There used to be a time (think: pre-digital era) when a logo was arguably the most important part of a brand.
Without it’s visual representation on a print ad, for example, or on a piece of merchandise, the consumer really didn’t have a lot to help them distinguish between brands, other than a name, its logo, and maybe a celebrity endorsement.
Fast forward to the digital age where customer touchpoint and engagement opportunities are infinite. Companies can advertise inexpensively and in some cases, even for free, on channels such as social media, on their own websites, and through influencers, referrals, media coverage and more, making connecting with consumers more accessible than ever before.
In fact, brands today have such a heavy burden to carry when it comes to interacting with their target market that even a single snafu could lead to a decrease in sales. We all remember when United Airlines lost about $1.4B in valuation after a passenger had a bad experience on a flight…right!?
Which is why customer experience is truly the new “brand”. According to Forbes, “Focusing on customer experience management (CXM) may be the single most important investment a brand can make in today’s competitive business climate.” Every experience is tied together, from the first time someone sees an advertisement, to the treatment they receive from customer service after they make a purchase, to the follow-up emails and promotions they may get as they company tries to earn repeat business.
In order to achieve total brand success, we believe there are really only three things that need to happen.
1. Get to know your target.
What do you need to do to get to know your audience? You’re getting to know a group of humans probably not much unlike yourself. Study up on statistics about them. Create personas that illustrate different versions of them. Start talking to them (think social media, emails, ads, videos). Figure out what interests them. Learn how to speak their language. Research the search keywords they use. See how they interact with your competitors.
Put yourself in their shoes. Find out what challenges they have, and help address them. Study up on how and why they spend their money. Lastly, gather measurable data about them and make sure you make educated decisions using that data to create your brand.
2. Apply what you learn from #1 (In a value-added, emotionally-appealing way)
It’s not enough to just create a clever logo, snazzy business cards and a cool website.
In order to create an actual connection, the other pieces of your brand (think imagery, tone of speech, the communications you send out) need to connect with your buyer on a level that makes them feel like you can truly understand the challenge they’re facing, and that they can trust your product or service to address it with a solution that makes the most sense for them.
Your brand therefore, is, in essence, the complete experience a customer or potential customer has when they interact with you. That means that they should feel some connection through the visuals and designs you publish. Not to mention, the content within those designs should feel authentic to your brand voice as well.
Whether they scroll past your image or story in their Facebook newsfeed, see a digital ad for your company on another website, click on the email you send them, or any other touchpoint or interaction, the experience they have should allow them to feel a connection and compel them to choose you over the competition.
Your brand is about how the customer perceives you throughout their entire buyer’s journey, and their perception of you is one of the biggest decision making tools they have when choosing between your offering and your competitor’s.
Consistency and persistence are important too—be sure to be top of mind with the right message, to the right group, at the right time.
3. Constantly evolve.
Surely you have heard the cliche phrase “the only constant is change”. Some of the world’s most iconic brands have evolved over time, and for good reason. They know that their audience is human—always pivoting for one reason or another—due to changing markets, technologies, social norms, politics, trends, or beliefs.
Now more than ever, when consumers are constantly bombarded with new things, it’s important that brands take the time to freshen their look and message while keeping the integrity of their original mission and still appealing to their core audience. There’s no shame in seeking a facelift if it will help improve brand perception.
All of this positive perception and brand evolution should be supported by a variety of brand elements. Of course the consistent use of brand styles is important (which is why there should always be an established brand guidelines), but also defining things like a brand’s tone, voice, and messaging become key.
For startups and small businesses, establishing your brand successfully in the beginning is arguably one of the biggest steps you can take for long-term success.
It’s paramount to partner with a branding expert (and not just a logo designer) so that not only are you making a sound investment in the proper visuals, but you’ll be collaborating with someone that can speak your language and can help create the foundational elements that will make it easy for you to carry out your brand’s mission through marketing going forward.
Lastly —It shouldn’t take months to establish the elements of a brand, if you go into the exercise with clear goals, a specific target, the confidence to trust the expertise that your branding company brings to the table, and the ability to think on your feet. In fact, with a little planning, preparation, and focus, we think your brand can be established even in as little as one day.
What does take time?
The shaping of your brand into your company’s culture and perception. The process of building out your brand over time is an ongoing process and requires diligence and consistency. It’s worth the investment of a solid visual and written brand if it is valued as one of the most important tools in helping create the positive customer perception that drives sales, and cultivates brand loyalty, aiding in that process of brand-building for years to come.