Once you have a brand and a positioning, it will take customers time to realise how lucky they are to have such a wonderful brand and to understand what your brand means. In consequence, you’ll need to sustain both the talk and the walk for months and even years to achieve the full benefits of branding. These benefits accumulate and accelerate if you keep the momentum going. This article is about how to drive home the benefits of branding.
Here the main principles:
- Be distinctive – what is that your business does that no-one else does ? Keep reinforcing that message in all formats, online and offline. Have a clearly recognisable logo and name and spread it around online putting it on all your own sites and any of the business listings that you can.
- Deliver great products /service – nobody gets excited about mediocre and you won’t create any buzz or trust or relationship with your customers by being good enough. If you want people to write about you or give you a good review, you need to go above and beyond. Think about the emotional benefits of your service. As I write, my not so young anymore parents are moving house – they are finding It much more difficult than last time (20 years ago) every unexpected event is causing panic instead of mild irritation ! The removals firm that spots this will get the job and probably a very good review.
- Keep your promises – not just your contractual promises, but your brand promises, which are probably more difficult to keep. They are also probably more important to your business because they will reinforce your brand and inspire loyalty in your chosen customer base. Customer retention is at least as important as finding new customers
- Be consistent – everything to do with brands is about consistency -the same messages from all channels in all modes and walk the talk ! In online terms, this means treating all channels in the same way – Skype’s official web site has a very lovable feel even though Microsoft now owns it and it doesn’t change its feel on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. If you’re serious on your website and playful on Twitter, that’ll be confusing to customers. This consistency is part of what the familiarity and trust.
- Grow your community – The most popular brands have a community around them – Apple have iPhone bores, Mac Bores and loyal App developers; none of them resist any temptation to pass on the virtues of Apple products to the rest of us. One of the reasons for iPhone’s success is the App, which allowed Apple to hand over development to lots of other people whilst creating a market for their skills and in the process creating a huge group of brand advocates. On a smaller scale, it is possible to create something similar for your target clients. A restaurant might dedicate first Tuesdays to “dining club members”, a financial adviser might invite favoured clients to special briefings (investment opportunities / tax changes or whatever) and referral schemes can reward those who generate new customers for you
- Stand for /against something – Body Shop /Anita Roddick seemed to be against everything (animal testing, greenness, whale hunting) and became very successful. As part of running the business, Body Shop offered products that solved the problems against which they campaigned. Apple have done well by “not being Microsoft” and are probably the most successful example of a challenger brand. Firefox (browsers) also took the ‘not Microsoft’ position. The “Dollar Shave Club” is challenging Gillette and all its blades. Zipcar’s car sharing service is standing against car ownership for a whole range of reasons and will appeal to many who live in a large city and don’t use a car often and some who think owning a car is a bad idea for some of the reasons Zipcar talks about
- Find your voice – As well as what you say, there is how you say it – or “your voice”. I think Skype’s use of speech bubbles and informal, non-technical choice of words for key messages is very effective. On the other hand, GE uses lots of photographs of precision engineered things and isn’t scared of using technical jargon.
- Empower your customers – Your customers are the real custodians of your brand – after all it is their beliefs about your business that compose the brand. Some of these guys will be brand advocates or evangelists and their testimonials will be far more powerful than anything you say or do
There’s quite a lot to think through in making this happen and I think the brand voice is a particularly vaguely understood area. Unfortunately, there isn’t much time for your to perfect your brand development act. Think before you act !