In today’s image-conscious world, branding has taken on extra significance. Companies struggle for the public’s attention, spinning and spewing out innumerable lines and stories about what they are and why their wares and deals are better than what their competitors offer. The media- whether it’s traditional television and radio, or contemporary social media -is so densely stuffed with product pushing, colour and logo, letters, images and movements, that the average twenty-first-century person who keeps up with the trends sometimes feels dazed by it all. Brands are at war on multiple fronts, battling to reach new audiences, and fighting to convert readers and watchers into paying clients. Only a select few emerge from the noisy chaos to win customers’ hearts and minds (and not just wear them out or turn them off).
What exactly makes a brand stand out? What causes the “select few” to capture and retain a large loyal following?
The most widely recognized brands are able to tap into popular consciousness, come up with a message that their target audiences recognize and appreciate, and consistently push this message while delivering upon their promises (so that their brand talk doesn’t ring hollow in the long run). But how do companies build their public image into something that people would really be drawn to?
Here, we explain five things that high visibility and high-performance businesses require to grow their brands into truly formidable shape.
- Carry out an extensive and detailed brand audit
Brand conscious companies conduct a thorough examination of their brand when it seems to be falling short of their expectations. This would typically involve probing into the company’s brand culture and character, to find out whether the company has really lived up to the ethos it espouses before the world. Sometimes, the failure of a business’ attempt to present its brand as appealing arises from the existence of a disconnect between the business and its intended market. If a brand’s image isn’t resonating with the people it is supposed to be reaching, then it’s probably right to tweak it somewhat, or totally revamp it by rebranding. Whatever the decision concerning the brand image is, it’s vital that it be taken after analyzing available information about market demographics (potential and actual customers’ age group, their area of residence, occupation) and psychographics (values and sentiments that motivate their decision to purchase products). These examinations could yield vital clues about why a brand is underperforming, as well as what should be done to make it more attractive.
Competing brands’ advertising and online presence should also be studied to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are. Matching (or improving upon) competitors’ strengths and providing an enhanced alternative to their weak points are winning strategies that a company could employ to improve the impression that people have of its brand.
- Craft a unique message that strikes a chord
How do you communicate your company’s philosophy and value proposition to the world in a concise, yet understandable way?
If you’re selling graphic design and print services to SMEs and startups, for instance, you should shape your mission statement and “declaration of beliefs” (what your company stands for in the world’s eyes) to emphasize a passion for… or a commitment to… “providing quality designs and prints for small businesses at affordable prices. The idea here is to draw your ideal customer (small businesses) to you by pointing towards your concern for what they really care about (the marriage of quality and low cost).
Getting this right involves a lot of work- more work than many businesses realize. It’s not enough to conduct a brief brainstorming session from which all arise with a consensus company message for the world. An impressive, attention-grabbing “gospel according to your company” needs to be fashioned with a good knowledge of your target market in mind. As is the case with brand auditing, customers’ social grouping and preferences should be taken into account here.
- Create a brand look, feel and voice that resonates with the target audience
Short attention spans and a greater assortment of product (and company) alternatives for customers to choose from have conspired to make it more challenging to find the right sort of creative blend that helps a brand capture and keep loyal clients. But it’s still being done.
The design components (colours, images, font styles, and sizes, etc) of a company’s logo, website, social media channel and other marketing material, should reflect the company’s values (this applies to all forms of content related to the company, including video and print). There’s a whole field of colour and design psychology that marketers and brand managers need to acquaint themselves with if they want to come up with visual representations of their brand that will leave a lasting impression on the minds of people in their target demographic. A children’s books publisher could use a logo which has a cartoon-like image of a child reading a book, along with large, simple type fonts and colour splatterings; it wouldn’t cross the mind of a reasonable logo designer to make anything remotely similar to this for a high-end financial service provider.
The goal of sprucing up the creative side of a brand should be to appeal to the public’s senses through creative expressions of what the brand stands for.
- Have a plan to sustain brand visibility
Brand visibility isn’t achieved by one-time social media, television or radio blitzes. It’s a good thing to have fine logos and catchy taglines, but they will be of no real use if they, as well as other representations of the brand they stand for, are not consistently put out and found in the public domain. Companies need a long-term multi-channel brand visibility strategy to aid them in their battle for continued relevance in the markets they seek to dominate.
Targeted social media marketing and advertisements on radio and television are ways by which businesses can remain within the realm of public consciousness. Companies could also sponsor events that align with their values or are popular enough to attract significant public attention.
- Focus on the customer
Brands do well when they revolve around customers and demonstrate an awareness of customers’ needs. They (the brands) thrive when they speak to their target audience in ways that they understand and through themes they can identify with. In building a stronger brand, companies should look to mirror their customers’ aspirations and present those aspirations as the very things they seek to bring alive through their work.