Brands, just like people, have to set healthy habits. You brush your teeth every day, set exercise goals, see the dentist every six months, and get a physical once a year. You look in the mirror and have any worrisome changes checked out. You listen to your friends, spouse, or physician when they tell you that they notice something that needs attention. These habits for a healthy body are very similar to the habits for a healthy brand.
- Talk to your market on a regular basis for feedback
- Conduct a market communications audit
- Seek objective analysis
- Make small moves 80% of the time
- When you make a big move, commit to it 100%
- Conduct benchmarking research before big moves
- Find the emotion in your pitch
- Set long-term goals and be consistent in your process towards them
Talk to your market on a regular basis for feedback
Your brand is a two-way street. It is created and affected by what you do, but it is inherently a perception that lives in the minds of your audience. The best way to know if it’s healthy is to ask your audience. You can do this in many ways:
- Customer satisfaction surveys
- Research interviews
- Research surveys
- Customer advisory boards
Conduct a market communications audit
For most corporations today, different communication vehicles are created or managed by very different teams. You might have an IT or web development team managing your online presence, an internal team managing your collateral development, and an external agency or agencies creating your paid advertising presence in print or other media. It is very easy for your communications to get out of sync and diluted in their impact with your audience. Once a year, be sure to get all of your materials lined up in a room. Cover the walls with everything you have produced in the last six months and make sure they all match on message and visual consistency.
Seek objective analysis
Objective analysis is crucial for a healthy brand. An outside resource brings a fresh perspective to the analysis, which is crucial to seeing past blind spots. Internal leaders might know your brand and your audience extremely well, and they need to partner with external resources to bring this knowledge to the table. This partnership is beneficial because internal leaders are often distracted by:
- Pet projects
- Territorial issues
- Drinking the Kool-Aid (they buy into internal rhetoric that might not be true any longer, if it ever was)
- C-level pressures or ideas
- Their own agendas
In the end, decisions can be made toward a course of action that takes any of these blind spots into consideration, if they serve a worthy purpose. Nevertheless, it is immensely valuable to get an unbiased baseline as a decision-making foundation.
Make small moves 80% of the time
Large corporations always have some level of executive turnover, and inevitably, a new executive wants to make their mark on the brand. However, you must be cautious in making radical changes to your brand. There is a time and place for making a big move and a bold impact. You just can’t do it too often. Frequent big shifts in messaging or visuals communicate to your audience that you made an error in tactics last time. They are confusing. They reduce clarity and memorability. Walk confidently with the moves you make, but in most cases it is better to make small steps that lead your audience along with you in a new direction.
When you make a big move, commit to it 100%
When it is time for one of the big moves, do it wholeheartedly and with a bang. Spend the money and the time necessary to promote it internally and externally. Be loud and be clear so that there is no possibility of being missed.
Conduct benchmarking research before big moves
Because big moves should be rare and tend to be expensive, make sure you have the pre-shift data to track their impact. Data comparisons can include sales numbers, Twitter activity, and other non-benchmarked indicators, but when it comes to brand impact, you need the intangibles benchmarked. Before you make a big shift in your brand strategy be sure to measure current brand perception, likelihood to recommend, and recognition and memorability of current brand elements. These are key indicators of your brand and are vital to calculating the impact and ROI of brand adjustments.
Find the emotion in your pitch
B:B companies often have a hard time tapping into the emotion of their offerings, but everything has an emotional impact in some way. Find it and you’ll find the key to successful branding. Why? Because the majority of our decisions are based on emotions. Herbert A. Simon, Nobel Prize winning scholar at the Carnegie Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh, studied corporate decision-making and found that people often ignored formal decision-making models because of time constraints, incomplete information, the inability to calculate consequences, and other variables that impacted their mood or stress levels. Even in the modern RFP process, which seems to take all emotion out of the decision, the final choice is heavily influenced by emotion. When it comes down to it, jobs, reputations, sleep, sanity, and a host of other important things are on the line for each decision maker. Find out what they need to feel safe, feel like the hero, or just feel smart, and you will win their choice.
Set long-term goals and be consistent in your process towards them.
Another fatal mistake in branding is to make adjustments based on transitory threats. Brands are fragile. They are perception-based entities and consistency is paramount to their stability. Inconsistent messaging creates turmoil in the minds of your audience, which ultimately skews and dilutes your intended message. To build a strong, healthy brand you need to set goals and work toward them with consistent, strategic moves. Set a course for what you want to be, and what you need to be, and stay on track.