Who owns your brand?
The brand starts with you.
In the beginning, you own your brand as nobody else knows about your brilliant new idea, sitting in your bedroom plotting a path to global domination.
Well, maybe you have discussed it with your partner or best friend or even your business partner. At this point, the brand is leaving your head and making its way into the physical world.
But before the brand enters the public domain, there are many things to consider to enable a successful alignment between how you perceive your fledgling company and how the customer perceives it.
Every time a customer comes into contact with your company, they should have a great experience. These contact points are, in branding speak, called touchpoints, and as a term, it doesn’t seem too obtuse.
Touchpoints can work through all the senses and various marketing channels, including Social networks, blogs, trade shows, word of mouth, websites, a visual identity, letterheads, brochures, posters or a telephone conversation with a customer that leaves them reassured.
The brand identity takes all the different parts of what you do and unifies them coherently, whether visual, through words or perhaps an auditory message. All these interactions reinforce the brand of your company and the great work you are doing or the fantastic product you are selling.
The Balance shifts
“Brand is not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.”
Marty Neumeier – The Brand Gap
After completing the groundwork, and the customer is interacting with your company. A shift is now occurring between the ownership of your brand.
The brand is now becoming what your customer says about your company or product. Whether through people talking to neighbours or business owners speaking to other business owners at exhibitions, conferences, and networking events. Social media can often be the messaging platform your customer uses to talk about your brand, and the ability to speak to so many people can breathe life into a brand or throw cold water on it. However, the great thing about social media is the ability to see what people say about your company, and you can join the conversation and talk directly to customers about their concerns.
The customer is part of the brand and can be a potent sales tool. However, to speak coherently about what you do, they must understand what the company stands for. You can write these values down clearly and concisely, and it then becomes easy for the customer to talk about your company. Equally important is the need for the brand identity, images, and colour choice to be coherent and instantly recognisable, providing a visual trigger to associate with the good feeling a person has about your company.
The relationship works similarly whether the company is selling to a consumer B2C (business to consumer) or equally for B2B (business to business). Businesses still buy from people and tell their colleagues how good your service or product is – they can also share how bad it was!
Keep it real
“Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is, and the tree is the real thing.”
― Abraham Lincoln
I thought this was a great quote from Abraham Lincoln and so true. What is at the core of your business is “the real thing.” The way you and your customers communicate about the company is the reputation.
Although the relationship has changed, and the customers become the brand ambassadors. You and the employees have become guardians of the brand, always ensuring that what made your company attractive in the first place is never lost by continuing with excellent customer service and communication. There should be a continual reassessment of all touchpoints that the customer interacts with and adjust them if required.
Sometimes the brand has moved in a different direction or has more to offer the customer. And as the guardian of the brand, you will need to be aware that there have to be some changes made to reflect how the company is moving forward in the future.
Recently I worked with a client who had realised that he had many parts to his company, and many of his clients were unaware of how he could help them in other ways. Furthermore, the brand identity and website did not reflect the quality and standing within his market or his core values as a person.
To get around this problem, we sat down and constructed a brand brief that was able to identify the attributes, essential services, values, and core purpose. From this investigation and analysis, I was in a much stronger position to create a relevant brand identity that was flexible and conveyed the fundamental essence of the company. Part of this process involved research with existing customers to ensure the process was heading in the right direction. My previous blog, “Why research a logo?” discusses this process in more depth.
In conclusion, whether you are setting up a new brand or updating an existing brand, you need to be clear about what your company does and what it stands for. The message you give should be clear and relevant—reflected in what you say, what you do, and how you communicate this through the visual component of your brand (brand identity).
Correctly setting these elements up will enable your client’s job, as brand ambassadors, to pass the message on about the excellent service or product you offer so much easier. As a brand guardian, you will need to monitor this process closely and continue delivering what you do to the highest standards.
Ultimately, the perception of your brand might well decide whether your company sinks or swims!