The 6 Keys to Successful Branding
A brand is no longer what we tell consumers it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.
Scott Cook perfectly summed up the evolution of branding and its interactive nature.
Companies cannot merely come up with a successful branding concept and blindly stick to it without taking into consideration external factors such as customers’ associations, beliefs, and emotions, as well as competitors’ efforts.
The point of this complicated process is to find your way into your audience’s hearts and minds and to distinguish your brand from your competition.
Building a successful brand is an undertaking that encompasses many different tasks that have to be completed and elements that have to click.
It is true that no precise recipe will magically turn your business into a brand, but this is not necessarily a bad thing, mainly because you will be able to unleash your creativity and create a name that will grow and evolve together with the size of your consumer base.
1 – Identify your audience and their emotions
Although this is a crucial step towards building successful branding, many companies ignore it and adequately analyse their target audience.
This usually results in mismatched branding efforts and a failure to offer and deliver unique value to your audience.
You need to know to whom you will be pitching and whose problems your brands will be solving because of being aware of your potential customer’s pain points and offering them a product that will help them.
Remember that your competitors also have similar products, so besides trying to help your customers, you must also persuade them that your product is better than the others in the marketplace.
To do so, it is essential to use the right pitch, address your audience in their language, and tell them a story that they can relate to.
However, how will you get them to listen to your story and realise that you are what they need and want?
A catchy tagline, crafted to attract your audience’s attention, is the first and most crucial step.
It will resonate with your audience and communicate your brand message in a memorable, meaningful, and likeable way.
Simplicity is the final and essential ingredient of a perfect tagline, which is why the golden standard for composing it is using three to four words (give or take).
Just Do It, I’m Lovin’ It, Designed for Driving Pleasure, or America Runs on Dunkin are examples of witty and yet highly clever taglines that condensed the essence of Nike, McDonald’s, BMW, and Dunkin’ Donuts, respectively, into a couple of words.
However, MasterCard’s two sentences long, “There are some things that money cannot buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard”, shows us that rules exist to be broken.
This slogan elicited powerful emotions and, paired with an equally memorable commercial in which a father takes his son to a baseball game, is precisely the stuff that people will buy (pun intended).
Your task is to identify and tap into the right emotions that are likely to move your audience.
2 – Loyalty is the key
There’s no successful branding without loyal customers.
Take a page from Apple’s book, as the brand boasts a vast army of fanboys and fangirls who not only wait in lines in front of Apple stores day and night when a new product is launched but will also religiously promote and defend the brand both in the online and the offline world.
What’s the secret behind such a brand loyalty phenomenon?
Apple’s emotional value makes its audience believe that they will become better versions of themselves if they buy a product.
Another equally important strategy is connecting with your audience, listening to what they say, building rapport, and engaging in meaningful and direct conversations with them.
A personalised thank you note will strike the right chord and show that you value their loyalty.
Freebies and swag are also indispensable tools for your loyalty-building efforts, not only because people love free stuff but because they will be obliged to buy from you when the psychological principle of reciprocity kicks in right after you give them one of your fresh branded items as a gift.
3 – Know your competitors
Again, this is not a particular nugget of wisdom that unearths something previously unknown that can transform the world of successful branding but common knowledge.
Many companies do not take advantage of this sneaky tactic to its fullest extent, thus missing out on outdoing their competitors.
Are we talking about spying here? By all means!
Observing what your fierce competition is doing on social media, how they are engaging with their customers, how they are advertising their brand, or how they are highlighting their unique values will help you gain a competitive advantage.
Not to mention that they and your audience overlap, so it is a good chance you can manage to steal some of their customers.
The German giant famously decided to move its head of design from Herzogenaurach in Bavaria across the pond to Portland, Oregon, in 2014.
The brand believes that keeping your friends close and enemies close is essential, as this location is practically a stone’s throw from Nike’s headquarters.
Although the Cola Wars, a series of commercials and ads initiated by Coca-Cola and Pepsi during the 1980s, signify the period during which the competition between these sugary drinks behemoths took a bitter turn, the two companies have been trying to outsell each other ever since their early days.
For example, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Pepsi decided to switch to bigger bottles sold at the same price to woo consumers and show them that they cared.
4 – Be consistent
Consistency is a crucial element of your successful branding.
That is how your target audience can recognise your brand and understand that they will always get the same product or service they like.
Living up to your brand promise and providing your customers with what they are accustomed to getting should be at the core of your branding efforts.
That is the way to build trust and loyalty and amass a steady following.
It is important to emphasise that both the quality of your products and their visual and narrative elements should be consistent.
However, it is worth noting that flexibility is a desirable quality, which means that brands that can hold on to their original, true identity and yet modernise it and adjust to their customers’ needs manage to dominate their industry.
Let’s take Levi’s as an example.
The company started by providing sturdy, built-to-last dungarees to miners who came to California for gold and a better life.
Levi’s used to be a working-class brand, and over the decades, it morphed into apparel appealing to rebellious young people and finally settled into the mainstream culture.
However, all these changes were regarding modernising their design. At the same time, Levi’s jeans retained their core values – quality, authenticity, and the promise of a better future, which are the ones that made the company famous.
Its “Go Forth” campaign launched in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which was one of the most catastrophic natural disasters in the history of the U.S., invoked the words of Walt Whitman and his concept of “New Americans”, thus offering some hope to the people and getting back to its pioneering roots.
On the other hand, the infamous New Coke fiasco in 1985 showed that incredible innovations could be bad, as Coca-Cola lost a portion of its market share and an undisclosed amount of money.
5 – Successful Branding happens Internally too
When they hear the word “branding,” most people are inclined to think about so-called external branding, which is the strategy directed at consumers to influence their opinions and purchasing behaviour.
However, internal branding is equally important because we live in a world where word-of-mouth marketing has gained considerable momentum with the help of social media, and your employees are (or should be) your best brand ambassadors.
By involving them in promoting your brand, the brand consistency mentioned above will be possible, as all your successful branding efforts will not come to fruition if your employees do not believe in you and don’t live your brand.
Their communication with your customers should be aligned with your brand’s culture and values.
Combine internal and external branding using storytelling.
Nike mastered this skill, and their legendary story is about its co-founder Bill Bowerman, who used his family’s waffle iron and poured rubber in it to build a better shoe.
Thus creating the brand’s iconic Waffle Sole design is an excellent example because this man is more relevant to the identity of Nike in the eyes of the company’s employees than any other contemporary sports figure with a vast endorsement deal.
6 – Create a striking visual brand identity
Apart from attracting your audience with all these inner qualities and values of your brand, it would help if you gave them some eye candy too.
After you have done your homework and established whom you are talking to, it is time to develop a visual symbol that will best represent your brand and embody its primary qualities, values, and identity.
A rule similar to creating a company logo design also applies here.
The simplicity and clean, sleek design will make your brand memorable and recognisable.
Amazon uses an entirely minimalistic yet bright company logo design which consists only of the name of the brand and a small, orange arrow pointing from the letter A to the letter Z, thus subtly letting the customers know that the company sells virtually everything.
There are many ways to approach your successful branding, but no matter what angle you take, these six steps are necessary for getting under your customers’ skin.