What Makes a Strong Brand?
You might not be aware of this, but a recognised and loved brand is one of the most valuable assets a company owns. It’s a common mistake that branding is ‘just a logo’ or is simply a set of adverts done infrequently. The reality is that your brand is the overall perception your business has on existing, new and potential clients.
Your brand is much more than just the visual element of your business, it includes all of the following:
- Your Reputation
- The Employees
- Actions Made
- Customer Service
- The Logo
In order to create a strong brand there is a process that needs to be followed, I can’t stress enough that perseverance and consistency is key. A brand isn’t built overnight, like with most things in business you have to take your time with it, as rushing it may ultimately make your business feel aggressive or as if it is shouting at clients to do business with you. Nobody wants that! By taking your time and always being consistent with your values, message and quality, this will improve the relationships with your clients. The goal is to have your client base know that they will always get the same consistent product or service every time they come to you. If done well, this can result in a growth in sales, more projects and the greatest referral of all – word of mouth. Let’s be honest, you’re more likely work with a business if someone you know has said ‘They did a great job! I loved final product!’
So, what does make a great brand? We’ve itemised what aspects make up your business/personal brand, however you might be wondering why these are important at all. Let’s go into more detail about the importance of each element of your business.
This sounds like an obvious element, however there is more to this than you may think. Your reputation can either be your best friend or your worst enemy when you’re trying to grow your business.
An example of your reputation letting you down would be, if for example, you have the reputation locally as being the cheapest ‘Grab & Go’ coffee shop. Even you’ll admit that it isn’t the best quality but your service is lightning fast. Your staff manage to keep the queues down even at 8:30am before people go to work. This sounds great, but the problem you’re having is you’re selling the coffee too cheap. The market has changed and people want to sit down and relax whilst having a premium coffee. Your business is going to struggle with it’s existing customer base if you want to change the business structure as well as increasing the cost.
So how could you approach this? You’re not going to be able to run both business models together without increasing your overhead. As it stands people know your business as the ‘Grab & Go’ coffee shop for when you just need a caffeine hit. Rebranding the business to change it’s image will be the best catalyst to stop people associating it with its old reputation and help build the new one you want that matches the new business model.
A good example of a positive reputation would be, if you have a cake shop that has stood the test of time and you have orders coming in consistently. People love your cakes and trust that every time they order they get the same great quality and service. Word travels fast and even people who have never had your cakes are saying to their friends ‘we should go there at some point, I’ve heard the cakes are delicious’. This is a company having a great reputation and is the best foundation to build upon, your customers are marketing your business for you!
This includes everyone who works in the business (including yourself), the people in the business make the business. They all add their own character to it all. If you’re business has an outgoing adventure feel to it then you’re unlikely to have people who don’t follow the same ideas and lifestyle working with you.
Likewise, employees can make or break your business. Having an employee working with you that has a poor work ethic (especially in a small team) can create tension in the business and make it a difficult place to work. Clients can sense this! The ideal scenario is to have everyone working together in a job that they enjoy.
The brand is key with your employees because they have to be aware of the businesses immediate/bigger goals as well as yourself. It’s great having an amazing Ad Campaign, however if your employees aren’t aware of what it’s about then how are they going to sell it and feel motivated for it too? It’ll end up making it feel inconsistent or even worse half hearted.
Thinking of your business beyond the service/product it provides it will have a presences in the community. Whether this be for charity work or a talk that members of your staff do twice a month for example. Raising funds for a local charity will humanise the business, showing it in a good light. People buy off people and having positive PR will always aid your brand and reflect positively on your business.
Your Product/Service is the core of your business, it’s the deliverable to the client and ultimately where the business gets its income. If you have a well developed product that you have tried and tested, that’s genuinely a great product this will work in tandem with the brand. However again I must emphasis the importance of consistency, your client must be confident that they will always get the same quality product/service. Otherwise it will be doomed to fail.
We have all at some point stretched the truth, but in business you will be quickly found out when you don’t deliver on what you promised. People prefer it when you’re honest and describe it as it is. If your product really is great it should sell itself! If anything, you should slightly undersell it, this doesn’t mean to make your product sound rubbish by any means but for example if your business is serviced based give your client an extended deadline where you add an extra day compared to your internal deadline. Providing deliverables early will instantly make the business look efficient even though you have planned it to be done early all along. Granted this is an extreme reference but an example of a business not meeting customer expectations is how Apple has ‘tarnished its image’ for not creating any innovation with their range but instead Apple have repeatedly just tweaking their products, this is explored in fortune article.
This is key to creating a trustworthy brand. Customer service represents the way that you interact with your clients. This isn’t just on the phone it also includes how you word your emails, the copy text on your website or even the way you greet your client when they come into your office – every little detail matters.
This isn’t generic for every business, it all depends on the character & ethos of the business. You instinctively know that going into the Google offices will have a completely different experience than going to the BMW offices. Google will be a fun environment that’s vibrant, bubbling with energy & ideas as the BMW office will be minimal and professional to the highest standard. as highlighted in this article exploring the success of the BMW brand.
These styles of businesses are crafted by each company to cater their offering to their client base. They have understood the importance of the correct use of language & environment, which also applies to your business. Being an online business will make people think differently to a retail version of your business and the way you speak to a client will draw in a certain type of client. A casual environment will put off a certain client as a formal environment will put off another client.
As mentioned previously, a logo doesn’t make up the entire brand but it is a key element to it. It’s the visual representation of what you do, so it really is a vital element to your business. This doesn’t mean that you should list out everything that you do in your logo as it should be refined and clean. There are a set of rules that should be followed when developing a logo, these are as follows:
- Good Logos identify, they should not describe what you do.
- A logo can’t solve all your problems
- Your logo should be visually engaging
- The logo must be able to exist in a variety of different media.
- A logo should not be an illustration
- Your logo is the foundation of your identity.
I must emphasis that in some cases business owners think that giving their business a new logo will instantly change it, making people think differently of it. This isn’t the case, if there is a tribunal or legal issues that have gone public, a new logo will not make this go away. As obvious as this sounds, some people do think this.
Your logo is the smiling face of your business, if your company is a family friendly activity organiser and your logo is a dark with an abstract concept that would be better suited in a Tim Burton film, this might not be doing you any favours. It’s worth occasionally taking a step back and reviewing whether your logo and identity reflects the values and ethos of the business.
All of the visual elements of your business stem from your logo and the guidelines that go with it. The visuals for the business are items such as, the website, brochures, advertisements, business stationery, email signatures etc. If you’re lucky enough to have a brand manual / brand guidelines it is essential that everyone follows them when working on any visuals for the business. This goes back to the consistency of the brand, having posters printed where the logo is stretched and none of the fonts match will instantly devalue the visual brand, which in term damages the business.
Having all the visuals matching with a seamlessly consistent look and voice will help your clients trust your business. In this scenario the fact they don’t notice that anything is different or out of place is of the incredibly important. The visuals are recognised as being undoubtedly from your business.
So there we have it, these are the fundamental elements that make up a strong brand. If you follow and always proactively consider each of these elements when making crucial decisions with your business you will be on the path to creating an effective brand people will trust and always remember consistency is key.
This article covers the basic outlines of the essentials to creating a successful brand. There will be further entries that will cover each topic in more detail. If you have any questions then please ask in the comments.