Most business owners know enough about the power of effective branding to know they want it – they’re just not sure what “it” is. To make better sense of the mysterious subject of branding, here are the three key components of any successful brand strategy.
1. Establish the core brand message
Rather than start with logos, tag lines, and web sites, it’s best to start with the most important question of all, “Why are we doing this?” This type of introspection helps set the foundation of the brand by giving it a sense of purpose, mission and direction. Without a compelling reason for being, a “brand” is no more than a commodity with a name. Rather than explaining what you do, (function) delve deeper into why and how you do it (purpose.)
I often refer to this as a company’s pivot point, the idea or concept around which everything revolves. It’s also referred to as the core value proposition or central theme. Strong brands connect this message to consumers’ emotional desires, e.g. happiness, acceptance, safety, security, achievement, advancement, etc. Basing the brand message on timeless attributes allows a company to grow and evolve. Apple’s pivot point is based on style and innovation, not computers. Wal-mart is based on affordability.
2. Formulate the overall brand identity
Once you know what you are on task to accomplish, you can then turn to building an identity to follow suit. Start with the name and tag line. Make sure that they convey the general feel and direction of your brand message without boxing you in or leaving you outdated. (e.g. Radio Shack) Avoid product or geographic references in your company brand name. Best Buy works better than CompUSA. Target works better than Burlington Coat Factory. If you are working on an existing brand, does the name cause confusion or require constant clarification? If so, consider rebranding to make it current, compelling and relevant. Establish a consistent set of fonts, colors, and design elements. Strive for consistency in all your marketing materials.
3. Determine the brand personality
Once you define the core message and the overall appearance of your brand, explore your brand voice, the way you want to interact with clients and staff members. In a sense, it’s your brand’s personality, and like your brand identity, it needs to be consistent. Do you want to exude a sense of pride and professionalism or convey a sense of fun and excitement? It’s important to have a familiar style when you engage your customers, otherwise your brand will appear sporadic and unpredictable. Make sure to clearly communicate your messaging style to all your staff to ensure conformity of style. This especially holds true with the advent of Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
These three building blocks form the basis of how your brand thinks, looks and feels. They combine to create the brand experience. By clearly establishing your brand message, identity and personality, you will attract congruent customers and dedicated staff members that mirror your company’s goals and objectives. You will begin to resonate with those who share your passion and conviction. With clarity comes confidence, and the ability to say “yes” to those opportunities that empower your brand, and “no” to things that compromise your ability to deliver effectively. Investing time and energy into these essential brand strategies will pay long term dividends that transform brand strategy into brand equity.
Phillip Davis is president and owner of Tungsten Branding, strategic company branding specializing in brand development, rebranding and brand positioning.