The Magic of Thinking Branding for Business
Branding as an action term can be illustrated, allowing us to clarify how each vital aspect and component of branding dovetails together with the others. Just as an engineer must plan out a bridge before constructing it, so, too, must you lay out your branding strategy before developing and marketing it to your target audience(s).
Branding extends well beyond the boundaries of what most people in business conceive to be “the all” of branding: the brand identity. There are three elements in branding which I refer to as The Branding Triangle.
The core elements of what we traditionally have referred to as a “brand” are contained within its visible “brand identity.” The components of the brand identity are created by the business itself. In other words, brand identity is the way in which a business wants its potential consumers to perceive and remember its brand. Brand identity forms an important base within the activity of branding, as this is how we first perceive it, as well as continue to recognize the brand in the future. The brand identity forms the foundation of the Branding Triangle.
Now, how a brand is actually perceived by the consumer is different, and referred to as the “brand image.”
Within a brand’s identity are:
• The logo
• Symbols and icons
• Type style
• Art work
• Slogan/tag line
• Voice or sounds
• Distinguishing visual/audio elements
• Placement and location
Moving in a clockwise manner, the next integral part of the Branding Triangle is Content Management. The administration of your processes, messaging and technologies concerning your content is another critical aspect of creating and maintaining the awareness, appreciation of and connections of your customers and followers with your brand.
Without the creation and intelligent management of “branded content,” your company brand and products and/or services will rapidly become irrelevant and forgotten, even by your most ardent customers and advocates. “Out of sight, out of mind,” is the maxim to keep in mind here. Once the brand establishes its identify, it must communicate and become known.
A powerful small business branding cannot become or remain one if it is not continuously communicating and connecting with its audience. While the world is becoming more automated, we have lost our personal contact with individuals. Creating personalized content can become a huge differentiator for a brand that takes heed to this branding opportunity.
When it comes to power branding, content management is ultimately the responsibility of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or, in the case of a small business or startup, the owner or Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Your brand, in part, is as vibrant and valued as the content that it publishes and distributes, and the help that it offers. This content may be your images, video and audio properties, sales decks, blogs, ebooks, published materials, emails, newsletters, press releases, tweets, and even the content of your character reflected in your smile.
Effective content management concerns itself with:
1. Market research
2. Brand touch points and execution
3. Content creation
6. Publishing and distribution
7. Monitoring consumer and media feedback
8. Audience development (Increasing the number of genuine contacts, fans and followers)
9. Oversight and review
10. Recommendations for future content and PR initiatives
How Content Connects with Branding
Your content forms the second aspect of the Branding Triangle. If your brand is not creating content that shows customers how to do something, you are missing out on a big opportunity to provide customer service in a format that customers increasingly demand and love.
Once you have produced your how-to content, you can share it in a variety of places. Of course, your business website is the primary location to host your content; include it as part of your customer service page. But also place your videos on your YouTube channel and share the video links to the content throughout your other social-media channels. Done right, how-to content keeps existing customers happy and attracts new ones, too.
Customer Relationship Management
(Customer relations management and “customer service” are interchangeable depending on the industry and their preferred nomenclature.)
The third corner of the Branding Triangle traditionally has not been considered among most branding-professionals’ circles. The fact remains, however, that any brand is only valued and regarded well to the degree that it renders service to its consumers and successfully grows the brand’s relationship with every interaction and touch point. This is where “brand identity” (How a brand desires to be perceived.) and “brand image” (How consumers actually perceive it.) begin to bridge the chasm between strategy and reality.
How to deliver more than the most fundamental customer expectancies within a brand’s services and touch points ought to be included within any integral strategic planning, when creating and marketing a brand. Exceeding your customers’ expectations is a sure route to establishing a powerful brand.
“When it comes to brand building, customer service is often the last and most-ignored piece of the puzzle. This is a big mistake – and big missed opportunity. Aligning customer service and your brand is an essential but under-used way to attract and retain customers, differentiate the business, and boost brand loyalty. Done right, it can create a truly sustainable competitive advantage.” – Harvard Business Review (April 6, 2009)
While it is your brand identity that will initially attract new clients, it is customer service – a brand image intangible – that determines whether they stick around or leave. With the advent of online consumer reviews, the quality of your customer service is even more important today. How you service your customers is as vital to your business’ future existence as breathing.
Powerful small business brands create loyal customers by helping them solve their problems quickly and easily, even anticipating their problems for them. “Get it right the first time,” is the Golden Rule, but efficient delivery of more than what the customer expects is branding platinum!
Speedy, efficient service trumps “being delightful,” which seems to be the current trend around customer-service circles. While, of course, I always advocate for friendly service at all times, if service is slow and inefficient, no amount of friendliness is going to compensate or ease a customer’s complaints. Citing an analogous example that many of us are familiar with, the frustrating pain of waiting five hours at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) – no one’s idea of a pleasant day at the office – will not be mitigated by how friendly their staff are when your number is finally called.
“Making promises and keeping them is a great way to build a brand.” – Seth Godin
When it comes to customer service, powerful brands are:
• Solution oriented
Powerful Brands Diligently Manage the Branding Triangle
When all three major elements of a brand come together within a business, they have established the firmest foundation for genuine small business branding success. Case in point, again, is Disneyland. Before the park opened in July of 1955, the brand of Disney Studios, which began in 1923, was well-established. Creating content with films and iconic characters had built that brand decades before Disney created a theme park.
After the park opened, more movie characters created in following decades began to shape the theme park’s new rides and attractions. Eventually, these affected the Disney company’s current swag.
Anyone who has visited Disneyland has benefited from the highly attentive customer service found at the “Happiest Place on Earth.”
And they have witnessed and experienced the perfect blend of the Branding Triangle.
Branding truly is “the aggregate of all tangibles and intangibles.”