymously ask random people what they think of your company. It’s seldom what we want them to think.
Decide how you want to be perceived and the best method to communicate that to your target customers. Then work your plan until your target audience is singing your song from your sheet of music.
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