Most of us recognize the golden arches of McDonalds, the Nike swoosh, and Target’s bull’s-eye. So when we hear “branding,” we think “logo.” When pressed farther, some of us might add “color palette” and “tagline” to our concept of branding. But is that all there is to it?
If you haven’t expanded your view of branding to incorporate verbal aspects like “tone of voice” and “brand messaging,” let today be the day you do.
Let’s look at why the verbal message matters—and what you can do about it.
Branding is All in Their Heads
Today’s digital age makes “branding” infuriatingly fluid.
The American Marketing Association dictionary starts out defining a brand as most people would:
any “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”
Yet in the next breath it expands that definition to
“a customer experience represented by a collection of images and ideas”
Suddenly, your brand isn’t what you present to the public. It’s what the public experiences with you.
As The Branding Journal points out, “It is therefore not just the physical features that create a brand but also the feelings that consumers develop towards the company or its product. This combination of physical and emotional cues is triggered when exposed to the name, the logo, the visual identity, or even the message communicated.”
This means your brand goes far beyond your logo. Your brand includes what you communicate at every point of contact you have with your target audience. Twitter posts. Product packaging. Ebooks. Customer service calls. Website pages. Brochures… Everything you do that touches customers. Each point of contact shapes your customer’s experience, and thus, your brand.
Your job is to make sure each interaction forms a path leading the public in the same direction: toward trusting and choosing you.
Where do you begin? Here:
Branding Strategy Step 1:
Take a moment to list all the points at which you interact with the people you want to serve.
Include your online, in-person, and in-print points of contact.
Now, hold onto that list, and get ready to put it to work.
Build a Consistent Brand
Your potential customers need to recognize your brand every time they encounter it. To make that happen, you need to be consistent.
Brand consistency emerges from being absolutely clear about your “why.” Why are you doing this and for whom? Try stating your “why” in one sentence.
Your “why” is the foundation for everything your brand should communicate. It even influences how you’ll sound when you communicate. For instance, if you are passionate about equipping intrepid entrepreneurs, you won’t sound like an organization seeking homes for abandoned puppies.
To get your brand’s sound just right, consider this:
If your brand were a person, how would you describe that person to a friend? Snarky? Scholarly? Compassionate? Energizing?
Next, imagine inviting that brand “person” to a party.
- What would your brand wear? Would your logo be blazoned on its pocket, or embroidered subtly on the hem of its skirt? What colors would people recognize your brand by? How would your brand sign its name? Would your brand drink martinis or mineral water or milk?
Translate these ideas into the visual part of your branding: things like your logo placement, color palette, fonts, and lifestyle images. Your brand should “wear” consistent kinds of visuals across all points of audience contact.
- How would your brand talk? Is it loud, funny, and boisterous? Dignified, erudite, and quiet? How would it modify its interactions to suit a different type or size of gathering? What is the one thing it absolutely must say everywhere it goes? (Remember your “why.”) How would it handle a disagreement?
These ideas shape the verbal part of your branding: your tone of voice, your tagline, your social media hashtags, your public speaking, your customer service scripts—even intra-office communication.
This kind of visual and verbal consistency is crucial. So take time to strategize carefully. Even small organizations can—and should—do this. You’ll be surprised how creating a brand style guide will not only direct but also simplify your decisions at each point along the path to creating positive brand recognition.
Branding Strategy Step 2:
Create a brand style guide: a documented strategy for consistent visual and verbal branding at each point of contact with your audience.
It will save you time when making future branding decisions.
Branding Drives Your Success
Strong, consistent branding that delivers positive customer experiences will drive the gears of your success.
Branding can propel people forward in their journey by building a sense of familiarity and trust. After simply recognizing your products or services, they look to your brand when they’re in the market for that special thing you offer. In this way, good branding makes their final decision easy: Of course I want to do business with someone I trust and enjoy as much as you!
To see how powerful this driving force is, think about the last time you made a purchase.
- What “brand” did you buy? Why?
- When/where did you first notice that brand?
- How did you feel when you encountered that brand a second or third time?
- What finally convinced you to buy from that company?
- After your purchase, what did the brand do to retain your loyalty?
- If problems arose, how did the brand resolve them?
- Did you receive any messaging that deepened your connection? (Like, “10% of your purchase price will go to feeding hungry children” or “Your business means a lot to us. Here’s a coupon for your next purchase.”)
With that personal example in mind, look carefully at your own branding:
- Where do your target customers usually encounter you first? Next?
- What should they find there?
- What do you want them to feel?
- What do you want them to do then? (That’s your call to action.)
- How can you follow up on their transaction to turn them into loyal followers?
These are the questions you need to answer for each point of contact along the path which marketers call the customer journey. Find the weak spots in your branding—your customer’s experience—and fix them.
To do this, you’ll need to make sure every person on your team understands and buys into your brand strategy. Every. Single. Person.
Find some fun ways to communicate your brand strategy to your team. Some organizations use games at a staff meeting, colorful posters around the office, role playing, or reporting on notable customer feedback. Help everyone buy into your organization’s vibe. Build enthusiasm for making it the focus of everything they do, say, and create.
Branding Strategy Step 3:
Make your brand strategy clear to everyone who has a part in shaping the public’s experience with your brand.
Have fun with this!
Do some of those weak spots include your
online content or printed materials or other verbal messaging?
Then you’re talking about things I enjoy helping small- to mid-size organizations improve.
Contact me today to find out how my skills might benefit your brand.
Start working with Karen today
Today could be the day your load gets lighter.
Ask Karen Ingle to make that happen.