Ask a dozen people and you’ll likely get a dozen different answers. The truth is that the definition of a brand has evolved over the years. The most common misconception is that a company’s brand is their logo and slogan. The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol, design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.” These elements are certainly part of a brand but the entire brand platform is much bigger in scope.
An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. But what exactly does "branding" mean? Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be. It’s everything the company represents. A brand is the company’s heart and soul as well as its personality.
If you think of your company as a person, the brand is how it acts, how it dresses, how it talks, and how other people perceive it. Creating a great band is about creating an emotional response with your audience. A brand is not about gaining market share, it’s about gaining mindshare and creating that deeper connection with your customers.
Most importantly a brand is driven both internally and externally. Every touch point with your customers has an impact on your brand. Likewise, every customer experience, good or bad, has an impact on your brand. A well-executed brand strategy provides the clarity that your staff needs to be successful.
Why is Branding Important?
Brands are valuable assets. So valuable in fact that many companies put the value of their brand on their balance sheet. For some companies, their brand is the most valuable asset they own. When Tata Motors paid Ford $2.5 billion for Jaguar and Range Rover, much of that was for the brands. Certainly, the employees, factories and raw materials had value but the brands were worth more than all other ingredients combined.
Consistent branding leads to a strong brand equity, which means the added intrinsic value, brought to your company's products and services. The added value frequently comes in the form of perceived quality or emotional attachment. Eventually, with enough brand equity, customers are willing to pay a premium for those services as well as select those brands over others when given a choice.
A well-executed branding strategy also improves customer loyalty and social referrals. People love to tell others about the brands they like. People wear brands, eat brands, listen to brands, and they’re constantly telling others about the brands they love.
Branding promotes recognition, also known as brand awareness. People tend to do business with companies they are familiar with. If your branding is consistent and easy to recognize, it can help people feel more at ease purchasing your products or services.
The Brand Experience
The brand experience, sometimes referred to as the Customer Experience, consists of a series of interactions a company has with a customer.
- Presumption: The point at which a person becomes aware of a brand through referral by another person.
- Introduction: The point at which a person is formally introduced to a brand through advertising and marketing materials produced by the company.
- Interaction: The point at which a person shows interest in the brand and seeks more information about the brand, products, and services.
- Purchase: The point at which a person recognizes the value of the brand, products, and services and becomes a paying customer.
- Adoption: The point at which a person becomes satisfied with the brand and uses the products and services on a consistent basis.
- Referral: The point at which a person refers others to the brand directly related to their experience with the products and services.
The brand experience can also be viewed as cyclical in that the Referral phase circle back to the Presumption phase of a potential new customer.
In today’s connected world, a solid brand strategy and execution is more important than ever. The rate at which a brand experience can travel is astonishing. The need to incorporate your brand into every aspect of your business is critical to long-term success.
Elements and Definitions of a Brand Platform
A brand platform is a document that outlines and encompasses every aspect of a brand. Also referred to as Brand Guidelines, the document is something that everyone in the company can use as a guide to the total customer experience from marketing and advertising to customer relations and support.
Promise: This is the central idea at the heart of your brand—the core idea that drives everything you do. Remember, it is not messaging and shouldn’t be used in external facing communications.
Positioning: The value proposition expresses what you provide as a brand, how you provide it, to whom you provide it, and why that’s valuable to your customers at a certain point in time.
Core Values: These are what define your unique position in the marketplace and give your customers a reason to choose you. They define how your services should perform and the qualities your marketing should reflect. They are the foundation for everything you do.
Personality: A distinct identity that defines you both verbally and visually. Crossing individual creative campaigns, the brand personality combines distinct yet overlapping characteristics that give your customers a reason to love your brand.
Voice: A consistent communication style (a voice) helps customers recognize and trust you. Because you communicate with individuals from all walks of life, you’ve got to sound like you understand them and that you are one of them.
Brand Architecture: Outlines the use of your brand in relation to your products and services and in relation to sub-brands.
Name Guidelines: Used consistently and correctly, the name will gain strength and wide recognition among your target audience.
Visual Identity Guidelines: You communicate your brand through the elements of your visual identity including the logo, photography, typography, colors, and composition.
Building a lasting brand takes a tremendous amount of time, patience, and money. It could also take some outside perspective like you can get from a branding expert. More importantly, though, building a brand takes a well-planned strategy and buy-in from all levels of the organization. Your brand is exposed at every customer touch point you can imagine from a word of mouth referral to the point of sale, and customer support. In order to create that lasting relationship with your customers, it is important that the brand experience be both appealing and consistent.