Every successful public-facing corporation (and that’s most of them) has a brand. Within that brand is calcified the history, mission, and values of the company, as well as the trappings of its identity, such as the logo, slogan, and mascot. At the risk of sounding oversimplified or reductive, every move that company takes﹘from search engine optimization, to email marketing, to printing graphic T-shirts﹘ is to uphold a two-fold mission: to make money and to perpetuate the brand.
Why is the brand so important? Why can’t the products speak for themselves? Ultimately, branding is about communication; it’s the way a company lets a customer get to know them. The types of products and services on offer go a long way to establishing that brand, arguably more than any other type of marketing. But good branding is also about good market saturation, and products can only do so much of that work. A brand that works is a brand that comes to the forefront of a person’s mind when they ask themselves “where can I find X to help me get Y?”
Big Brand on Campus
A good brand starts out as the proverbial foot in the door of a person’s mental processes. What starts out as a person going, “Hey, I remember Company X had this product﹘maybe they have another like it,” can quickly become “Company X is the place I trust for products like these,” depending on how well their branding has sunk in.
Making a brand isn’t easy, especially one that is poised to make a breakthrough like the above example in people’s minds. There are a few guidelines you can follow to get yourself on the right track. These include:
Each of these points is important on its own, but it is the application of each of them that creates a brand bigger than the sum of its parts.
A brand can be known for good or for ill, depending on how well that company researches its target audience, its competition, and which way the market is trending. Take Windows Explorer for example: once the top web browser in the world, now it is struggling to overcome the perception of a has-been corporation, unable to play with the big boys like Google Chrome or Firefox. How can it overcome this branding, as if it was metaphorically burned with a red-hot cattle prod; stamped with the word “obsolete?”
Research is the best first step on the way to creating a lasting brand and must be regularly attended to in order to keep your company viable in the eyes of the public. Questions like these can guide your research:
- What is my client persona? If you were to describe your target market, could you identify an avatar for your audience? What does your average customer like to do for fun? What are their hobbies, worries, interests, and beliefs?
- What is my company persona? Can your client answer the same questions about you just by looking at the way you communicate and the products you sell? Is it hard to know what you stand for?
- Who are my competitors? This isn’t just about identifying who is vying for your customers’ dollars. This is about knowing what makes them tick. You must be able to differentiate yourself from your competitors in essential ways or else your customers can’t be blamed for feeling apathetic towards you.
- What can I be the best in the world at delivering? While the market plays a big role in the success of your brand, it isn’t everything. The most successful corporations in the world have the reputation of being the best place to find a specific thing, whether that be great customer service, superior engineering, unbeatable convenience, etc. Understanding this question will go a long way to helping you with your local SEO as well, as you optimize for particular keywords.
- Creativity and Simplicity
Creativity is really all about communication. Finding new and innovative ways to advertise yourself can come as much from the art department as the marketing department. In fact, interdisciplinary synergy is key to making creativity flourish in a company. At the end of the day, a creative company is one that people find interesting and want to interact with.
How can you show forth your creativity when it comes to making a lasting brand? There are a few ways:
- Make a compelling logo: The best logos are ones that are easily identifiable, and that tell a story. It doesn’t have to be complex (and indeed shouldn’t be), but it should provide a snapshot to whoever looks at it. Think of the most recognizable logos in the world. Is there more underneath than just an interesting bit of graphic design?
- Make a succinct slogan: Your slogan should rarely exceed a full sentence unless it’s comprised of a few one-word phrases strung together. The slogan sells the Big Idea of your company; a succinct summation of your company’s mission and attitude. It should be catchy while also conveying a sense of open possibility.
- Think outside the box: Advertising is so much about who can grab your attention first. A great brand will do much of the grabbing for you, but it will also become associated with the platforms on which it advertises. Investing in creativity can pay huge dividends if you are able to distinguish yourself from the cacophony through powerful and unique ads. The simplest ideas often have the best sticking power.
- Relish in good design. Quality is something people can see with their own eyes and can feel as they interact with your business. This should extend to every part of your brand, from good web design to good product design.
Perhaps the most important factor for any company to build a recognizable brand is consistency. Like working out, no great ground can be covered by infrequent bursts of energy; instead, your company must be reliable. Otherwise, your brand could take on a life of its own, and not in a way that would please you.
Consistency doesn’t just mean putting out content or supplying new products regularly, though it certainly does entail that. Consistency also means being true to your company’s values. Any brand that strays away from the way its customers associate with it can create unnecessary whiplash. If great changes must be made to the operation or policy of your business, a customer should still be able to trace a line from the changes directly through your over-arching, uncompromising values.