What is a Brand? Webster defines a brand as a characteristic or distinctive kind of mark. In contemporary society, a brand is the essence of what people believe or think about you, your product, service or your company. Branding is that touchy-feely good stuff that translates into the way people feel about products and services. There are also negative brands out there, but we won’t go there except to mention that strong brands can very quickly become negatives ones. Consider all the negative publicity about Mattel and all the flak around that brand with the lead paint issue.
The brand is what keeps people returning. It makes them feel confident, secure, trusting, and cared for. It builds loyalty, constancy, allegiance, faithfulness and name recognition. So what does it mean to and for you?
A brand can be mean different things to different people. One thing remains constant: the brand should be compelling, intriguing, engrossing, fascinating or interesting. If your brand cries BORING, DULL, TEDIOUS, HUMDRUM, STODGY or just plain BLAH, it is time to “transform” the brand.
Building the brand will be the most important thing you do in 08. It will impact your business, your career, your family and your customers. You want to position yourself first and foremost in your customers’ or bosses’ eyes. That way when an opportunity arises, you and only you are the immediate consideration.
The brand can do that for you. It is vital to realize that a brand is not a static thing. Just because your brand was great in 07 doesn’t mean it will have the same success in 08. A brand can become old, outdated, passé or even obsolete. Remember the Buggy Whip? I don’t either but it disappeared along with soon to be obsolete this like vinyl records (nor so the say).
Consider brand recognition. Brands like Coca-Cola, Nike, GM, Apple and McDonald’s not only have instant recognition but they also have the capability to bring an image into focus. Visualize those brands. Not only do their brands represent a product but a feeling too.
Some of the most compelling brands stay with us for a lifetime. Think back (I’m dating myself.) Bucky Beaver – Ipana tooth paste, Speedy – Alka Seltzer, roadside signs-Burma Shave, Smoky the Bear – Prevent Forest Fires. That’s what your brand should do for you. It should shift you to the forefront with the people that count. That way when it becomes time for a decision your name or your company’s name comes up first. If your brand accomplishes that, congratulations. Read no more. If not, it’s time to rejuvenate or reposition that brand.
Evaluate the following points before you start building your strategy.
1. Define your brand attributes. Brand attributes are like your skill sets. If I asked you to describe yourself in one word what would that word be? Strong, emotional, trustworthy, honest, sincere, reliable, friendly. That’s a brand.
2. Start thinking in these terms to flesh out the essence of your brand. What one word do you want to be remembered by? Would I be interested in what you have to say? If not it’s time to rethink your core message. It’s also important to understand that building your brand is as much about your customer (boss or client) as it is about you. You need to provide what they need, not necessarily what you are selling.
For example, you sell packaging (imagine that), doesn’t everyone? Does a potential customer need a new vendor? No way, but they need you right? So convince them that you are different and not just on price. Distill it down to what can you do for them that no one else can do.
· Deliver on time (reliability)
· Offer design assistance (creativity)
· Take inventory (responsibility)
· Help them sell more product (loyalty)
· Reduce the number of SKU’s (efficiency)
· Help them build their brand too
Get the picture?
3. Promise yourself to use your brand with everything. The more you see your brand the more powerful it will become. The ultimate goal is instant brand recognition. If I say the word Microsoft, you have an immediate opinion that connotes both good and bad images. My point is that whether it’s good or bad, it’s instant acknowledgment that you know this brand.
4. Use your brand to open doors, reinforce the doors that are already open through customer recognition. Get customer buy-in for your brand through testimonials and success stories. When other people do your talking for you that becomes your brand.
5. Leverage your brand. Do you have a charity or special cause that you endorse? Volunteer and get active. You never know whom you might run into. Make sure it’s a cause you believe in and not one you have selected for the publicity. Ensure its okay to include your participation in all you promotional materials. Integrate these into your brand.
6. Think brand in everything that you do. The average message needs to be seen or heard seven times before it’s even recognized. Consider the places where brand recognition comes into play. I’m not talking about the obvious places like TV, but the more subtle ways brands influence decisions or interests. Subtle brands are those that people really remember.
7. All your promotional materials are mandatory branding items. Business cards, flyers, media kit, stationery, websites. The list goes on. Make sure to personalize it and use a photo or a catchy tag line like “Packaging Diva. People remember that stuff. It’s okay to have fun with it. Not all business is serious stuff. In fact, many CEO’s are now taking humor classes to learn to “lighten up” and “social networking” is becoming the next hot way to get your brand out there.
Some other subtle branding techniques include your voice mail. Tell me what you do. I don’t care whether you are in the office or not. What are you are going to do for me to solve my problem (that’s why I am calling). Don’t forget to tell me the best way to reach you too. If you never answer the phone (a negative branding message), I’ll soon tire of leaving messages or become agitated that I cannot reach you.
Insert your brand message into your SIG file too. You would be amazed at the number of people that just assume that you know who they are when they send you an E-mail. Be sure and check mine out at the end of the newsletter. I update it monthly with what is fresh, new and exciting.
8. Promote your brand
This is fun. Promoting your brand is the best part of the process. Get out that horn and start tooting it. Don’t be shy. If you don’t promote yourself, who will? Write articles, give speeches, and get interviewed. Get OUT THERE. There are countless ways to soft sell yourself and your company in order to increase your visibility. Use them all.
9. Don’t forget to build a network. I just joined Linked in and already I have close to 400 connections (as a colleague mentioned. I have an awesome packaging network). This is where you can live the brand everyday. Your brand should be clearly visible and identifiable in everything you write say or do. Your brand should continually evolve and crystallize the essence of your message. Think me, I, my, then take the next step. Who are you going to tell? Everyone.
Make a list of every person you come in contact with, including friends and family and non-business activities. Think about how you interact with these people. Don’t they need to know about you? Did you remember your hairdresser/barber, vet, and cleaning lady? I’m not reaching here. All of these people know someone who needs to know about you. One can never tell where the next “connection” might come from.
10. Who knows about your brand? So you have a great brand, now what? Who knows it? What are you going to do about it? What is your brand action plan and whom are you going to share it with? Ask yourself who should know this. How can I reach them? What makes my brand better than brand X? You do know who brand X is, right? If not, how can you differentiate yourself from them? Better get sleuthing. Investigate what is appealing in the competition and determine how your brand is superior.
You need to continually coalesce, amalgamate, blend, consolidate, fuse, synthesize and unify your essence into a core message. The message should be consist and easily repeatable. You want people to remember you and to tell your story for you. When that happens, you become your brand evangelist. You know that you have a strong brand.
A brand can be anything whether old or new. Build your brand by understanding your core attributes. Promote and leverage your brand every day in every conceivable way. Use the power of your brand at any opportunity. Plan your brand marketing campaign for 08. Tell everyone who you are. It doesn’t matter if you have the best brand out there if no one knows it. Make sure you a true to your brand; and for heaven’s sake never leave home without it.
Wanted to know who or what I have branded lately? Email me back and ask what can you do for my brand too?
I package people, products and services. Get started in the right direction by visiting any one of my websites for free advice, articles or just plain help. You can ask a question to a packaging expert too, list your packaging request or just e-mail me at [email protected] I *will* find your perfect packaging solution!