- A company
- A product or service
- A person
- A city/state/territory/location
- A nonprofit
- An abstract concept
More than a decade after that article, many business leaders still don’t understand what the word “brand” really means or how important it is for their business. We see it all the time. Every day, we educate our clients about how critical it is to not only understand the meaning of a brand but also to be very deliberate in building a brand that reflects their company's mission, purpose, values, and customers.
The bottom line is this. Whether you know it or not, your business has a brand. You can take the time to define it and control the narrative, or you can let the marketplace decide what it is. Just know that if you do the latter, you may end up with a brand you didn’t intend to build and don’t really want.
Brand Gives Meaning
As humans, we strive to find meaning in everything and everyone we meet. At its core, branding is a process of giving consumers something to relate to and connect with by humanizing an organization with a personality. For businesses, a brand makes that company (and its products and services) easy to understand. Just as it is easier for humans to relate to people who are like us, we are also drawn to brands with similar values and outlooks. For example, consumers who value luxury and extravagance prefer brands that embrace those ideals, like Rolex or Tiffany. Those who value a sense of community and belonging look for brands that offer those kinds of experiences, like Harley Davidson, Peloton and Starbucks.
We are also drawn to other humans who show similar aspirations and ideals. In the same way, brands (especially new brands) can reflect those aspirations by proactively communicating their mission, such as to make the world a better place or to disrupt an industry for the better. For example, those who value social justice and responsibility are fans of brands promoting these elements, like Toms, Ben & Jerry's, and Patagonia.
When consumers think of brands as personalities, it's easier to decide if that brand is "right" for them. Smart leaders see this as an opportunity to build a strong customer base. The value a strong brand can bring to an organization is priceless. But brands can be fragile and need nurturing. Why? Because every individual consumer interaction can make or break your brand.
The Brand Experience
Your brand is created through the lived experiences of your customers, employees, stockholders, and anyone else who comes in contact and develops a perception of your organization.
The brand experience is the relationship a person develops with your brand through their five senses (touch, taste, smell, hearing, and seeing) and by the way your brand makes them feel. Brand experience evolves through every engagement with your product, marketing campaigns, advertisements, customer service, word-of-mouth recommendations, casual conversations, events, and any other interactions with your brand.
- When customer service standards become a global business legend (hint: Zappos!), that’s a brand.
- Conversely, when a service agent is rude to a customer, that’s also a brand.
- A brand is that feeling of confusion when a website chatbot responds to customer questions with answers that don’t make sense.
- When employees repost and share a company’s social media posts with pride, or when a social media account sounds like a snarky teenager (Hey, Wendys!), that's a brand.
- A brand is packaging that is so unique and elevated that customers want to keep it after their purchase (hint, Apple).
- When a blue shopping bag becomes one of the most used bags in the world and a symbol of reliability, durability, and sturdiness, like IKEA’s, that's a brand,
- When a logo like Chanel or Louis Vuitton becomes a status symbol that people wear proudly, that’s a brand.
In other words, your brand is defined by the emotional connection created through every touchpoint. Every moment of interaction reflects your brand. Every business leader’s top priority should be to build, protect, and represent their brand by creating great experiences. The return is much greater than profit.
The Value of a Strong Brand
A strong brand will absolutely net incremental profits for your company. In fact, studies show that branding consistency (customers receive the same experience when interacting with a brand) can increase revenue by 20%.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg. A company becomes more stable when consumers feel connected and aligned with a brand. Why? Because a positive brand experience also positively impacts consumer trust and customer satisfaction.
Trust, shared values, and authenticity are critical to a strong brand. 66% of consumers report feeling connected to a brand when it gains their trust, while 53% define it as having aligned values. 84% of shoppers agree they buy from brands they share values with. Also, a study by Stackla found that 88% of consumers consider authenticity important when deciding which brands to support.
Here’s the bottom line. When customers feel connected to brands, 57% say they will increase their spending with that brand, and 76% will choose that brand over a competitor.
A strong brand also contributes to a positive workplace culture. Employees are proud to be associated with a reputable brand, leading to higher morale and job satisfaction. Additionally, a positive brand image can attract and retain top talent.
According to LinkedIn, a strong brand can decrease turnover by 28%, reduce the cost of hiring new employees by 50%, and draw 50% more qualified applicants to a company.
Strong brands inspire collaborative partnerships with like-minded organizations and influencers. Partnerships with reputable brands can enhance your overall brand image and open doors to new markets and audiences. Your positive image may also draw more media attention for new product launches, marketing strategies, and collaborations.
In a crowded market, a strong brand can also set your company apart from competitors. They will find it challenging to replicate the same level of trust and respect you've built. Your brand highlights what makes your company special and shares that unique promise that connects with your audience. Strong brands create a perception of higher value in the minds of consumers. This perceived value goes beyond the tangible features of your product or service and gives you an edge in the marketplace.
Your brand's value and strength are significant assets for your company. Brand equity contributes to your business's long-term sustainability and success and requires cohesive brand management.
The Elements of Brand Management
Brands are fragile. One wrong image, advertisement, social media response, blog post, or customer service interaction can put your brand's reputation at risk. Proactive and consistent brand management is critical to building brand equity and longevity.
Brand management involves a combination of marketing, communications, and operational efforts to ensure that a brand maintains a strong and favorable position in the marketplace. Key components of brand management include:
- Brand Strategy: Develop a clear and comprehensive brand strategy that defines your purpose, mission, values, vision, and positioning in the market. This includes identifying your target audience and understanding their needs and preferences.
- Brand Identity: Create and maintain a visual identity that includes your brand's logo, colors, typography, and other design elements. Consistency in these visual elements helps in building recognition.
- Brand Communication: Develop and implement messaging frameworks and communication strategies to convey your brand's messages, values, and unique selling propositions. This includes advertising, public relations, events, social media, and content marketing.
- Brand Experience: Ensure that every interaction your customer has with the brand, whether through products, services, customer support, or location aligns with your brand promise and contributes to a positive overall experience.
- Brand Guidelines: Develop a set of rules and instructions that define how your brand is presented to the public and maintained across various channels. These guidelines ensure consistency in the visual, verbal, and experiential elements associated with your brand.
- Brand Monitoring: Regularly assess and monitor your brand's performance in the market, track customer sentiment, and stay aware of industry trends. This helps you identify areas for improvement and adapt to changes in the market environment.
- Brand Extension: Exploring opportunities for brand extension or diversification to expand your brand's presence and relevance in the market.
- Crisis Management: Be prepared to handle potential crises or adverse events that could impact your brand's reputation. Swift and effective crisis management is crucial to maintaining trust and credibility.
- Internal Branding: Ensure that employees and other internal stakeholders understand, embody, and communicate your brand values because they play a crucial role in delivering brand experience to customers.
Brand management requires creativity, consistency, and adaptability to be effective. It also requires a fundamental understanding of the importance of brand and how you want your brand to be perceived in the marketplace. Effective brand management will create a strong and resilient brand that can withstand market challenges and connect with customers on a deep and lasting level. It's also crucial to any brand's long-term sustainability and success.
"Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business."
Steve Forbes, Editor in Chief of Forbes Magazine.
If you need help building, refining, or nurturing your brand (or all of the above), our brand team can guide you. Contact us today for more details.Brand is more than a name or logo. It can also be: