Us marketers like to talk about “brand”… a lot. “Brand” is more than a logo or some colours; it is how your customers, your market place and all the people involved in your business perceive and would describe you.
Not sure what I mean? Let’s do a short quiz.
Quickly, without thinking about it, which words would you use to describe the three following companies:
2. Virgin Atlantic
3. The X Factor
The adjectives that occurred to you are how you perceive each of those three organisations and therefore it is how you perceive their brand.
(At the risk of getting sued, please see below for the words that leapt into my head to describe each company).
Now, imagine we did the same exercise but your company’s name was in there. What do you think people would be saying about your business? Do you know? More to the point, are these the words that you want them to use to describe your business?
Do your customers, your staff, your suppliers and your competitors all think of and describe your company in the same way that you do? If you don’t know, we recommend some research to find out.
Your “brand” is made up of many different elements and it’s important that you understand and control as many of them as possible, so that the way you, your clients, your marketplace and your team perceive your business is as consistent as possible.
Here are some key brand ingredients:
1. Know HOW you want to come across
Have a list of words that describe your brand (often known as brand values). Share those words with your team, your customers, your suppliers. Use those words on your website and in all your marketing. Make sure you know what your brand is, because if you don’t have a clear picture, no-one else will.
2. Appearance – How you look and “sound”
Take those words that describe your business and make sure your “appearance” reflects them. Want to come across as serious and established? Try dark blues with lots of strong, straight lines.Want to be seen as vibrant and creative? Try a brighter palette of colours, with more curves in. A good Graphic Designer will be able to take your words and come up with a “visual brand” to match them.
3. Be consistent in your “Appearance”
One logo, one colour scheme, one way of using that colour scheme, one tone of voice. Be consistent across ALL communications eg on-line, off-line, written, oral, in person, on the phone. Inconsistency is often associated with uncertainty or untrustworthiness.
4. Walk the talk
Think of yourself as approachable? Then why do your emails read like a nineteenth century lawyer, who has swallowed a dictionary, has written them? Pride yourself on quality? Why have your last three clients complained that your service hasn’t met their expectation. When you lay out there what your brand values are and have an appearance to match them, you need to make sure that your product or service matches too. Walk the talk.
5. Guard your brand
Finally, guard your brand. Guard how people perceive you. Help influence them (see the above four points) while accepting that you can’t control everyone. Understand that perception is reality, despite experiences and often in the absence of experiences. Your brand is your reputation, how people think of you, talk about you. And if it is negative, you won’t be getting much business from them. Regularly review how your brand is perceived and address any issues as they occur.
Kara Stanford is a Strategic Marketing Consultant at KMS Marketing, Hampshire, UK. She is passionate about helping SMBs use marketing to succeed.
- RBS: Untrustworthy, powerful, can’t be touched
- Virgin Atlantic: Young, fun, bright, friendly
- The X Factor: Noisy, loud, fun, manufactured