Your brand is your reputation.
BRAND DEVELOPMENT establishes it.
What is a brand?
A brand answers the question who are you
? When thinking of a person, it includes your name and what you look like, but we would all agree that we are far more. When asked who are you
, of course we respond with our name, but when pressed, we might start describing what we do, what our values are, our interests, our family, and more.
This full picture of our identity is critically valuable to us, but especially as it becomes known to others. Once known, our identity begins to represent our reputation. We all wish to have a good reputation: friendly, trustworthy, honest. Individually, we do our best to establish and maintain our reputation. When it is harmed, we earnestly try to reestablish it.
All of this is relevant when speaking about the brand of a company. At a glance, we identify a brand by name or a logo. But this is not what makes a brand valuable.
What makes a brand valuable?
To understand this, the story of the Nike logo is a great example. Back in 1971, a graphic design student named Carolyn Davidson created the logo we now know as the Nike ‘swoosh’. She was directed by one of the Nike founders, Phil Knight (her accounting professor) to create a logo that would represent movement, and selected one of Carolyn’s designs inspired by the wings of the Greek goddess Nike.
The original nike logo
What is the point of these humble beginnings? Davidson was paid $35 for creating the logo, at a rate of only $2 per hour. Today, that same ‘swoosh’ is one of the most recognizable logos in the word. It alone is valued at $26 Billion Dollars US, making it the most valuable in the world. Of course this has very little to do with a squiggle. In the decades since, Nike has established itself as a titan in sports, to the point where its reputation precedes it, globally.
This clearly helps us understand that the brand is far more than a name or a graphic. Being identifiable is important, just like our own face, but it is our reputation, and the relationships that develop through our identity that hold value.
Brand development is the strategic process of making a company distinguished. Making our company’s image, products, and services identifiable among our competitors. It is about communicating our brand to our target market, and then continually managing and strengthening our reputation.
Just like with personal relationships, communicating our brand successfully makes others ‘want to be your friend’. In the business world, this translates to establishing customer loyalty.
So how does a company create and establish a brand?
Do the research
The book Good to Great
, by Jim Collins (read this!), argues that a company should be like a hedgehog. A hedgehog has one move it does really
well. It doesn’t run or hide or even try to be clever. When it is in danger a hedgehog rolls itself into a spiky ball. Every single time. It has one effective move it has perfected, and it sticks with it consistently.
Too many companies try to be all things to all customers and end up doing a bunch of things poorly rather than one thing really well. The research shows that companies that take the time to determine their own Hedgehog concept outperform their market rivals ten fold.
Every company should establish a concept for their business that sits in the middle of 3 questions:
- What are we deeply passionate about?
- What can we be the best in the world at?
- What drives our economic engine?
This might take years to form fully, just as our identity matures with age. But once we have understanding and this concept is established, don’t waver. This forms the core of our values as a company.
Know thy customer
When trying to make friends, it is important to find common interests. This means determining what is important to the other person, and seeing how that fits with our own values.
It is the same with a company. Instead of telling
customers what they need, we need to ask “what do our customers want”? Then we determine how to deliver those desires. Identifying this helps us create a brand strategy.
To do so, we might ask questions like:
- What is our company’s personality?
- Who is our target customer?
- How do we make our customers feel?
- Why do our customers trust us?
- Who are our competitors?
- What makes us different from our competitors?
- What problems do we solve for our customers?
Knowing ourselves and our customers puts us in a good position to communicate well. It may mean we can simplify our brand identity, the methods we communicate with our customers, even simplify our business practices.
Determining Our Target Audience
Now it is time to identify who is most likely to buy our products or services. Who are these people? What do they have in common? The more clearly we identify our customer, the easier we can determine how best to attract them to our brand.
Reaching your target audience may involve creating content for them, delivering targeted advertising, or communicating directly with them through interviews and surveys.
Brand positioning means establishing a distinctive place for our company in the market. It ensures we are distinct from our competition. This is done by creating a marketing strategy that attracts customers in a unique and distinct way.
For example, more than 100 years ago a soda company established itself as the ‘original’. It offered a product entirely new for the time: cola. It established its brand as unique among beverages, and still holds a position as the ‘original’ Coca-cola.
Positioning a brand in a target market means determining:
- What your customers want
- Your brand capabilities
- Your competitors brand positioning
This process shares a lot of commonalities with establishing a hedgehog concept.
After understanding your position, you are able to communicate your brand with a clear and concise message.
Once you know your brand well, you are in a position to communicate it well. It should be possible to communicate the entire essence of your business in one tagline.
If you have determined your hedgehog concept, this should be relatively simple. Can you just turn your hedgehog concept into a customer facing message? Maybe. In a clear and concise way you want to communicate your passion, what you are the best in the world at, and the value you offer to your customer.
You can support your tagline with an elevator pitch that is compelling to your potential customers: includes your story, how you solve problems for your customers, your company culture and personality, and who your customers are.
Promoting your Brand
You probably started reading this thinking that it was all about logos. Not so. But now that we have a full understanding of brand management, we can talk abou the tools that communicate a brand well.
Your logo is a concise, simple, holistic representation of your company. It should be eye-catching and memorable. It should be unique and informative. It should be used liberally so that it becomes recognizable.
If your logo is your face, your website is your head. It allows you to communicate with your customers through content and visual media. We use mirrors to ensure we don’t have something on our face: we want to look attractive. In the same way, our website speaks volumes not only through what it says, but how it looks, and how it works. In every way, we want our website to reflect the unique good impression we are trying to establish with our brand.
Marketing materials might include business cards, greeting cards, signs, displays, sell sheets, mailers, and displays. Once you have determined effective methods of reaching your customers, it is important to have appropriate materials to give your company credibility and reach your target audience directly.
Every piece of communication with your target audience is content. So this should be handled strategically and with care so that it is valuable, relevant and consistent with your brand. This will allow it to do its intended purpose of attracting your target audience. Do it right; make a plan.
As an individual, it takes time for your sense of self to fully form. It also takes time for your hedgehog concept to fully form. In the same way, expect your brand to evolve over time as markets, needs, and even you, change.
At Warblr Marketing, we are keen to give our clients the most holistic approach to marketing possible. We partner closely with our clients, and are invested in their success. Our approach to marketing is different in that it is deeply influenced by User Experience Design. We believe that Marketing itself is far more than advertising, but is a piece in a well designed user experience. This specialty means that every interaction with your customer is examined and optimized with care. The result is not just increased revenue, but a great business you are right to be proud of.
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