It’s very easy for companies in a variety of positions to think that they don’t need to put a lot of work or money into branding. A startup may say that they have too many things to focus on to think about brands. A B2B company may scoff, saying that branding is colorful logos and slogans to lure in customers, not partners or clients all about professionalism. Both points of view couldn’t be any more off. Money and effort are two things you don’t want to hold off on when it comes to branding—read on to learn why.
Every Company Has A Brand
There is no such thing as a company without a brand. At the core, a brand is a promise that you make to your customers. If you are a retail company, you may pride yourself on top customer service. If you are a B2B company, you may have industry knowledge. All of these are pieces of your brand. As a start to figuring out what your ideal brand is, ask yourself “why should a customer use my product or service?” The answer should be a set of attributes that set your company apart from others.
Where the work of a brand comes in is getting that message across to your customers. From the way your employees interact to the visuals your company puts out to how you pitch to investors—all of this comes with branding. As you will find out, not focusing on messaging often leads to a confused, if not annoyed customer. If you can’t target what a person wants, and explain why they should choose you, there are more options than ever to turn to.
Brand Mistakes Will Hurt
It’s one thing to try and be financially prudent, and another thing to be cheap. Misguided efforts to try and save money can hamstring your brand’s future. One area where you don’t want to try and skimp on your brand is the company website. More than ever, people look at your website to try and learn about your business. As a result, you want to bring on a professional web design firm to put things together. If your website looks out of date, runs slowly, or is too complicated, your company comes off as behind the times. Chances are, a poor website will be the last thing a potential customer ever sees about your business.
Another way that cheapness will tank your brand is letting your marketing grow stale. For example, say that you pay for a television ad you are happy with, but let it run for three years. This may seem like getting your money’s worth, but that’s more than a lifetime for an ad. The same applies for materials like company brochures. You pay money to a design firm for 9,000 brochures. However, you refuse to update it until you use the original batch up. Once a customer sees the same piece of marketing material too often, they tune it out. In the worst case scenario, they get so annoyed, they resent your brand.
Perhaps the biggest brand mistake of all is not putting the effort into maintaining it. Even after you successfully implement a brand plan, things can still go wrong. Sometimes, a brand mistake can result in some laughs at your company’s expense. For example, we often hear about companies making blunders on their social media accounts. For example, earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education tweeted a quote from civil rights activist and NAACP co-founder W.E.B. DuBois, misspelling his name as DeBois. They even managed to have another error in their apology tweet. Needless to say, anything education related should be extremely diligent in their proofreading.
Sometimes, branding missteps are far more damaging. Many may remember the New Coke fiasco during the 1980s. Seeing profits dropping, Coca-Cola decided to change the taste of their signature soda, but instantly felt a backlash from customers, who saw the change as tampering more than adapting. On top of customer complaints in every way imaginable, people actually went out to buy old Coca-Cola and hoard it out of fear of the change. Coca-Cola quickly switched back, and the rest was history. Change for the sake of change isn’t always a good thing.
What Do I Do?
For a start, you can reinforce your brand efforts for free in several different areas. One area is using your employees not only for what they bring to your company, but also in ways that support your brand. This is especially important in environments like retail. For example, are you a specialty food or drink shop? Chances are that knowledge and expertise are major parts of your brand. Be sure to take the time to hire employees with past knowledge in these areas, or take the time to train the ones you have. The result is that discerning customers will picture your store as the place to go when they need help figuring out what they need. Chains like Trader Joe’s have used this mindset to great effect.
Another thing to do is encourage your customers to spread knowledge of your company via word of mouth. Being active on social media channels and review platforms like Yelp is a good way to encourage customers to do the same. If you set up surveys, they may be able to provide firsthand insight on ways to improve your brand.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to foresee every single trend, especially when your company is starting out. This is why there is such value in brand management services. To be clear, a brand management service does not create your brand for you. Instead, they refine the values you want to do then help you create effective messaging. Some may be reluctant to seek out a professional in this area. But with all the ways that your brand can be tarnished, and the importance they carry, professional assistance can be very valuable indeed.