Most business owners know enough about the power of effective branding to know they want it – they’re just not sure what “it” is. To make better sense of the mysterious subject of branding, here are the three key components of any successful brand strategy.
1. Establish your company’s core message and values: What is your company’s “pivot point,” the unifying theme?
Rather than start with logos, tag lines, and web sites, it’s best to start with the most important question of all, “Why are we doing this?” This type of introspection helps set the foundation of the brand by giving it a sense of purpose, mission, and direction. Without a compelling reason for being, a “brand” is no more than a commodity with a name. Rather than explaining what you do (function), delve deeper into why and how you do it (purpose). I often refer to this as a company’s “pivot point,” the idea or concept around which everything revolves. It’s also referred to as the core value proposition or central theme.
Without a compelling reason for being, a “brand” is no more than a commodity with a name.
Strong brands connect this message to consumers’ emotional desires, e.g. happiness, acceptance, safety, security, achievement, advancement, etc. Basing the brand message on timeless attributes allows a company to grow and evolve. Apple’s pivot point is based on style and innovation, not computers. Wal-mart is based on affordability. Rolex is based on prestige.
2. Formulate the overall brand identity: Does your company name, logo and tag lines compliment and support your core message?
Once you know what you are on task to accomplish, you can then turn to building an identity to follow suit. Start with the name and tag line. Make sure that they convey the general feel and direction of your brand message without boxing you in or leaving you outdated (e.g. Radio Shack). Avoid product or geographic references in your company brand name. Best Buy works better than CompUSA. Target works better than Burlington Coat Factory. If you are working on an existing brand, does the name cause confusion or require constant clarification? If so, consider rebranding to make it current, compelling and relevant.
Strong brands communicate clearly and consistently in their visual presentation
For legacy brands, be sure to establish a consistent use of fonts, colors, and design elements. Strive for consistency in all of your marketing materials. To keep everyone on the same page, create a brand style guide that outlines the proper usage and formatting of your various brand elements.
This document can then be shared with both staff and vendors, such as printers, sign makers, and graphic designers. By keeping the visual presentation clear and consistent, the brand message becomes more indelible and embedded in the mind of your consumers.
3. Determine the brand personality: What do you want to be known for? Is it consistent with your core values?
Once you define the core message and the overall appearance of your brand, explore your brand voice, the way you want to interact with clients and staff members. In a sense, it’s your brand’s personality, and like your brand identity, it needs to be consistent. Do you want to exude a sense of pride and professionalism or convey a sense of fun and excitement? It’s important to have a familiar style when you engage your customers, otherwise your brand will appear sporadic and unpredictable. Make sure to clearly communicate your messaging style to all your staff to ensure conformity of style. This especially holds true with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.
Bringing it all together: Unifying your company’s purpose, appearance and persona
These three building blocks form the basis of how your brand thinks, looks and feels. They combine to create the brand experience. By clearly establishing your brand message, identity and personality, you will attract congruent customers and dedicated staff members that mirror your company’s goals and objectives. You will begin to resonate with those who share your passion and conviction. With clarity comes confidence, and the ability to say “yes” to those opportunities that empower your brand, and “no” to things that compromise your ability to deliver effectively. Investing time and energy into these essential brand strategies will pay long term dividends that transform brand strategy into brand equity.
About the author: With over twenty five years of company naming and branding expertise, Tungsten founder Phil Davis is a marketing and advertising veteran, having personally named over 250 companies, products and services worldwide. As a sought after branding expert, Phil has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Inc.com, Businessweek, Entrepreneur, and Newsday.
BY Phil Davis
Brand Naming Expert
With over twenty-five years of company naming and branding expertise, Tungsten founder Phil Davis is a marketing and advertising veteran, having personally named over 250 companies, products and services worldwide. As a sought-after naming expert, Phil has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Inc.com, Businessweek, Entrepreneur, and Newsday.