Nike is more than just athletic apparel.
Apple is more than its technology offerings.
Companies are more than just their products. Companies today are more of an experience. Consumers have expectations about that experience when they decide to purchase your product.
However, many companies don’t go far enough when it comes to the experience or what is essentially the brand.
Some companies get the logo just right. They knock it out of the park and think they are all set when it comes to branding.
However, branding is more than just a great logo.
What is a Brand Anyway?
Brands have been around for more than a century. When packaged goods became popular in the late 19th century, branding was used to differentiate a company’s product from that of its competition.
Just like when a great orchestra works together and the sum is greater than the total of its individual parts, the same is true of a brand. A brand is comprised of those often-intangible elements that define the consumer experience with your product or service.
Brands influence the consumer perception and experience.
Brands influence how consumers feel in their hearts about an organization.
Brands influence feelings and because feelings can be complicated, many struggle to put the idea of branding in a box by trying to assign a formal definition to the term.
The definition of a brand has evolved over time. Once defined as the way a company promotes itself with advertising and distinctive design, today the definition of branding is more enigmatic: it’s who you are and you want to be.
Intangible enough for you?
It’s your messaging, your story, your purpose. It’s the tone of voice, the language, the color palettes, the graphic design, even the fonts you choose and the packaging material you use. It’s how your employees interact with customers and it’s about how employees feel about your business.
With all of those creative elements and the time and effort that go into branding your product, service and organization, the brand ends up being one of your most valuable assets.
Companies who master the brand became used in everyday vernacular and become household words.
Wouldn't you love for your business to become a household name?
Keep reading to see how to create and nurture a brand that can become an essential part of your sales team.
How Important is Branding?
Consider these statistics:
21% of consumers said they made a purchase simply because they liked the brand
60% of consumers said they intentionally seek out brands they know
Not only do brands excite consumers, but they also inspire employees.
When building that brand, many steps are required to strategize and develop the vision, and then bring the brand to life during the launch. Too often, companies stop there.
Instead, companies who understand that their brand is a living breathing thing that requires consistent nurturing and can be leveraged in a variety of ways will gain competitive advantage and can serve as a beacon for your sales process.
What is Brand Nurturing?
Brands must evolve. For that to happen, they need to be refreshed and revitalized to maintain relevance.
Brand nurturing is the process of continually investing in your brand. Brand nurturing takes time and requires commitment.
It requires a commitment to aligning the various aspects of your business so that brand is consistently and effectively communicated to both internal and external audiences.
A nurtured brand has intangible but very real value that impacts the consumer experience.
How Do You Nurture the Brand?
Brand nurturing is like raising a child.
The child has endless potential, but needs guidance from the parent.
Just like the child, your business has inherent qualities and potential. You’ve developed the brand to attract customers and differentiate yourself from your competition.
But many companies stop there without asking the question:
Is the company – across all its moving parts – embracing and leveraging the brand adequately?
As you answer this question, the brand might evolve and company processes might also evolve. The goal is to align the brand and its messaging across all areas of the organization.
You can encourage brand-centric commitment by:
Providing continuing education about branding for your employees
Conducting internal customer service training
Investing in community initiatives that promote brand recognition
Once you have decided to make the commitment to creating a brand and putting forth the time and energy required to nurture it, it’s time to develop a brand that can drive sales for your organization.
5 Steps for Developing a Brand that Drives Sales
1. Set Goals
Begin with the end in mind.
Where do you want your brand to take you?
That’s a loaded question. But this is what branding is all about.
Most likely, you want the brand to:
Reach the right audience
You’ll want to do your homework about your target market.
Create buyer personas if you haven’t already. Who are they and what excites them?
What are the pain points, wants and needs of your ideal customer?
Accomplish your company’s mission
Go back to the reasons this business was created in the first place.
Tap into purpose and passion.
Maybe it has been a while since you’ve thought this way about the business, but this is what branding is all about. If you want the brand to resonate with consumers, you must be able to communicate not only the purpose behind your business, but the passion as well.
2. Design a Consistent Messaging Strategy
There is a lot of competition out there.
But your company is different. Your values, the benefits you provide to consumers and employees and your standards. All of these things make your organization unique.
The wonderful thing about a brand is that it gives your business the chance to creatively let the world know who you are.
Beyond the tangible products, the brand message is going to convey your identity and tug on the heartstring of consumers by making real connections.
The messaging here is critical.
The first step is identifying all of these unique features. Begin by making a master list of the ways your organization is unique:
How do you improve the lives of consumers?
Are you a provider of world class customer service?
What about your employees? What makes you a great company to work for?
How do you contribute to the success of consumers?
What do you stand for? Do you make the world a better place?
Your brand is the chance to yell it from the mountain top. Pull back the curtain and let people know the great things about your business.
3. Build Strong Visuals with Brand Guidelines
The visual design is critical because the consumer must notice your brand if they are to connect with it.
Consistency is a must. So, once you’ve chosen the logo, the iconography, the fonts, the color palette and all of the other visual components that will represent the brand, creating a set of guidelines for branding is essential.
Brand guidelines are a set of basic rules about how your organization will use the branding elements. Brand guidelines prevent your brand’s messaging from becoming unrecognizable to customers in a year or so because someone started using the wrong graphic element and nobody noticed.
4. Launch the Brand
Whether you are launching a new brand or launching a rebranding campaign, brand awareness is the goal.
When brands create awareness, consumers - especially your target audience - not only recognize your brand, but reward it with popularity. Brands create a buzz or begin trending because your branding is strong and people are noticing.
So how does this happen for you?
At this point in the process, the brand is going to be deployed and integrated throughout every nook and cranny of your operation.
Of course, you’re going to concentrate on areas where customers interact with your business, including:
Many companies stop there. It’s important to also think outside the box and look for other unique places to leverage your brand, like:
When you incorporate a strong content strategy into promoting your brand, you establish the brand as a trusted authority in the industry. You demonstrate how you are partnering with consumers to provide solutions for the customer’s pain points rather than simply peddling your product.
Competitor research can uncover weaknesses and opportunity gaps in the industry. Your brand strategy can then tailor its messaging to demonstrate your understanding of these needs.
Analytical tools can also help gather insights to create the right messaging for the right customer at the right time.
If your brand is doing its job, consumers will develop expectations. Those expectations must be met.
Branding extends well beyond marketing. Your brand must reach every inch of your organization.
Sales and customer service employees must be up to speed with brand guidelines so they can maintain the brand identity when engaging with customers.
From call center conversations to in-store interactions, the brand messaging must be consistent.
A great example of this is Chick-Fil-A. When you ask any Chick-Fil-A employee for something they will always respond "it's a pleasure". This is part of their key messaging and all employees are trained to use it. Even the pilots that fly their corporate higher-ups are trained to respond this way. It's a mentality and a belief that aligns with their customer-centric brand.
The reputation you have with your employees is conveyed - like it or not - through every customer interaction. In addition, job seekers are judging your brand with the same type of scrutiny that consumers use.
To compete, retain and engage the best and brightest talent, your branding must extend to all aspects of hiring, training and beyond for your employees.
5. Empower the Brand with Persuasion
Encouraging the consumer to act is where branding shines during the sales process. There are a few ways to approach this:
Reward. Humans are more likely to adjust an attitude or take action if they are doing so for a reward. Consider how your brand can incorporate this concept.
Threat. The other side of the reward coin causes humans to take action if they feel that, by not acting, there is a risk. Think of the many products today that incorporate “no high-fructose corn syrup” into their branding.
Social proof. Consumers today are looking more and more to each other and to social media influencers for social proof when making a purchasing decision.
Brand development is an iterative process. It must be managed to ensure consistency and to identify new and creative opportunities for deployment.
Determine how the brand will be communicated by employees in the front of the house and how it will be leveraged by those in the back office. Consider designating a team to oversee adherence to brand guidelines and continuous improvement.
Powerhouse brands that you know and love go above and beyond the perfect logo and a clever tagline to focus on the bigger picture. Follow their lead with the advice outlined above and your brand will provide you an edge in today’s increasingly competitive market.