Like many new business owners, you might have hit a particular kind of rude awakening in your opening months. Many of us come to a point where we realise that our brand is unfocussed, inconsistent, and frankly quite weak. Don’t panic – you’re not alone in this problem! Countless brands have failed at first, then been revamped to some incredible results. No matter how long you’ve been trading or how poor your sales figures are looking, there’s always hope to turn your brand around. Here, I’ll go through some of the best advice on your brand strategy. This will help you develop a long-term plan to carve out a unique place in your market. Let’s get started!
The first thing you have to think about when it comes to brand strategy is the purpose of your business. Every brand on earth makes some kind of promise or mission statement. Whether it’s coffee or clothes, I’m sure you’ll be able to find some artful bit of copywriting that doesn’t mean much, but makes it feel like the company cares about you. These days, however, that’s often not enough. Consumer confidence isn’t looking as good as it used to, and since the recession of the noughties people have been very careful with their money. Due to this, you’re not only going to have to distinguish yourself, but give your brand its own unique purpose that your customers will remember. Oddly enough, a purpose to “make shedloads of money” doesn’t go down too well among most customer bases. Ask yourself why you get up every morning and put in the hours you do to keep your business afloat. The more specific the answer, the better you’ll be able to differentiate yourself from your close competitors. It goes without saying you want to turn a profit. However, you should be getting across that you want to do some good in the world at the same time. IKEA is a great example of this. Their purpose doesn’t just stop at selling furniture. They want to “create a better everyday life” for their customers. If you’ve ever bought anything from IKEA, you’ll know that that’s pretty rich! Whether the Swedish furniture giants have made our lives better or worse, they’ve hit their branding on the head. Prose like this tells you that the company wants to provide value for you long after you’ve left the store. Find yourself a good copywriter, and make your mission statement as inspiring as possible. Visit ikea.com for a good example. Focus on the difference you’ll make to the customer’s lives, not the way your business model stands out from others.
The next thing you need to focus on is your brand consistency. A lot of entrepreneurs and even inexperienced marketing managers totally neglect the value of consistency. It may not seem like much on the surface, but having a consistent brand message is one of the best things you can do for your sales. If you’ve never taken the time to think about “brand consistency” then the whole concept might seem a little big and complex. In reality, it’s one of the simplest parts of marketing you’ll ever have to touch. The key to a consistent brand is all in your content. Just make sure you avoid absolutely anything which doesn’t relate to or enhance your brand in some way. This sounds straightforward, yet social media managers manage to break it all the time. If your business is particularly small, then you’re probably handling all the marketing for now. The next time you start writing a post or setting up a picture to go up on your Facebook page, really consider why you’re doing it. What does it mean in relation to your brand? If you simply post and post, simply for the sake of having content, then you’ll only end up confusing your audience. In this age of social media, it’s more important than ever for the tone of all your materials to be consistent through and through. If you need some inspiration to keep up active social channels, then the only brand you need to look at is Coca-Cola. This corporate giant is active on every social media platform, and every marketing drive they have works beautifully with all the ones that came before it. Think of drafting a style guide for all your copywriters and social media managers. This will ensure you don’t hit any inconsistencies when it’s tough to think of content.
These days, marketing has become something of a cold, hard science. Remember though, a large part of why people choose one brand over another is down to their emotions. It may surprise you to hear this, Harley Davidsons aren’t all that great. Okay, they’re very well made bikes. However, there are countless other models which are equally well built, and yet have a far weaker brand. The same goes for Dolce and Gabbana and Gibson guitars. Many customers know that they’re paying more for something that’s just as good as a cheaper option. However, there’s this emotional little niggle in the back of their minds going buy a Gibson. Let’s go back to Harley Davidson. They’ve exploited their customer base’s emotions by creating their own community HOG (Harley Owners Group). This makes the people who buy their bikes feel like they’re part of some exclusive club, rather than one more disconnected person with a motorbike. You don’t have to go with this exact route though. I’m sure you remember the “Share a Coke” campaign, when Coca-Cola released all their bottles with common names on them. This tiny change in their packaging made people associate a poisonous soft drink with the best times of their lives – hanging out with their friends. Go to CLSmith.com or another packaging firm and see what you could do with the products they offer. One little change to your current branding could completely turn things around for your business. Whatever you’re selling, I’m sure you can find some way to tug on your customer’s heart strings. The one cop-out you can fall back on is slapping a cute animal on your packaging. Try to be a little more imaginative though!
The world of marketing is changing faster than any of us would like. A cutting-edge form of social media campaign today might be completely obsolete tomorrow. For this reason, you need to make sure your brand stays fairly flexible. Don’t leave the page just yet! I know I told you to be consistent in this post. It’s tough, but there are ways to keep your brand both consistent and flexible. When you think “consistency”, it should be related to setting a standard of marketing materials for your company. Flexibility, on the other hand, means making little adjustments which build more interest amongst your customer base, and sets your marketing approach apart from the competition. Again, this might sound confusing. It is! This kind of balancing act is one of the toughest parts of steering your brand in the right direction. You need to straddle the line between being consistent enough to be identifiable, and being flexible enough to keep things varied, fresh and human. Take a look at Old Spice, for example. Not too long ago, this was considered a dad’s aftershave, and was associated specifically with the middle-age demographic. Since then, the brand has seen a pretty significant shift, and is popular among men of all different age groups. Their packaging, website, and product names have all changed. However, because of that classic colour scheme and their name printed in a certain font, they haven’t chased away their older customer base. This brings me smoothly onto my last point.
Finally, exploit the brand loyalty you already have. Regardless of how small or little-known your company is, you probably have at least some people who already love your products or services. Don’t let all that energy go to waste! Return your customers love with love. These few people have gone out of their way to be unpaid brand ambassadors. They write about you, share your content, and refer business to you. If you go out of your way to cultivate this kind of loyalty, it will only make it stronger. Neglect it, and you may be screwing yourself out of many returning customers. In a lot of cases, all you’ll need is a simple “thank you”. If a particular customer is doing even more for your business though, you might want to take it up slightly. Write them a letter on expensive paper with your logo stamped at the top. If you can afford it, send them a free product or two. Give a customer a product that isn’t even released yet, and they’ll find it hard to shut up about you on social media!
Take all these ingredients into your brand strategy, and see what happens. If all goes well, your brand will become a formidable force within its market faster than you can imagine! If it doesn’t, start from the top, talking to your target market and playing with new ideas.