Brand is Back! [PART 1]

Brand as Buzz
Remember when brand was such a buzz word? It was around the time we moved into the new millenium. There were a multitude of articles and seminars about brand and I noticed that many design agencies were adding “brand” to their company name. After that came the financial crash and businesses hunkered down to assess and refocus. As the smoke cleared and we adjusted to the new normal, businesses moved their attention to advancing their media technologies, developing better websites, and figuring out how to effectively use the new online marketing channels. “Brand” has been replaced by “online” and “digital” in agency titles.

Working with clients to develop plans for using all media channels in an interconnected way, I have reawakened to the importance of brand in this age of digital media. Brand is important for many of the same reasons as before - awareness, advertising, and consumer trust. But now your brand needs to ensure that your business is recognizable in marketing channels that didn’t even exist a few years ago. Your company brand needs to be sharper, clearer, flexible, and more versatile to survive in the omnichannel world. Brand is now a real-time experience.

Today, every business needs to revisit their brand. There are two reasons for this injunction.

First, if you have been in business for any amount of time, your business has evolved. Every business grows and expands as it meets customer needs and takes advantage of market opportunities. Something I often discover when working with companies, is that the outward presentation of their company (their brand) is often much weaker than the actual quality of their business. That is always surprising and somewhat painful to me, because creating and sustaining a great business is much harder than keeping your brand in order.

Second, the new digital channels require a totally fresh approach to brand presentation. Digital media, online advertising, and social media are so different from the traditional media many businesses designed their brand around. Think of your brand in the traditional channels including business cards, signage, print advertising, packaging, etc. Then consider your look in the new channels that include website, ecommerce, banner ads, and social media. Is your brand consistent throughout, and more important, is your brand immediately recognizable to your target audience in every channel?

Let’s look at the role of your brand in the omnichannel environment.

The Brand Tangibles
Your physical brand tangibles are necessary to represent your business to the world. The physical elements include your company name, logo, colors, tagline, and design elements. These visual elements create a look and feel for your brand and should be carefully developed to portray your company with the desired personality. You should also maintain strong brand standards to ensure that your brand is presented in a positive and consistent manner to the public. The goal is to be immediately recognizable to your target audience, in all the many places they may choose to find you. With the fragmented audiences that are a result of so many media channels, it is even more important to build on repeat impressions to your prospects and customers.

Brand management becomes necessary for a positive return on investment when placing advertising, publishing content, and interacting on social media. Your brand needs to portray your company purpose, personality, and promise. The look and feel of your business needs to come through in every channel in order to capitalize on your marketing investments.

The Brand Intangibles
Your brand tangibles are a representation of your brand intangibles which are formed by your audience’s experience with your company. Brand is how the public perceives your company based on product quality, service, delivery, consistency, and needs fulfillment. A positive brand experience develops emotional connections with your company, creates a level of expectation from your products and services, and builds brand loyalty. Your company must live up to its brand promise at every customer touchpoint. Ultimately, your brand is only as strong as the public’s perception of your company, one person at a time.

Brand as Business
In the pre-digital day, marketers would push out messages to the public with the intent of interrupting them. That no longer works and is undesirable to consumers. Your brand now needs to be interesting enough that your target audience will take the time to engage with your company. The new digital marketing channels are participatory platforms that provide people with the ability to interact with your brand, as well as each other.

In today’s environment, successful businesses have evolved from having a marketing department that is separate from other significant operations, to being a business that understands how to market the company throughout the entire organization. Effective marketing utilizes company-wide concepts, planning, and execution throughout media channels.

Many businesses feel they can’t take the time, or spend the money, to review and revise their brand image. I encourage you to look at both the current success, and the potential, of your company. Then, look at your brand image in all media. If those don’t match up, you owe it to your business to update your brand to fully represent the greatness of your business in every channel, making way for further growth and success.

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