Establishing a Strong Company Image
(This article is an excerpt from a marketing workshop presented to the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce)
In today’s global economy, your brand image is your handshake with the world. Through the internet, we can communicate with individuals and businesses half way around the world in an instant. It’s imperative to make sure your brand is communicating the right message.
Simply put… your brand is the simplest way to communicate to your customers and audience that YOU are the trusted experts that can enhance their business with the latest advances in your company’s area of expertise.
Here is something to consider: What unique product or service do you or your company offer your customers?
If you cannot answer this question honestly, you have no brand. No brand, no incentive to choose you over your competitor. You’re just vanilla flavored ice cream in a world full of vanilla.
“If your business is not a brand, it is a commodity.” — Donald Trump
One of the key components to projecting a strong brand message is consistency. Consistent use of the brand logo, color and typography can make a lasting impression that pays dividends over time.
A brand is your promise; it is one of your most valuable assets. And to help you understand this better, think of your brand using the three “P”s.
- Personality: A great brand personality rests on its authenticity and is attractive to your customers.
- Promise: A great brand promise means fulfilling your customer’s needs with your organization’s passion.
- Position: A great brand position is when your customer chooses you over your competition for clear, measurable reasons. And that builds brand loyalty.
Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for years, having a strong brand image is crucial if you want to attract customers. A successful brand not only resonates with your target market but helps establish long-term customer loyalty.
A strong brand can build confidence, optimism and respect from those who support it the most. This could obviously be your customers, however, its also your employees, your board, or anyone that interacts with the product or service you offer.
However, keep in mind that good branding always requires sacrifice. If you try to be all things to all people, you will ultimately fail. Focus on your strengths and the brand message will communicate loudly.
The foundation of your brand is your logo. There are 5 basic types of logos although there may be other combinations and categories.
- Symbol or Icon (NIKE SWISH)
- Word Mark (DISNEY SIGNATURE)
- Letter Mark (HP INITIALS)
- Combination Symbol and Word Mark (SPRINT PIN DROP AND TYPOGRAPHY)
- Emblem (NFL SHIELD)
A brand is more than an eye-catching logo or clever tagline. Rather, a brand communicates the emotion that underlies a business’ reason for being. And that, my friends, is brand equity.
Components of a strong brand image include the following:
- A great brand experience: From the website, how the receptionist answers the phone, to the test drive at the dealership, to servicing the client after the sale, everything counts to make it a great brand experience. And I mean everything.
- A clear and consistent positioning of the brand: Your customers need to know what your brand stands for, so make a plan. Sit down with your team and draft a positioning statement… keep it clear and concise. But most importantly, make sure it is applicable.
- A sense of dynamism: Excitement, innovative and trendsetting will likely position the brand as different and ultimately more popular. How do you want to be perceived? Take time to consider this.
- A sense of authenticity: Brands with a strong sense of tradition and heritage benefit from this component. When customers come to trust in what you are delivering, you have authenticity.
- A strong corporate culture: This touches upon the emotional aspect and the value of your company. Like individuals, companies have their own unique personalities. Let yours shine through.
Evaluate your brand
To evaluate how your brand is performing, take a closer look at various components of your logo and how it is currently being used in public. This will take some in- depth analysis followed by some strategic thinking.
Defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the following questions.
- What is your company’s mission?
- What does your brand mean to you?
- What is one unique benefit or feature of the products or services you offer?
- What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
- What qualities do you want to associate with your company’s brand?
- What does your logo say about your company and the products or services it offers?
- Does your logo fit your brand?
- What unique position does your brand hold in your marketplace?
- Is your brand used consistently throughout all marketing efforts?
- Does your brand reflect the company’s core values?
- How do your customers become aware of your brand?
- How does your brand compare to your competition?
Tips to Strengthen Your Brand
How can you create an identity that is clear; connects with the customer; can be implemented so that its potential is realized, and is rich enough to provide guidance to those implementing it? Here’s a few tips on strengthening your brand:
- Get a great logo. Place it everywhere.
- Write down your brand messaging. What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand?
- Integrate your brand. Extend it to every aspect of your business, how you answer the phone to your email signature, everything.
- Create a voice for your company that reflects your brand. Apply it to all your written communication and incorporate into all marketing materials.
- Develop a tagline… it should help define your brand image.
- Be true to your brand. Customers won’t return to you or refer you to someone else if you don’t deliver your brand promise.
- Design templates and create brand standards for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout everything.
- Be consistent. Consistent. Consistent.
Using a standardized brand identity system allows people to recognize a brand in a variety of environments and interaction contexts. Since brand identity is essentially the most obvious expression of your brand, it often has the greatest impact on first impressions. In the marketplace, an outstanding first impression can mean the difference between winning or losing a lifelong customer.
With that in mind, let me drive home the fact that having a consistent look and sound across every facet of your marketing efforts can make it easier for customers and prospective customers to recognize your business and identify with it.
To recap, respecting your brand takes diligence and continual effort – a strong brand should exhibit the following characteristics:
- Brand promise and brand delivery are equally balanced and leveraged
- Uniqueness and differentiation are key drivers
- Consistency across products, markets, organizations and cultures
- Strong brand management systems and process in place
- Board and top-management are deeply engaged and committed
Building a strong brand requires discipline. The key component of a unified image is unified behavior.
Good branding can contribute significant financial value to a company, but it requires managerial commitment, adequate resources and a coherent-wide brand management program.
Brands give us identity to stimulate our senses and enrich our life experiences. Respect your brand, and your customers will respect you.