When you consider your company’s branding, it all starts with making sure that you have a complete picture of your brand. This includes making sure you have enough accurate information to take control of your brand. It’s also important to recognize that completely controlling your brand is not possible. But if you have the right strategy, tactics, and team behind you to execute, then you have the ingredients of a successful brand. Getting to this place is not easy. It usually demands real work to deeply understand your customer, your culture, and your competition.
Let’s begin with the most important aspect: The customer.
The customer is the most important ingredient because it is within them that your brand lives and therefore within them that it thrives or fails. In short, your brand is whatever your customer believes it to be. That’s why you can’t completely control it. However you can exercise a great deal of influence over it if you take the time to understand the needs of your customers. Start with understanding their pain points and the obstacles they face. Find out what drives them.
Your brand, its positioning, and the visual identity that supports it need to be authentic and capture the essence of your organization. These ingredients must establish your specific flavor. The most successful brands are those that can carry a brand experience through every touchpoint and paint a clear picture in the minds of their customer. This requires each employee to act on the same consistent message or feeling in all their interactions with the customer. While the most successful companies look to maintain a consistent brand as they grow, it gets harder and harder to control with each new employee added to the team.
This means that hiring the right employees is a key part of the equation. How do companies ensure this happens? They do the strategic work and then codify all brand information in one place, creating a playbook for all of their employees to live by. Human resources departments use this playbook to attract new employees who align with the values of the organization and can authentically live and articulate the brand every day. Every interaction a customer has with an employee will shape a brand’s image. Any negative interaction or off-brand experience will be detrimental. Every positive interaction will help bolster and reinforce the brand. So, that company playbook becomes essential for the organization’s ability to empower its employees. It gives them the confidence and tools they need as they seek to become masters of their trade.
Now let’s talk about the competition. Great brands understand who they are, and just as vigorously try to understand who their competitors are. Ultimately, brands are competing for brain space in the mind of the consumer: the piece of real estate in the brain that filters out the noise and absorbs what is relevant to specific needs at a given time. If your brand has a clear message and is well executed visually, you have a chance of capturing the attention of the consumer. I say a chance because that’s really all you’ll ever get. Remember that the consumer is bombarded by thousands of brand messages every day on their way to work: on the subway, commuter trains, through signage on the highway, and over the radio and on TV. Once they get to work and log on to their computers it does not let up. Digital ads follow them from web page to web page and email ads flow into their inboxes. So competing for YOUR customer is essential.
Notice that I said your customer, and not all customers. You want to attract the customer that is ideally suited for you, the one that you have been creating compelling graphics and brand messaging for via your website, email campaigns, and print materials. The customer that you know you can deeply satisfy. The customer that was drawn to your company because all of your branded materials have given them a clear sense of who you are since it all speaks directly to them and their specific needs.
Identifying who your company is and who your competitors are becomes essential as you look to find your niche within the landscape that you operate and compete within. So, refine your message to the customer that you are most naturally suited for, so you can deliver them a wonderful experience. An experience that’s so good that they want to share the experience with their friends, family or colleagues, essentially becoming brand ambassadors for your company.
The companies that are able to accomplish this consistently, and are willing to work at each phase of the equation, are the most successful brands in the world. So why can’t you do the same thing that top brands like Apple, Amazon, Google and BMW are doing? You can. Keep in mind that every great company was once the same size and stage of maturity of your company today.
About four years ago I was introduced to James Heaton, founder and president of Tronvig Group. He runs an agency that does deep dive strategic work at the beginning of every project. What caught my attention was their advanced tool-set, particularly their “brand pyramid.” They used this to help companies understand themselves and their customers and then codify this understanding in an outtake document that would guide all creative execution moving forward. It was clear to me that their talents and passion were concentrated in this upfront strategic work. To make a long story short, we pulled them into a branding project that turned out to be tremendously successful: transforming a two-person real estate agency into a global leader in the field that is now revolutionizing an industry.
James Heaton & Vincent Fatato lead a forum called “Branding Beyond the BS” for business owners in Manhattan.
A formal partnership was formed shortly after working together on our initial project, where James and his team work side-by-side with us to help our clients understand the important “Three C’s” of branding: customer, culture and competition. Together, we offer a 360-degree branding solution which encompasses a discovery workshop to set strategy, customer insight and interviews, brand development strategy, organizational alignment and finally the creative execution which is our natural strength here at GreyBox Creative. We have been branding companies for more than 20 years. It is our view that a solidly-built brand can become a company’s greatest asset. It does, however, take an experienced partner, some internal commitment, and someone on the inside of the company to champion the effort.
To get in contact with us to take your company’s branding to the next level, or to learn if our boutique approach is a fit for you and your company, click here.