Businesses invest in building brands because brands are valuable financial assets. Brands typically are worth more than the underlying product or service. This value is based on human perception and emotion: Good branding creates a favorable image of and feelings for a given product or service driving incremental interest, demand, and loyalty.
This brand value can be larger or smaller depending on the category and the quality of the branding that is carried out by the brand owner. But like personal reputation, strong brand image (and thereby brand value) takes time to build and can be lost rather quickly. When building strong brands it is therefore essential to be deliberate and consistent in order to create and reinforce a distinct image. In today’s post, we explore the ways in which you can ensure that you consistently build a strong brand over time.
Have a brand platform
In order to build a brand consistently, you need to start with a well-developed brand platform. A brand platform defines the brand’s purpose and promise. That will also include brand pillars, or fundamental attributes, that define the character of the brand and how it behaves in the world. Another element of the brand platform is the brand voice which defines how the brand speaks. These are fundamental components of the brand that rarely, if ever, change and that should be in place before the brand launches. All activities of the brand, from sales and marketing to hiring to R&D and innovation, should be vetted against the brand platform.
Walk the talk
If your organization believes the brand is the sole purview and responsibility of the marketing department, the brand will not be as successful as it could have been. The reason is that actions and behaviors reinforce or detract from the brand promise the marketing department creates. If customer service, sales, or executives’ public statements are inconsistent with the brand promise and image, the brand will suffer. The organizations that have the most successful brands are the ones where the c-suite are “bought-in” to the brand platform and live by example and in actual fact. Employees are key brand ambassadors and should know and live the brand platform naturally.
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Have a brand style guide
A brand style guide defines the rules of how the brand is expressed operationally. It governs, for example, how small a logo can go, where it can be used, and in what form. A good style guide will also have representative imagery and video that are appropriate for the brand as well as those that are not. The brand style guide helps those who are charged with creating communications to use the brand consistently. The brand platform should be featured at the beginning of the brand style guide.
Never stop nurturing and evolving the brand
Earlier, I likened brand to human reputation. Humans change over time, and so do their reputations. Brand owners must always be engaged with their brand and evolve with changing times, tastes, technologies and the like. The Coke brand is not the same Coke brand of yore, but offers many more options, has an updated look and personality, and continues to evolve—while still retaining its brand essence.
Consistency is not the enemy of evolution, but should guide that evolution to prevent the brand from changing too far and/or too fast and leaving brand fans behind (remember “New Coke?”). The easiest way to manage this dynamic tension between consistency and evolution is to think of it in human reputation/image terms: Sudden and incongruent behaviors—by a person or a brand—shake our understanding and potential relationship with them. Evolutionary change that is consistent with the brand’s purpose and promise helps bring brand fans along into the future while adding new fans.