Brands, not companies, stick in consumers’ minds, providing you’ve created one that is effective and appealing to your demographic. Creating and maintaining a brand identity can be just as important to your business’s sustainability as your company’s operations.
More than a logo
Your brand identity isn’t just a logo or a catchphrase; it’s everything that a potential customer perceives when they interact with you. This is everything they have absorbed from a catchy product display stand to a slogan, your brand defines your company.
A well-designed logo is a great way to create a visual cue that gives you an ‘identity’ in the minds’ of customers. Potential customers will be ‘warmer’ if they already know your logo before they investigate your services. However, the end goal should always be that the logo reminds consumers of your good reputation and the trust you have already earned. And reminders of reputation and trust can be delivered in non-visual ways, such as recommendations as well as through visual channels such as websites, direct advertising, or social media. Large corporations spend millions of pounds ensuring that you think of Virgin as entrepreneurial, BT as dependable, and Apple as innovators of technology.
While you may not have the funds to control your image through large scale advertising, you do have the ability to brand yourself right now and to start working towards a great reputation.
If you’re not sure where to start, a good first step is to create a brand discovery questionnaire. This will help you define your company’s values, target audience, and overall message. With a clear understanding of these key elements, you can begin to create a consistent brand identity that resonates with your potential customers. So, take some time to think about what you want your brand to represent and use a brand discovery questionnaire to help guide your efforts.
How does your business contact customers and the market? Are your imagery and graphics consistent across the board? Do your business cards and website continue the same theme? Creating a consistent approach means that visitors will experience a seamless journey from your marketing to your business. Emails, leaflets, and literature should all help to promote the idea of a single and singular brand. If you’re just starting a business, then you have an opportunity to create your brand from the ground up.
When brands change
But don’t become too wedded to your brand identity, sometimes it has to change.
You may like your design ideas, but if it doesn’t ring your customers’ bells, you’ve got it wrong. Doing some research is a great step towards understanding your customers’ demographic, opinions and aspirations so that you can avoid mistakes.
Be versatile with who your customers are and try not to get bogged down in what you believe your customers want. Ask questions. You may well find yourself very surprised by what you discover.
The giant US retailer JC Penny failed to understand their customers when they decided to discontinue the use of coupons and discounts. It turned out their customer base was extremely interested in making savings and they stopped buying at JC Penny when JC Penny didn’t reflect that interest. The subsequent alienation led to massive losses for the company. All because senior management assumed they knew JC Penny customers – and didn’t bother to check out those assumptions.
Adapting Over Time
The biggest brands change their identity when it is no longer working for them. You’re allowed to do that as well. As a smaller company, you can actually be a great deal more versatile in changing your image while promoting yourself through a variety of channels. If you start out as a baking business selling confectionery to consumers but over time you find yourself playing more of a B2B role, then changing the name or branding of your business can help facilitate profits.
With the downward trend in sales of desktop computers, I’ll bet “PC World” wishes they could be so versatile.
Creating and maintaining brands
- Create a brand scheme and ensure that it has it is in place wherever you interact with customers.
- Be consistent. It helps people identify you and make associations.
- Spend time discovering what your demographic wants, not what you assume they want.
- Be ready to adapt. Perhaps your business will change or develop, perhaps your customer base will change. Don’t lock yourself in when your business is still growing.