Recently, I had the pleasure of joining a panel of branding and marketing experts at a Women in Film and Media event. The event was geared toward filmmakers, actors and actresses, as well as other professionals in the media business. The audience was engaged and asked several questions regarding the necessary steps or techniques for crafting strong branding. They also had questions about the distinctions between personal and business branding. I enjoyed the discussion immensely but left the event feeling that we needed more time to dig deeper into the specifics of what drives strong branding. So what are essential elements of creating a strong and lasting brand? This article digs into the top 4 essential aspects of crafting a compelling brand.
Before we dive into the specifics, let’s start with a few fundamentals. First, businesses need to think of their brand as person with a personality in order to create a relatable, approachable and engaging brand that customers want to interact with. As such, the personal and company branding have much in common.
Second, effective branding is about developing and understanding your brand voice. In truth, developing a brand voice could, and will be the topic of a future blog, but the easiest description for cultivating a brand voice is the process of describing your brand as an adjective. Do you want your brand to be perceived as intelligent, positive, authoritative or playful? Think of your brand voice as your company’s personality. How do you want your company to be perceived?
Once you have done the initial heavy-lifting, it is time to examine the more nuanced elements of effective branding. These require frequent attention and evaluation to ensure that you are staying true to your mission and brand.
Top 4 Branding Musts
Consistency – You have undoubtedly been exposed to, and likely purchased products from, companies whose brand you would know in your sleep. Think Apple, Coca Cola, Nike and others. These brands know the power associated with consistency. Their branding is reliable, recognizable and representative of who they are always. It doesn’t change based on the season or the platform. That doesn’t mean they don’t capitalize on the season, current events or pop culture and the unique audiences of social media networks. They absolutely modify their messaging to take advantage of each, but they maintain a consistent voice, look, and feel while leveraging what customers are thinking about at any given moment. That requires attention but also a willingness to keep the brand top-of-mind.
Simplicity – Another essential branding technique is simplicity. Customers need to easily understand what your company, product or services are all about. They don’t have the time or patience to learn about you, your product and what you stand for. Rather, customers who understand your brand’s big picture upon first impression will be more likely to take the time to learn more about your products and services after the fact. This is where simplicity enters the room. Your brand message, packaging, positioning and value proposition (what problem do you solve or need do you fulfill) needs to be readily understood. Companies such as Olly have done a brilliant job of taking a complex supplement product and making it an easy to understand product by making simplicity a top priority in their branding.
Expertise – While this may seem an obvious one, it is amazing how often brands fail to truly showcase their expertise. This is the case with personal as well as business brands. The customer expects your brand to be an authority or expert on the subject matter, product or service that you offer, but often the brand doesn’t adequately reflect that expertise. The brand’s look, feel, and communication sometimes doesn’t reflect that of a highly skilled, professional, and reputable organization. This can happen through low quality packaging, imagery, and communication. Proving that you know of what you speak, that your brand is based on knowledge and proficiency, is important. Without it, your customer will simply pass you by and seek out other experts. Don’t dumb it down or think it obvious. Think brand voice again here, if you want to look like an expert then your brand’s personality should reflect your expertise.
Emotion – Emotion-driven branding is popular because it works. When you can get your customers to feel a certain way and associate that feeling with your brand, it is golden. However, evoking emotion in your brand isn’t always easy based on your products or services. It takes implementing a content marketing strategy focused on producing an emotional reaction to your brand. However, it can be done. My favorite example of effective emotional branding is P&G’s Thank You Mom campaign during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Talk about emotion. I still can’t watch it without tearing up! What is perhaps more impressive is that P&G is a brand made up of basic household goods: toothpaste, toilet paper, laundry detergent and other necessities. If P&G can pull at your heart strings with these products, so can your brand.
Like everything in marketing, branding continues to evolve. It isn’t static. It needs to include components that separate your brand from the competition. Impactful branding requires a well-thought-out strategy that is also fluid enough to react to changing customer needs and wants. That takes refinement and focus, but when it is done right, it is a thing of beauty.
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