A brand is more than just a logo or a name, it’s an experience and ongoing dialogue with your customers. Your brand is not only who you say you are, it’s also who others believe you to be.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
In a world where people form opinions instantly and your brand evolves in real time, how do you stay ahead of the curve and lead your company from a proactive versus reactive place?
You get clear on your vision and your values. You align your organizational ethos, culture and operations to a single answer — the why of what you do.
As the world evolves and people understand how their purchasing power influences companies, they’re aligning themselves to businesses that have a vision and fulfill a purpose in the world. The most successful brands have very clear values or guiding principles. They don’t just do what they do, they are grounded in why they do it. They have a brand purpose. They take a stand. They say, this is who we are.
Understanding why you do something is critical because it aligns your employees to a unifying culture, which results in your company developing consistent customer experiences. Do you believe in the power of an innovative mindset? Are you steadfast in your belief of good customer service? How you integrate these core beliefs into your operations makes all the difference when it comes to establishing a clear brand narrative and an experience that backs it up.
“Align your organizational ethos, culture and operations to a single answer — the why of what you do.”
Stay relevant in a changing world
It used to be that the golden rule in branding was consistency, and while that still holds true, it’s no longer enough for brands to be consistent. They also have to be relevant.
Small and big brands need to be open to change in order to be successful. Staying true to your why allows you to shift within a larger culture and community. If your why is connecting people or spreading ideas, how you do that may change while your core principle does not. For example, you may evolve into using different online platforms, while keeping to your core principle of one-to-one connections through a live, online chat function.
How you provide a product or service may evolve so you can continue to deliver to your customers in meaningful ways, but the why will remain the same.
Deliver on your brand promise
Defining your brand is only the first step. Once you’re clear on who you are, you then need to deliver on it.
Gather insight and monitor your brand’s success through regular touch points with your team. You need to ask yourself the tough questions and be prepared to address any needed changes.
Are you really who you say you are? What are your employees saying? Your customers? What needs to be done to move your company in the right direction and what improvements can you make to better deliver on your brand promise?
Using your guiding principles as filters in decision-making can help you be agile and avoid the pitfall of inertia. Empowering your company’s growth through an alignment to your core principles helps to pave the way for new thinking and continued evolution.
Find what makes you different
Why would someone choose your product or service among the many choices available to them? Your brand should always strive to answer the question, “Why should my customers care?” Leveraging your key points of difference can help to create a strong brand identity.
Look no further than Target for an example of a well-defined brand identity. The retailer’s distinctive brand personality is reflected in its television ads through the use of bright colors, pop music and an upbeat tone of voice. Target’s signature “Design for All” brand positioning brought exclusive designer collaborations at affordable prices to the masses. It’s what makes them different and how they stand out. Target’s brand personality sets the stage for what the consumer will find when they walk into its stores.
Ultimately your brand is about creating value — for your company and your customers. Your brand identity is a tool that empowers you to define your vision and execute against it. When done well, it can guide your strategy and create opportunities born from a single idea.
Starbucks’ entire brand positioning began with a very clear objective and brand story: it wanted to create a “third place” between work/school and home where people could gather, collaborate and always feel welcome. With convenient locations, free wifi and delicious drinks, it’s become people’s home away from home. And while Americans didn’t used to order a “venti” or even know what it was, Italian coffee culture and language is now a part of our national lexicon.
Today’s global economy requires companies to see their brand as a living, breathing experience and ongoing dialogue with consumers. It requires them to evolve in ways that remain true to their unique role within the world, while allowing how and what they do to evolve over time.