Branding best practices for 2018

First thing first: branding is complex. To cover all its aspects, we would need to publish a Tolkien-style trilogy! Nevertheless, we’ll try and summarise in this article some essential principles every successful brand should live by. Let’s start from a fundamental distinction.

Branding or Marketing?

Time and time again we see clients confuse branding and marketing. Even marketing professionals often fail to be clear. So here is our definition:
your brand is the feeling people have about your organisation, your products and services.” Whereas “marketing is the activity of promoting products, services and brands.”

The definition of what a brand is gives a strong clue to why branding is not a straight forward topic. Feelings are notoriously hard to control and to influence; which is why we are big advocates of the most simple and authentic brand strategy. Marketing, on the other hand is easier to substantiate. It is more measurable and the effects are more immediate too. So what are the best practices for getting your branding strategy on the right track?

#1 Know Thyself

All great brands stand out from their competitors, not because of catchy slogans and memorable jingles, but because they fundamentally understand what makes them different and why they exist in the first place. One of the most crucial elements of any brand strategy is to define the why, the how and the what.

  • Why do you exist in the first place?
  • How do you do business?
  • What is it you do and sell?

The rule is: Tell your audience what your values are and what you believe in and they will become your most loyal brand ambassadors.

#2 Engage Emotionally

With companies facing growing competition in pretty much every sector, emotional engagement is proving to be more and more critical. Effective storytelling and digital marketing are at the heart of this movement alongside the traditional channels.

To do this, we must not lead the customer experience with the “sale” but rather present the brands human aspect. Our response to emotional messaging is much stronger than that to rational messaging. This is why desirable brands can charge a premium for their products or services for example. It is also why brand loyalty is much greater in some brands than others.

As an illustration of what we mean when we talk about emotional engagement, here’s a maybe slightly extreme but nevertheless perfect example.

A worldwide ranking of tattoos reveals that the most popular tattoo is … ‘Mom’ or ‘Mum’ In second place? Harley-Davidson.

How did Harley-Davidson reach this kind of loyalty? Clearly they are selling more than just cool bikes, Harley-Davidson represents the idea of freedom and independence. For the fifty something born again biker that translates in a softer form of adventure and escape but it is all born out of that same brand core that strongly resonates with people’s ideas, dreams and believes.

The rule is: Remember that customers today don’t just buy things, they buy into stories brought to life through the right mix of strategy and creativity.

#3 Be Coherent

Or rather be consistent and relevant at the same time. A brand has many more touch points today than only a few years ago. Therefore, it is crucial to be consistent not only in the content of all messages but also in the quality of each experience created. While all brands compete for visibility, the saying “there is no such thing as bad publicity” is certainly not true anymore. Today a single tweet can derail a company or leaders of a company.

With so many communication channels the risk - for a brand - is to be tempted to turn up the dial and shout louder and more often. Fact is consumers do not appreciate this overload, particularly if the messages are not relevant to them. The result – in these cases - is a disengaged audience.

The rules are:

  1. Whether you reach your audience best through email newsletters, your blog, events, on other social networks or advertising, always keep in mind that your message must reflect your brand promise.
  2. Focus on the quality of the message rather than the frequency. The experience you create should be relevant to your audience, spark that interest, make that connection and you could convert a new brand ambassador.

To sum it up

A strong brand can’t be created overnight. It is a challenging but exciting journey that needs to be embraced by all involved. Whether a company is large, medium or small in size, whether it is in the consumer or in the B2B sector – when that point of difference is defined, when we are clear why a business exists and how it is delivering its offering, then we’re in a very good position to becoming a strong brand that will attract loyal customers. Not only is the journey rewarding, the rewards will be plentiful too.

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