How to build a powerful brand? This is what this post is all about. Before the analysis, it would be a good idea to have a common understanding of what we mean when we say a Brand. There are many definitions of branding. “A Brand is a name, term, sign, symbol, or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of the competitor.” The famous marketing author Philip Kotler has given this definition.
According to my experience, a Brand is what others have in their minds about your business, products and services. As a result, it is up to you to create this positioning in their brains. Let us see 20 valuable guidelines to build a powerful brand.
- Create a recognizable brand name and logo
Your brand name must be meaningful, easy to remember, as simple as it can be, related to what you want to achieve and unique in your market. In other words, try to create a brand name with such characteristics that make it easily recognizable. Furthermore, your logo design should promote your brand name. For more details regarding the creation of a successful logo, please find a relevant post I have written in the past (21 Great Tips for Creating a Successful Logo).
- Be Original / Authentic
If you want your brand to stand out from the competition, you have to avoid any kind of imitation. You have to innovate and to be as unique as you can be. Try to do things differently. You can differentiate based on your USP (Unique Sales Proposition), price, promotion, distribution, products, values, culture, business history, etc. For further information regarding Differentiation, please read also a relevant post I have written (What Strat-Ups & SME’s Need Most – Differentiation).
- Create a clear and sustainable USP
Your USP (Unique Sales Proposition) has to be easy to perceive. Moreover, it has to be sustainable. Your competitors should not be able to copy it. This way, you project constantly and with transparency the benefits of your brand, achieving to separate yourself from the rest of your competitors. The right mix of advertising and promotion will help you realize that goal.
- Create a specific identity in your communication
Your overall communication must have a specific identity. In other words, try to create and use clearly defined, vision, mission, values, language, colors, fonts, images, key messages, symbols, visuals, fonts, etc. This identity should be applied in all the communication channels. Moreover, this identity has to be easily perceived. This means that your potential customers should be able to recognize and to understand, without difficulty, your brand identity. “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” Albert Einstein once said. In other words, avoid having a brand identity that is complicated. The simpler the better.
- Have consistency in your communication
Your brand communication should follow a set of rules, policies and guidelines. It should follow a pattern. To be more specific, avoid changing (your colors, your language, your tone, your symbols, your fonts and generally anything that builds an identity for your brand). That is why it is extremely important, from the beginning of your business, to cooperate with professionals that really know about branding. In that way, you will not make costly mistakes.
- Reach out your potential customers
In order to build a powerful brand it is significant to communicate your messages to (as many as possible) potential customers. Use ATL (Above the Line) marketing or BTL (Below the Line) marketing, or both, based on your budget and your communication strategy and tactics.
It goes without saying that you need to develop a web site that meets your communication goals. Your web site should be friendly to use and have a good responsive design, pages with all the relative info, a blog, sign-up forms, easy way to conduct you, comments, landing pages, widgets that help you promote your messages, easy way to share your info and many other features that help your brand to stand out. Please do not forget that your web site is a tool for interactive communication with your potential customers.
The same applies also for social media. They are the perfect tools to build relationships with your customers. It would be wise for your brand, (always based on your communication strategy and tactics), to be present at least in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google Plus, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and SlideShare. There are many more social networks, but these are the most used right now.
Finally, there are also other very important ways to promote your brand such as, Blogs and Forums, Google AdWords, SEM (Search Engine Marketing), SEO (Search Engine Optimization), PPC (Pay Per Click advertising), and so on. It is a good idea to cooperate with a digital agency that will direct you well in those fields.
- Position your brand in the minds of your customers
Out there all the brands are trying to position their brands in the minds of their customers. As a result, there is too much information that bombards consumers. It is difficult for a customer to remember your brand, but it is essential for you to make him/her to remember. So, what do you have to do?
The easiest way to position your brand in the minds of your customers is to try to be the first that communicates a brand in the market you operate in. Everyone remembers the first and usually forgets the second. Therefore, communicate clearly your USP (Unique Sales Proposition) in your market before others do. Do not forget that the USP has to be unique and sustainable.
If you are not the first, try to position your brand by giving it attributes that make it first in a specific segment of market (that it is able to be the first).
If you are in a market that many other competitors exist already, illustrate the unique benefits of your brand. What needs it covers? What solutions it offers? Communicate, advertise and promote them. Connect your brand with your target group emotionally. Share the same values. Your brand should convey emotions that your customers really feel and appreciate. Your brand should make your customers to desire it and when they finally have it, to have a sense of fulfilment and total long-term satisfaction. In addition, your customers should be connected intellectually and sentimentally with it, to have a need for commitment, loyalty and willingness to promote it freely to their social environment. If you succeed in doing that, you are on the right path for creating a powerful brand.
- Have a clear and specific Vision, Mission, Values and Culture for your brand
Everything starts with a clear Vision. Know from the beginning where you want to go. If you know where you want to go, immediately you will know also how to get there. Therefore you will know also your mission and what values you should have in order to accomplish your goals. What strategy and tactics you will follow to succeed. What kind of culture you have to create in order to achieve that target. When you are clear and focused about the above mentioned, then you have to communicate them and this will help you to build a very strong brand.
- Study, understand and cover the real needs of your target group
Before you take any intuitive decisions, try firstly to comprehend through marketing research what your customers really need and how this is translated psychologically and sociologically for them. Make an effort to fulfil at high levels (more than expected) their practical, psychological and sociological needs. Your brand must offer exceptional and unexpected value. This has to be applied in your company’s philosophy and operation, in your people, in your products and services, in your communication, in your suppliers, in the society and if possible in your financial situation. It is not easy, it takes time, but it can be done if you are making the right moves, and after all, this is how powerful brands are created.
- Make the experience of any contact with your customers surprisingly memorable
Record all the touch points with your customers and then offer them a memorable experience that they do not expect. Provide a service that is unique. Let me give you an example. Many coffee shops offer you just the coffee you ordered. However, a few offer you free water with it. Some others, in addition to that, they offer a free biscuit along with your coffee order that you do not expect to get. Some of them, usually in the summer, (if you sit in the coffee shop), they refill the glass of water every time you drink it. In other words, each of them finds different ways to provide a service that is better than their competitors. This makes a difference at the mind of the customer because he/she has a better experience with the brand and this is memorable. So, deliver more than you promise. Offer them extra benefits or value in every contact (touch point).
- Have passion for your brand and love it deeply
It is very important to love your brand and to be passionate with it. When people realize that, they feel inspired and they respect it. The same goes for your employees. Hire employees with the right attitude and train them accordingly. Make them part of your company with a very good rewarding system and help them grow professionally inside your company. Happy employees love what they do and this will reflect also to others, therefore, to your brand name.
- Be competitive – innovative
Observe very carefully how your competitors act. Try always to offer products and services that satisfy the potential customers of your industry. In order to do that, you should innovate. Study very well what your customers want. Ask them what extra features they would like to have in your products and services. Ask also your sales force what the market wants most. Use social media to communicate with your potential customers and find out what they really need. Try to create an R and D department, if possible. Implement Brainstorming, as often as you can, inside your business. Strive to eliminate existing mistakes and complains. Create a culture that rewards new ideas that work. Moreover, run contests for new applicable ideas and offer an attractive prize. You will be surprised with the results that you will get, if you apply all of the above.
- Improve constantly your service and products.
Introduce quality circles every six months for every product and service offered. Try always to increase the quality based on a predetermined cost. Find alternative ways to do that. Challenge what you do and find new paths to make it better. In many times you should redesign the process or even the initial architecture. Try to optimize everything based on KPI’s. This is another direction that will make your brand powerful.
- Create loyalty
There are many practices that will make your customers satisfied and loyal. For instance, you should build trust and confidence, you should offer tangible benefits, you must be responsive and show empathy in any issue they have, you must respond quickly to their requests, deliver on time, deliver more than it is expected, and reward your clients for recommending you and for their loyalty. If you want additional details, please find here a helpful post I have written in the past (30 Best Practices To Make Your Customers Satisfied And Loyal).
- Train well and constantly your employees
For every plan and action you do, regarding the creation of a powerful brand, you need to have a well-organized and constant training for your employees. You (the business owner or the managing director) are the person that provides the directions and goals, but you are also the person that needs to give your staff the means to achieve those goals. To put it differently, without the proper and continuous training, your people will not manage to have the constant standards that will be needed in order to create a powerful brand. It is a responsibility that the management of every business should not forget. Many SME’s make this mistake. They create plans, policies, and directions that employees have to follow, but they do not provide the appropriate training or they provide it only once, (in the beginning when they hire the employee). The final result is that people have difficulty to comprehend and to implement correctly what it has to be done. Training your staff has to be a lifetime procedure for your business in order to have a strong brand that is sustainably successful.
- Build relationships with your customers
It is important for branding to establish and build relationships with your customers. Engage with them and create a friendly atmosphere that will allow you to learn more about them and what they really need. This is the only way to understand their wants. There are many CRM systems and of course the social media that will help you to do that task, but always keep in mind that a genuine human care comes from the heart. In other words, love your customers, and show this, by providing them the best possible service, product and empathetic behavior.
- Be reliable.
Whatever you promise you should always deliver. Your service must be always on the same standards. Your products must not be defective. The overall experience that your customers get from you must always be on the same level. Creating reliability is extremely significant for your brand. It creates reputation and it becomes always a safe choice. Therefore, it makes your customers to avoid probable switching costs that they may have if they buy a competitive product or service.
- Deliver value in your service and products
What is Value for a customer? Customer Value is the perception of benefits divided by the total cost of ownership (Customer Value = Perception of Benefits / Total Cost of Ownership). So, if the perception of benefits is larger than the total cost of ownership then the customer receives value greater than 1.
If the perception of benefits = 2
the total cost of ownership = 1
then we have:
Customer Value = 2 / 1 <=> Customer Value = 2
The larger the perception of benefits in comparison to the total cost of ownership, the greater the customer value.
If the perception of benefits = 10
the total cost of ownership = 2
then we have:
Customer Value = 10 / 2 <=> Customer Value = 5
As a result, for powerful branding you have to ensure that the perception of benefits (you offer) is always bigger than the total cost of ownership, making also certain that the customer value (you offer) is bigger than any of your competitors.
- Encourage constant feedback
It is crucial to get feedback from your customers. Encourage them to communicate with you, as often as possible, and to share their experience. Customer satisfaction surveys will provide you with enough valuable data in order to understand what areas you should improve, but also what new features you can add.
- Inspire in everything you do
Your brand should provide value not only to your customers but also to the society. It has to be associated with strong values that inspire people. Your brand must project a positive vision about the future. CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is very important and it can help you achieve the above mentioned. Opinion leaders that are able to communicate the benefits of your brand for the society are also an additional “tool” that will inspire. Finally, if your motivation and goal is to serve (with your business, products and services) the humanity then you will inspire. If your motivation and goal is just to earn short term profits, people will realize that and your brand will not survive for long.
If you follow all of the above guidelines you will build a really powerful brand.
Please share with me any other strategical and tactical alternatives of how you can build a powerful brand!