It’s all about the long game.
Branding. The word alone can make people sweat. Eyes glaze over. Papers get shuffled and reshuffled. The branding conversation is a discussion many business leaders don’t want to have, especially the extreme-analytical types, but that’s completely understandable. Branding is elusive, intangible and often deemed inconsequential because there are no instant quantifiable results. To put it simply, branding is the gray area where business is black and white. So why do successful corporations invest thousands of dollars in branding efforts knowing they won’t see immediate results or instant analytics? The honest truth is that they understand what many don’t. Branding is about the long game. Branding is an investment. When you brand your company, you are developing its DNA—its core essence and primary differentiators. Companies with clear brand genetics stand out among their competition and attract the right customers. Over time, success is quantified by the value of the brand, positive brand perception, growing brand loyalty and, ultimately, increased profits.
The Brand Journey
Branding is a journey of self-discovery that should define who your business is today and what it will be years from today. Within large organizations, brand strategies are developed by C-suite executives, the board of directors and key leadership within an organization. Internal and external research may be used to identify a baseline for consumer awareness, preference and perception of the company’s product, service and/or culture. Small businesses typically approach branding less formally, with a smaller core group of owners and key leadership. The journey is difficult. Emotional. Mind-wracking. It’s like climbing Mt. Everest and then recovering in a sweat lodge in New Mexico—during the summer. It’s not for the faint of heart—only those who are serious about the future of their business.
Components of a Strong Brand Platform
A brand platform, or brand strategy, serves as the foundation for all communications and marketing materials moving forward, both internally and externally. It can affect your dress code, communications protocol, corporate culture, visual identity and corporate marketing materials. Developing a brand platform should include the following components:
- Research (informal or formal): Key stakeholders, employees, customers, etc. are used to identify company perceptions, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). C-suite executives, leadership and the board of directors set business goals and aspirations for the company.
- Identify Target Audiences: Audiences include your customers, potential customers, vendors, employees and anyone else who comes in contact with your business.
- Mission: A mission statement is a short statement that describes the purpose of your organization— why you exist as a company.
- Vision: A vision statement is aspirational and defines how you want to be perceived in the future.
- Values: Your values should represent the principles, ethics or moral code you set as corporate standards to work by.
- Core Differentiators: What sets you apart from the competition? What makes your business unique? Your core differentiators (1-3) define precisely why and how you’re unique and sets you apart from the competition.
- Brand Promise: This is the promise you make to your customers, employees and other key stakeholders.
- Brand Personality: If your business were human, what characteristics would surround it? Innovative. Youthful. Welcoming. The brand personality is the soul or essence of a brand clearly defined.
- Brand Position: Your position defines who you are, why you are great and why the world should beat a path to your door. It should be accurate, precise, straightforward and no more than two sentences long.
- Brand Tagline/Slogan: A short, concise sentence that defines who you are in a few words. Taglines can be exact and straightforward and state primary services, or they can be inspirational and evoke a key differentiator, personality trait, promise or vision.
- Additional Components: Brand platforms can also include pillars of success, non-negotiables or any other important corporate standards.
Be Your Brand. Every Day.
Better buy-in means better results. In order for your brand initiative to truly become an investment, it must first become foundational. Show—don’t tell—your employees, your clients and the rest of the world what your business believes. Actions speak louder than words, and a robust brand platform provides enough action items to last a lifetime.