Is Your Brand Important Enough?
How do you describe your brand?
Take a quick poll around your office and ask your co-workers to best describe your company in one or two sentences. If you get varying answers, or if people have a hard time actually answering you, your brand is not important enough. If everyone says the essentially the same thing with little or no hesitation -- congratulations, you have a strong brand presence and can stop reading this article.
For the rest of us, let me repeat: your brand is not important enough.
Now before you take offense and start telling me how great and innovative your organization is (and how wrong I am), remember that brands and companies are two distinct and separate entities that can not live without each other. Just as a weak brand can bring down a company with quality products or services -- an underachieving company can not be saved with a dynamic brand strategy.
Remember in today’s society...people aren’t paying attention. The easiest way to ensure marketplace stability and longevity is to to align your corporate core brand message with ALL of your marketing materials.
The Un-Branded Brand
Consider a brand that spends little time solidifying their brand message, but has the most groundbreaking, sure-to-be-successful product that will change the landscape of their industry. They put all their trust in a graphic designer to blindly create a visual interpretation of the brand. Then a content writer comes along and writes all of the headlines and static pages in a manner completely inconsistent from the look and feel of the website.
The end result of this design and messaging inconsistency is a website which likely won’t affect target audience(s) and will not differentiate the company within the marketplace. If you aren't accurately represented through your website and marketing materials, you’re alienating potential customers. Very few customers will make a purchase with a company that doesn't cohesively express their positioning and show why they’re different, and why a buyer should care.
It’s not enough to tell buyers why they need to buy your product -- you have to show them why they need your product. The first step in showing a potential buyer your worth is to literally show them by aligning your public appearance and messaging with the essence and energy of your brand. This first impression will show your worth, your credibility, and make an emotional appeal to your target audience.
Know Your Audience
Start by defining your target audience. Create personas based on a metaphorical person (or people). The trick is to dive deeper than just traits that align with your product. For instance, it’s important not only to know the pain points your product or service solves, but what else? How to they spend their free time? What kind of websites do they visit? Which television shows they like? The list goes on. The more information gathered makes for better focused and more effective messaging.
Knowing your audience is crucial for just about every aspect of marketing. If you’re targeting an incredibly educated and technical audience, make sure your copy and visuals represent this. Conversely, you might sell a highly-technical product but need to target a more casual buyer, make sure you do you best to simplify your product. No one likes to be talked down to, and no one buys from a company that doesn't seem to have their act together. Understand who needs your product and sell to them.
Even though a deep understanding of your target audience is the cornerstone of all good marketing, it should never solely dictate who you are as a company. Apple has always stood by a concept of creating and selling innovative products. Even though their target audience has shifted from a business and educational segment to personal and creative market, one thing has remained the same: Apple is different.
The point is this: Apple began with a clear and concise set of core values and a core message which hasn't wavered in the rapidly changing technical marketplace. That what strong brands are designed to do; withstand the test of time and stay true through modern trends.
Try to get a group of stakeholders together and brainstorm what your company represents, and how it should be portrayed in the marketplace. This can be more difficult than it seems, and sometimes it’s best to have an experienced agency facilitate these meetings. The goal is to land on 3-5 key phrases and a primary message statement of less than 15 words. Install these notions into every aspect of your company; from the slider images, to page copy, to email blasts and newsletters.
By defining and sticking to a set of brand guidelines, what you do and why you do it becomes clear -- and no one will hesitate describing your company.