One of the most difficult aspects of running an organization is clearly defining and communicating your brand: you want to be attractive to diverse consumers, therefore having a broad and ever-changing brand may seem like an enticing strategy. However, having mixed messaging can be confusing and ineffective when targeting your most valued clientele. Not only is branding crucial in customer acquisition and strategy, it is also the foundation for your messaging and marketing collateral. Having a beautifully designed website can make your product seem cool and attractive, and yet design can’t account for confusing language, ineffective technology, or lack of strategy in execution. Inversely, having a clearly defined strategy without appealing visual representation or clear communication will not help your organization achieve its goals. In the multifaceted, complex environment of branding, there are a few keys to making your brand work for you.
You are delivering a product or service to a customer. In order be sure that your customers understand the value of your products or services, you want to create an experience that is simple and stress-free. Confusing messaging can inhibit customer retention. Too much explanation, too many graphics, or too many options can overwhelm customers and make them less likely to stay loyal to your product—especially when there are other players delivering similar value in a more succinct way. Think about some of your favorite companies—Google, Chipotle, Warby Parker. These companies offer a specific value and deliver it in a clear way—you can probably cite their value proposition and key services in ten words or less. A recent Harvard Business Review article cited the Global Brand Simplicity Index, highlighting successful companies with simple brands, and noted that “brand purpose—what a brand does and why it does it—should be articulated in a way that is easy for employees to internalize,” which ensures that customer service activities are aligned with a company’s brand, and continued that “customers must view a brand and its services in a manner consistent with this purpose.” Ensuring that your brand resonates with customers, and that customers can link your services to why you offer them, is crucial—and extremely challenging.
How do you distill this complex information for your business? A good place to start is by identifying the reason your started your company or created your product in the first place. Was it difficult to find a certain product? Were consumers unhappy with how similar companies were delivering a certain service? Was there an unfulfilled need in the marketplace? These insights are the foundation for your company, and, as such, they are the basis for your company’s brand. In order to show consumers the value that you are delivering, you need to understand their needs.
Next, it is important to clarify the value you are providing: you need to determine what specific promises you are making to your customers. Are you the fastest, most efficient, or most intuitive product? Do you offer a low price point or unique customization opportunities? Do you provide customers with multiple complimentary products or services? The promises you outline define what you are offering and how you are delivering it.
One you’ve defined what you are doing and why you are doing it, you can think how to align this unique selling proposition with your goals, how to market your offerings to the masses effectively, and how to build a network of loyal, repeat customers.
Now you’ve developed a succinct, simple, impactful brand for your business, but what comes next? How do you use this value proposition? There are two important facets to operationalizing your brand.
The first is connecting it with your overarching strategy and daily operations. Think about how your promises to consumers translate to growth. What types of services will you need to develop to solve consumer problems in the future? A strategic plan rooted in your brand concept will help you maintain simplicity and effectiveness as you grow and evolve. Additionally, aspects of your brand, especially with regards to its promises, should be injected into your operations. During training, employees should be educated about how your company’s brand fits into the company’s broader strategic goals. Customer support employees should root their answers to inquiries in the overall goals of the firm—and the value it is promising to its consumers. Not only client-facing employees, but also those in development, marketing, and administrative roles should ensure that their work is aligned with the company’s strategic goals so consumer value is prioritized and optimized. When strategy and brand are aligned, and proper incentives are in place, operations can be streamlined to promote growth, efficiency, and customer retention.
The second facet of implementing your brand is effectively dispersing it to the masses. One of the challenges that our clients often face is that of showcasing their brand when they don’t have in-house creative or marketing teams. Business leaders struggle to articulately communicate what they are doing and why they are doing it, and agencies often have their own approach or agenda, which may not maintain the simplicity or strength of the company’s identity. When choosing the firm that you want to work with, it important that you understand how they develop their content and determine the messaging they broadcast. Is it rooted in a brand that you develop, or do they do their own branding exercise? How do they ensure that the messaging they create is aligned with your goals or measure its impact? Also, it is important to keep your priorities in mind. What do you need from the firm? Are they trying to upsell you with services you do not need, or are they educating you about changes in the industry? Before you select a firm, make sure that they have your best interests at heart. Work with them to build an implementation strategy and speak up when something does not feel right or seems convoluted. Most importantly, make sure that the designs and collateral that are being developed make sense and are attractive to you—after all, you know your (potential) customers best. Since simple and effective brand communication has such a large impact on customer satisfaction and retention, ensuring that the creative side is aligned with your company’s marketing and strategic goals is paramount to your company’s success!
Branding is an important early component of our growth strategy work. Though we are not a marketing or design firm that works with the visual side of branding, we find that the strategic components of branding are crucial for two reasons. First, organizations need to be able to distill the unique value they are delivering in a way that is understandable and relatable to their target clientele. Branding work fits into our broader work of strategic planning and growth strategy and can serve as a cornerstone of the strategic process. And second, organizations need the tools (in the form of brand identities and concepts) to share with design and marketing firms to ensure that all work is aligned with the strategic goals of the organization. Building out the brand with a strategic lens can help ensure that internal activities and external messaging are aligned. If you are interested in learning more about how branding fits into our work, contact us.