“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
– Seth Godin, writer and marketing expert
Brand strategy sessions and workshops have been among Flow’s most popular offerings for the past decade. In the age of Covid-19, our whiteboards, conference rooms and sticky notes have been replaced by Zoom and Jamboards, but there is an enduring familiarity about the issues raised and solved.
At the heart of these sessions is a tension between how an organisation sees itself and how it is seen from the outside (or in the case of new organisations, how they wish to be seen). The exercise is as much about understanding who you are in the grand scheme of things as it is about deciding how you want others to know you.
Developing a brand strategy is probably the most foundational exercise an organisation should take before even thinking about campaigns, a communications strategy or a social media strategy.
Here are some key insights to bear in mind when it comes to brand building:
1. Your brand is not the sole responsibility of your marketing team
“Welcome to a new era of marketing and service in which your brand is defined by those who experience it.”
– Brian Solis, digital analyst
We live in an age where a tweet from an unhappy customer or a one-star Tripadvisor review can have a considerable impact on your business. But even before the terrifying immediacy of social media, brands have always, to some extent, been defined by their audience.
Slick, beautiful ads and striking social media campaigns are part of the puzzle. The other pieces go beyond marketing. It’s about ensuring a pleasant, memorable experience for those who choose to use your product or service in the real world. It’s also about responsive, efficient customer service.
2. Brand affinity is emotional stuff
We all like to think we’re logical, rational beings who don’t make big decisions based on emotion. But take a moment to consider your grocery cupboard. How many cleaning products did you pick because those are the brands you grew up with?
In fact, where did you buy your groceries? Do you believe that one grocery store offers better quality than the rest? Is that based on empirical evidence or a perception you’ve built based on how you feel in the store, the price of its products or their packaging?
Many, if not most, buying decisions are based in some part on our emotions. Therefore, critical aspects of your brand strategy are your values and your mission, and understanding how these are reflected in your products, your services and the way you interact with your customers or clients.
Probably one of the most powerful ways to strike an emotional chord with any audience is through storytelling. And social media now offers brands an opportunity to tell their own stories in a way they have never been able to before.
Telling true stories from the point of view of someone experiencing your brand (rather than from the brand’s point of view) is a simple and effective way to start building emotional resonance that can grow over time.
3. Building a strong brand doesn’t happen overnight
Time and effort spent building and shoring up all your brand touchpoints are never wasted. And there are many ways to do this – from ensuring your own team sings from the same hymn sheet and improving your customer service experience, to perfecting your look, feel and messaging so that you’re relevant and memorable to your target audience.
The positive impact of a strong marketing campaign can be short-lived in a crowded marketplace competing for shorter attention spans. A long-term strategy, tied to an implementation plan, is essential to grow your brand consistently.
One sign that you’re doing this well is when your clients start to provide their positive, unsolicited feedback on their experience with your organisation.