Dos and Donts of Creating a Winning Brand Identity
A winning brand identity is not one thing. It’s an amalgam of many aspects of how your company creates value for consumers.
Your brand is what consumers perceive (or fail to perceive) based on everything about your company. From your visual identity to the products you sell to the way these products perform to the feelings consumers have about your company. It’s as much about the relationship you have with your customers as it is about what you’re selling.
Branding can establish how people perceive you and can increase your value. Or, it can do the opposite. Just like a reputation. You can have a good one, a bad one, or none. Only one of those is in the positive column.
Why Is Branding Important?
Branding makes a memorable impression so that people know what to expect when they do business with you or buy your products.
A brand isn’t about what you want it to be. A brand only exists in the minds of a consumer. Establishing a quality brand in a consumer’s mind gives you a significant advantage in the marketplace regardless of what your business is.
Why is branding so incredibly important? 77% of consumers say they make purchase decisions based on brand names.
Research shows brand value plays a huge role in a company’s success. Brand value accounts for as much as 19.5% of a company’s overall value from a financial standpoint. A superior brand preference in a category — even among similar quality products — can command a 26% premium on price.
8 Do and Don't of Creating a Winning Brand Identity
Building a brand can be a challenge — especially if you’re entering a crowded industry. If you’re trying to decide how to create a winning brand identity, here are some of the things you need to keep in mind that will impact the way consumers perceive your organization.
Do: Focus on Core Values
Your brand’s core values are at the center of who you are what you do. These values go way beyond your company’s name, logo, or color scheme. They are the essence of what your organization is all about.
Google changes its logo often, but it doesn’t stray from its core mission: deliver the most relevant search results as quickly as possible. By delivering on its promise, it’s become one of the world’s leaders in advertising revenue – despite having only 9 words on its home page and not a single advertisement. A relentless focus on their core value defines the brand — a big reason why Google commands a 92% share of the global search market.
You can adapt and evolve the way you look, but the core of your brand needs to be consistent.
Do: Recognize Marketplace Trends
As consumer trends emerge, it’s crucial that companies assess the landscape. This doesn’t mean reinventing the business model or changing the brand but it does mean evolving to stay current.
Netflix saw the trend towards streaming and shifted from mail-order DVDs to become what it is today. While it reacted to the marketplace, it didn’t abandon its core brand: delivering affordable quality entertainment. Blockbuster had a similar mission but failed to evolve.
Barnes and Noble saw the eBook trends emerging and launched the Nook. Borders didn’t react to evolving consumer trends and waiting until too late. By 2011, the company was in bankruptcy.
Despite increasing gas prices — and an increasingly environmentally aware consumer — GM still tried to hang on to the Hummer brand until well past its expiration date.
Do: Be Authentic & Consistent
Trust in institutions is at an all-time low. In a world of misinformation, conspiracy theories, and social media, consumers have become increasingly distrustful of brands.
More than ever before, brands need to be authentic and genuine.
Pepsi’s attempt to appropriate the Black Lives Matter movement with its ad featuring Kendall Jenner was labeled tone-deaf. The inauthenticity of the brand positioning faced a nearly universal negative reaction. Contrast that to how Coke approach diversity by recreating its Superbowl ad that same year showcasing a diverse group signing America the Beautiful in multiple languages.
Authenticity personalizes a brand and makes a human, emotional connection. Consumers see brands such as Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Disney, and LEGO as some of the most authentic brands in the world. They consistently provide an authentic experience.
Do: Find Your Unique Selling Proposition
Brands don’t exist in a vacuum. Yet often, companies create brands that don’t stand out.
Consumers see little difference between brands in general. When this happens, they tend to pick from among products in a category based on habit or price. If there’s no difference, why should they change their preference or pay a higher price?
While your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) will be a major part of your marketing campaign, it’s also part of building your brand.
For years, FedEx touted “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” and established its brand as the world leader in overnight delivery rather than being just another logistics and delivery service. While they haven’t used that slogan in years, it’s still their unique positioning that transformed the industry and catapulted them to the top.
If you can’t define what’s special or unique about your brand, what problem your products solve, or why someone should become your customers versus your competitors, your brand is not likely to stand out.
Don’t: Follow the Crowd
While it’s important to be aware of trends, whatever you do, don’t just follow the crowd.
When Tropicana’s major competitor did a refresh on its brand packaging, Tropicana felt the need to update its look as well. Their new design confused customers and resulted in a 20% drop in sales within weeks of the relaunch.
You need to know what your competition is doing and how they approach their brand, but don’t let it influence your brand decision. Stay true to your goals and values and resist the call to react to everything your competitors do.
Don’t: Change Too Often
While there are times when a refresh is necessary, the essence of your brand needs to stay consistent. Brand consistency instills confidence and helps maintain expectations.
Thomas Smith believed it took 20 times for a person to be exposed to a brand message before they understood and acknowledged it. He wrote that in 1890 before radio, TV, or the internet existed. When you think about how many brand messages you see every day in today’s always-connected world, can you imagine how many times it takes to drive brand messaging home?
In psychological terms, it’s called the mere-exposure effect. Repeating a message leads to familiarity and, over time, preference.
Marketing works best by driving a consistent message to the right consumers over time.
Don’t: Overhype or Oversell
Your brand needs to be an accurate representation of who you are what you deliver. If you overhype what you’re about or try to tell people you’re something you’re not, it’s going to catch up with you. When it does, it can lead to a hard landing.
Focusing on your core values is more than just branding your business. It’s about living up to your brand promise. Just ask the folks at Experian what happened after they built their brand around securely managing credit and financial information — and then exposed the data of more than 140 million people.
Think your brand isn’t overpromising or overhyping? 52% of consumers believe brands fail to live up to their promises. When you promise something, you must deliver on it. Failing to do so can ruin brands.
Remember the XFL? They promised a combination of pro football and professional wrestling as the “next big thing.” When viewers tuned in and saw it the product itself, the XFL set records for the lowest primetime ratings in TV history.
Don’t: Ignore the Customer Experience
“Your brand is formed primarily, not by what your company says about itself,” said Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame, “but what the company does.”
When a customer interacts with your brand, if you’re not delivering the high-quality experience they expect, it’s a brand killer whether you’re in eCommerce or any other industry. It’s essential you create a consistent customer experience that meets or exceeds expectations every time out.
Customer experience has become one of the most important things in brand building. A Gartner survey of marketers showed that 81% expect to compete mostly or entirely based on the customer experience they can deliver.
Delivering on Your Brand Promise
Building a brand takes strategy and it takes time. It also takes discipline to stay true to your values and who you are. While a brand can (and should) evolve, it must consistently deliver on its brand promises and provide a consistent customer experience.
Here’s another Bezos quote that sums up what branding is all about: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Use these 8 Dos and Don’ts as you build your winning brand.