In today’s ultra-competitive business world, the only way you can stand out from your competition is to differentiate yourself through branding. The first step in establishing your brand is to ascertain how your business is performing in the eyes of your customers and employees. To do this you must perform a brand audit.
A brand audit is a detailed examination of your brand’s current position in the market. It makes comparisons to your competitors and reviews the effectiveness of your brand. Conducting an audit helps you to get to know your brand inside and out. Once you’ve completed an audit you can determine the strength and weaknesses of your brand, and identify opportunities for improvement.
An extensive brand audit should look at internal and external branding, as well as the company’s systems and infrastructure. It is important to align your brand externally and internally. Ensure that your inside is like your outside; what you say externally should be the same thing you say/do internally.
Internal branding supports a cultural shift within an organization where employees become more customer and business focused.
Companies whose workforces understand how they operate and make money, perform better. If executed properly, internal branding allows employees to transition from being “informed,” to “understanding” the information, to becoming “committed.” This approach encourages staff members to independently change their behavior in support of the company’s goals.
Effective internal branding offers huge benefits. Committed employees provide stronger performance and higher customer satisfaction. In addition, internal branding increases brand equity, customer focus and ultimately shareholder value.
Your brand’s positioning, sometimes referred to as a brand strategy, is the process of placing your brand in the mind of consumers. It is constantly promoting the benefit that you want consumers to recall when they think of your brand.
It is very important that you have a positioning statement. This is a one or two sentence articulation that communicates your brand’s unique value to your customers, particularly in relation to your main competitors.
The goal of brand positioning is to create a unique impression in the mind of consumers, so that they associate something specific and desirable with your brand. What they recall should be unique from others in the marketplace.
Brand values are the starting point for everything, the foundation of a business. These values should be seen throughout your organization and be reflected in how you not only market your business, but how you handle your customer service. These could be words like trust, loyalty, quality, speed, creativity, etc.
Human beings connect to a value’s underlying, deeper purpose. If you don’t align with other people’s values, they will not work with you or buy your products/services.
Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Communicating the unique selling proposition (USP), also known as brand promise or brand essence, is a key element of branding. Part of determining your unique selling proposition is understanding the value that your product brings to the market. Your proposition must give consumers a reason to choose you. Why will consumers buy from you over your competitor? That is the question you need to answer, when formulating your unique selling proposition.
Products or services without differentiation risk being seen as a commodity and fungible by the consumer, thus lowering price potential. That is why having a unique selling point is essential to have a successful business that can handle current and future competition.
If you’re not a brand, you’re a commodity. – Philip Kotler
In Rosser Reeves’ book Reality in Advertising, he shares three rules that a unique selling proposition satisfy to be more than just creative branding:
- Each marketing message must make a proposition to the consumer. Each communication must say to the consumer: “Buy this product, for this specific benefit.”
- The proposition must be one the competition cannot or does not offer. It must be unique.
- The proposition must be strong enough to move the masses, i.e., attract new customers.
Having a unique selling point, even one that discludes some prospective customers, is a competitive advantage that allows you to avoid the trap of trying to please everyone.
An effective brand voice is the result of purposeful, consistent expression through carefully chosen words and prose styles. When communicating with your audience you must be consistent with the voice and vocabulary you are using. It is not what you say, but how you say it. The goal is to engage and motivate the consumer.
There is a strong link between familiarity and trust. A consistent tone breeds familiarity and trust with an audience. Because something familiar requires little effort to process mentally, audience members are more likely to feel at ease around it. That said, the tone of a brand’s voice should be distinctive and recognizable.
The goal of establishing a brand voice is to build brand affinity. Consistently use a tone of communications and writing style that appeals to your audience, and lends authenticity to your brand.
The culture within your company should bring your brand to life.
Brand culture promotes an environment where employees “live” the brand’s values. Adhering to these corporate values, employees solve problems and make decisions internally, which deliver a consistently branded customer experience externally.
Everything the company does, including the business decisions it makes, must be consistent with the brand’s culture. This builds a strong sense of identification between front-line employees and the brand’s customers.
If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand. – Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks
Product positioning is the process of determining how to communicate your products’ attributes in a way that conveys the differentiating, value-added aspects of your product or service to your target audience.
Product positioning refers to consumers’ perceptions of a product’s attributes, uses, quality, and advantages and disadvantages relative to competing brands. – Louis E. Boone and David L. Kurtz, Contemporary Marketing.
Effective product positioning ensures that your marketing messages will resonate with targeted consumers and compel them to take action.
Using external sources to communicate your branded message is an important part of branding your business. External branding combines all marketing activities used to influence the mind-set and purchase behavior of customers, as well as to entice prospective customers to use your company’s product or service.
A business makes itself distinct through the image that it presents to the world, primarily through its corporate identity on business cards, letterheads, brochures, etc. This physical expression of the company’s brand is an extension of the brand culture that is already expressed through the brand’s communication style and behavior.
A corporate identity is a set of multi-sensory elements that are employed to communicate a visual statement about a brand to consumers. Generally speaking, this includes a company’s name, logo, slogan, buildings, décor, uniforms, and company colors, which are commonly assembled within a set of brand guidelines. These detailed guidelines include approved color palettes, typefaces, page layouts, etc., and will govern how the corporate identity is applied in advertising and PR campaigns.
Brand Collateral is the collection of media you use to promote your brand. Designed to support your brand’s core values and personality, it plays an important role in supporting the sales and marketing of your product or service.
Your business’ brand collateral includes printed items like business cards, brochures, direct mail, letterhead, envelopes and fliers. It also includes your company’s digital assets like Facebook and Twitter wallpapers, websites, landing pages, mobile apps, and videos.
- Social Media
Social data can help provide an overview of your brand and provide valuable insight. The demographic information available through social media allows you to better understand who your audience is. In doing so, you will be able to create content that really appeals to your fans, friends, and followers.
In addition, using your social media assets to perform a sentiment analysis allows you to gain an overview of the wider public opinion around your brand. Nurturing and monitoring online interactions will allow your company to collect the honest, straightforward opinion of the consumer audience.
Branding must be consistent across all media types. This also applies to web design. When website visitors come into contact with your brand, the web page they visit must awaken the associations and experiences they 1) previously had with your brand, or 2) have seen in traditional or digital advertising.
To ensure your website projects a uniform image, keep colors, visuals and typography consistent throughout your website.
Banding helps people differentiate between competition and quickly judge quality. – @DesignDepot
This is the process that you use to keep the public aware of your brand, so they continue to buy your products, or services. Generating this brand awareness will improve the consumer’s ability to recall or recognize your brand from a brand element, like a logo, jingle, or slogan.
When advertising your brand you must deliver a clear message about your brand’s identity; more specifically, the character and personality of your brand. This is important because, good brand advertising builds brand credibility; it inspires trust.
Brand advertising also works to establish your brand as a leader in its industry. This positioning allows you to out-compete other brands.
Making Changes To Your Branding
If, based on your brand audit, you decide to make changes to your brand, you’ll need to put together a full action plan for rolling out the changes. This must include an extended timeline and clear delegation of responsibilities, both inside and outside your company.
When a brand identity changes, it’s confusing to consumers. So, everywhere the name of your company appears, your branding should be immediately identifiable. The fonts, colors, and logo should always be consistent.