What Makes A Brand?

12/01/2015

We’re often asked by clients how they can clarify and strengthen their brand. You can’t have that conversation without understanding what goes into making a brand – which is a lot!

Many businesses start off by thinking about their brand purely in visual terms – their logo, signage, website, marketing materials and packaging. But that barely scratches the surface.

In truth, a brand is what instantly comes to mind when it is mentioned. Is the name familiar? Does it conjure positive thoughts or negative ones? Does it have the “baggage” you want it to have?

Many organisations have problems with their brand because there is a gap between what they think it is and the perceptions of others – in particular, customers and staff.

In shaping your brand, the first step is to establish what you want it to be. How do you aspire to be known? Be clear in your mind what your story is, what makes you special. This is your brand narrative.

Once it is clear, your narrative should be applied with great discipline to every part of your business. It must be embraced and understood by your staff. By ensuring consistency in how you promote yourselves and the service you give your customers, you’ll start to build the brand you want.

Once you know what your brand should be, all sorts of interesting opportunities for reinforcing it start to emerge:

  • Ideas about what to say in your social media messages
  • The sort of PR you should be generating
  • The type of customer testimonials to seek
  • Recognising and responding to any wrong things being said about you

Really successful brands tend to have two key elements – simplicity and an emotional connection. In this way, they are immediately understood and liked. However, a note of caution…

It takes time and effort to build a really successful brand, yet it can be seriously damaged in seconds. Think back to Gerald Ratner, whose retail jewellery business was ruined virtually overnight when in an unguarded moment he mocked the quality of his own products!

Your brand needs constant love and attention. In particular, always ensure that what you are saying matches the experience of your customers. If you claim your services or products are great but your customers think otherwise, they’ll be less likely to believe anything else you have to say. Worse still, they’ll pass on their reservations and criticisms to others – all too easy in these days of social media.

Your brand is your reputation and the foundation stone of your business. It’s a precious thing, so understand it and try never to take it for granted.