What does your business, and brand, stand for?
What values underpin every single aspect of your customer experience?
How does your audience see and relate to you…. and how has your audience evolved?
These questions might seem simple… but don’t be fooled. They’re worth considering because the value of your brand (and subsequent brand positioning) is of critical importance to your bottom line, internal culture, productivity, leads and overall marketing success.
Branding is an exercise in crafting expressions, impressions and experiences… and to do so authentically in a way that compels and intrigues your audiences is a critical skill; a skill that will set you up with the foundations for success.
Underpinning every successful communications strategy is a well-articulated, thoughtful and insightful brand message. A brand message stems from your brand pillars, values and identity and, in a nutshell, is your business’ elevator pitch. In order to effectively and efficiently develop, expand or refine your brand meaning, a discovery process must always take the lead. This builds momentum into story development, then identifies a strong thematic to build upon and culminates in a punchy, effective (and actionable) brand message that will see you through every marketing and communications activity that you’ll undertake.
If you do it strategically, that is.
Sadly, most don’t.
Most businesses – at some point – will go through a process of auditing their brand, with the usual catalyst being a point of stagnation or restlessness in results. Unfortunately, a reactive brand audit approach can only go so far. It’s not a Band-Aid to a crisis… but a powerful manner of adjusting and growing strategically; predicting where your customers will want to be. It’s proactive, not reactive.
This is a key distinction, because when the foundations of your business are in place, a clear direction can flow abundantly throughout every effort in marketing, customer service and communicating the brand vision internally.
Pop quiz time!
Tell us (in 25 words or less) exactly who your brand is, what it does, why it’s beneficial and who buys into it. Make sure that your answer is compelling, concise, without hesitation and leaves us wanting more.
Have you got an effective answer?
Be honest. Too many have seen their brands start to sink because of a lack of insight or transparency when it comes to their overall market positioning as dictated by their brand direction (or lack thereof… but we’ll get to that later).
Here’s what too few entrepreneurs, CEOs and marketing directors realise… brand is so much more than just a logo that catches the eye or a clever campaign. It’s not just a buzzword to throw around. It’s process. It’s positioning. It’s crucial to your bottom line and your overall success.
Understanding your brand positioning is a cornerstone of building a successful business… a foundational pillar that enables you to identify (with certainty) exactly where you are in the market and what makes you stand out.
What’s worse is that many business owners are unaware of true customer perception, particularly in detecting their own hesitation. Customers can sense fear and uncertainty. All those tiny elements of your brand that are inconsistent may not mean much individually but together, holistically… they’re the difference between “I have total confidence in this brand,” and “I think I’ll go with someone else.”
Brand hesitation signals to your customers that your business is a directionless.
When none of your marketing looks consistent; when no one in your company understands the company values (or if they do understand, they sure don’t seem to be applying them), when every new campaign or initiative or product is reactive and ad hoc… your business seems directionless.
Signs of losing brand relevancy can emerge in a number of ways, including most commonly:
- A lack of empathy for the pain points of its consumers;
- Non-unified guidelines around brand management resulting in dilution;
- Marketing and management roles changing hands with ineffective handover or consistency;
- A lack of strong vision at the helm;
- Inability or deficiency in creating customer experiences that exceed expectations (rather than merely just meeting them); and/or
- Limited organisational understanding of greater purpose.
Regardless of the catalyst of lack of brand direction, the impact on your bottom line can be extensive. Impacts such as…
- Staff retention dropping, when staff start to see that their future in the company is on shaky ground.
- High performing staff members plan for their futures within a company… they want to know that they’re doing good work for a good brand that will nurture their potential.
- A directionless brand can lower morale and make it difficult for even your most loyal staff to continue prioritising the business in their 5-year plan;
- Customer retention following suit and dropping off, as customers seek better options that fulfil (and exceed) their experiential expectations; and
- Increased costs for ad-hoc services or creative campaigns that ultimately, you don’t need (which, without the foresight and strategy of a thorough brand roadmap, you would not be able to see the risks of).
If your are reading this proactively, you’ve most likely already have some level of uncertainty in the back of your mind that your brand is not confidently focused, veering off course or showing signs of reactive decisions without purpose… never fear. All hope is not lost and a floundering brand does not have to signal business failure – so long as the business acts speedily to rectify the situation.
Here’s where things often go wrong, though: When many CEOs notice their brand struggling to gain momentum, they double down on previous decisions to save costs.
“After all, we’ve already spent money on X, Y and Z so why should they go to waste?”
But, whilst it’s not always necessary to completely eliminate previous positioning and brand tactics, it is always important to strategically review, audit and revise to ensure you’re getting the best possible result.
Unfortunately, when a strong and strategic brand identity falls low on the company agenda, businesses will often waste more resources by sticking with ineffective and/or reactive decisions, whilst under the false illusion that they’re saving themselves money.
When a brand identity completely falls down, it can involve
- A complete breakdown of the business’ corporate identity;
- A business collapsing and internally combusting as without a clear direction, sales and profitability grinds to a halt; or
- A business being pulled in too many directions and failing as a result, with owners confusing marketing for branding.
All of this is catastrophic for your customer perception, employee morale, your market share and your bottom line.
As a starting point; a litmus test of basic brand pillars – we recommend that all businesses both emerging and established ask themselves these crucial questions:
Who are we?
Beyond your business name… who are you really? Do your products, services, actions and interactions all align with that greater sense of self? What defines your business as a living, breathing organism? And is that organism healthy? The deeper you understand your business’ values and visions, the better you’ll be able to align all facets of your business to connect with that sense of brand.
Where do we place our value internally?
What you see value in and what you’re willing to invest in speaks volumes about the trustworthiness and value of your brand to your customers. If you find yourself throwing money at frivolous promises but cut corners in other areas where you have the chance to really connect with customers, this may be hurting you more than you know.
What’s our long term plan for success?
Beyond a Facebook ad or a catalogue sale, how will you ensure that your business’ success continues and grows into the future – and importantly, how will you ensure that your image and value proposition maintains consistency and appeal throughout? A long term plan is imperative, and that plan must be strategic.
How are we different from our competitors?
Before you answer quickly, stop and think about this one for a moment… because we’re not just talking about offering a different product or a better price point. We’re talking about your values, your staff, your reason for existing besides needing to turn a profit. If you’re not sure what sets you apart in your industry (or how you’re creating a new industry), you’ll struggle to set yourself apart from the pack. Everyone likes to think they’re different, and it takes some serious strategy to prove that you’re different.
What experience do we create?
How do your staff feel? What do your customers and clients first notice about you – and how does this filter down into what they tell others about your business? Authenticity shines and it’s only with true embodiment of your brand values that your brand’s reputation can truly shine. Don’t overlook reputation… although it’s easy enough to manipulate how you respond to what people think and say, the real skill is shaping their experience from the start.
How do we promote ourselves?
There’s more to selling than simply spruiking. Think about the experiences your brand creates that shape this… because customers and clients can sense when they’re little more than a dollar sign. Quality engagement at every touch point counts.
What About Rebranding your Business?
Picture this: you’re looking at your business, the landscape, the competition and you can’t help but think to yourself…. “It’s definitely time for a rebrand.”
Does this sound like you? If you’re considering rebranding your business, consider asking yourself some important questions before you proceed any further:
- What drives you to want to rebrand? Can you articulate this reason clearly and formulate it as a business case to your stakeholders?
- Have you carefully considered your brand through the eyes of your customers? What do you anticipate them feeling about a rebrand – and how can you ensure the accuracy of these assumptions?
- How might all your key stakeholders feel about the decision, and what importance does their buy-in do the brand hold to you?
- How might a rebrand integrate into your business plan going forward, and alignment to current/potential markets?
- Do you have a strong implementation plan and risk management plan? How will the rebrand impact your business beyond visual identity?
If you’re stumped or unsure on any of the above questions… you’re not alone. To rebrand carries risk, and isn’t something to be undertaken lightly however, it can be incredibly beneficial in the right context. Whenever a business is changing their offerings, targeting new customers or significantly different from the business they were when they launched their brand… a rebrand can be very beneficial.
However, it must be undertaken through careful research and ultimately, strategic objectives carefully aligned to the business strategy to ensure that the efforts aren’t misguided.
If you’re considering rebranding, follow these do’s and dont’s:
Get to the bottom of the reasons why you’d like to rebrand.
Many people cite the catalyst for a rebrand as “feeling like it was time” and whilst this is absolutely valid, it’s integral that the feeling be backed up by strong, strategic guidance and thorough understanding of your brand’s market perception. This is especially important if your rebranding strategy involves attempts to expand into new markets. Consider carefully…
- What is the ultimate benefit to rebranding?
- What (if anything) is there to lose by not rebranding?
- Is the desire to rebrand based on data-driven decisions?
Get buy-in from all major stakeholders before going ahead.
An effective brand must resonate with all key stakeholders. Whenever we see businesses where a ‘top down’ leadership approach to a rebrand has been taken, we usually see situations where several stakeholders become upset, feel disenfranchised or even feel entirely disconnected from the brand to the point where their morale and desire to continue working with the business is impacted. If you are to rebrand, you must start with your boots to the ground.
- Understand the data.
- Understand how your stakeholders (including your employees) feel about your brand.
- And, understand how they might feel about the change… then ask for their input.
Ensure you understand what’s effective and what’s not.
It’s critical that you deep-dive into all elements of your current brand, to give you a solid basis for what’s not working, what’s working well and what is somewhere in the middle. Whenever we see businesses rebranding without understanding what actually works for them, we usually see “the formula” losing its power over the brand’s audience. Understanding your current brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats will get you started on the right track.
Changing something that doesn’t work and/or customers don’t care about?
Changing something that does work and/or customers really care about?
Consider your brand only in the context of logos, fonts or colours.
If you’re considering changing one or two of these elements alone, but not the whole brand (such as the market position, value proposition and customer avatars in conjunction), then what you’re really wanting to do is give your brand a facelift. Think of it like this:
A facelift is driven by a design project. A rebrand is driven by strategic purpose.
Join in just because everyone else is doing it…
…unless you have supportive data to back up that you should. Many businesses find themselves in a situation where competitors and others in their industry are rebranding or giving their brand a facelift, and even though they might not have previously wanted to change their brand, they suddenly may find themselves feeling discontent with what they have. Remember, tactical changes can be made at any point – refreshed social media offerings, an update to packaging… there are a multitude of ways to stay ‘fresh’ without rebranding (if a rebrand is not necessary or beneficial at this point in time). Of course, no business wants to be left behind or to look outdated if the rest of their industry appears to have visually progressed without them… but, consider the reasons why your competition may be rebranding, and additionally:
- Are the branding efforts of your competitors effective? Why/why not?
- How do you stack up in comparison to your competition now vs. prior to their rebranding?
- Do you think your customers may be swayed away from loyalty to you based on your competitors rebranding efforts?
Focus too much on the competition.
Of course, understanding the battlefield is an important of any business being competitive in its offerings and services… but, if you’re finding yourself spending too much time scrutinising, critiquing or obsessing over what your competitors are doing, you may find yourself making reactive decisions rather than strategic decisions. Your business’ value proposition should be strong enough that you’re confident in who you are, what you offer and why customers need you… regardless of what anyone else is doing.
When you let your competitors be the catalyst for your business decisions, you’ll usually end up playing a game of catch-up.
If you do decide to rebrand, we can’t stress enough how important it is to work with experienced consultants that can guide you through the process, ensure your brand carefully manages your customers’ expectations and give you/your stakeholders a comprehensive rollout process that leaves no risk unaccounted for.
Your business’ brand is far too important to leave to chance, to do by halves or to do multiple times. It’s important to remember that every rebrand carries risk of upsetting customers, improperly understanding markets/data or missing the mark… but when you work with experienced professionals who can handle every aspect of your rebrand, you will greatly minimise these risks, as well as:
- Better understand your business & value proposition;
- Gain stronger emotive buy-in from all key stakeholders;
- Leverage new understanding of your customers/clients and how to tap into their needs; and
- Stay ahead of your competition, rather than playing catch up.
We strive to be the branding agency Perth businesses trust with their own brand.
Letting your brand identity fall by the wayside is one of the worst things you can do, regardless of your stage of business. This year, make sure your business decisions are carefully informed by a progressive and innovative brand strategy. If you take one thing away from this article, let it be this: It is never too early or too late to consider reviewing your brand identity. Too many businesses have gone under when a thorough brand audit could have successfully turned their challenges into opportunities and shifted market perception. And even in the case of already successful businesses, customers expect progression.
In the Corporate world, an intelligent, results driven brand & campaign strategy is the difference between elevating above your competitors and winning over new customers every single day or… well, not.
With investment and continual nurturing, a strong brand can become the most valuable aspect of your business, setting the tone for effective marketing, advertising and process.
Through refined processes, we can help your business with:
- Audience research
- Defining key messages
- Documenting strategies
- Tactical execution
- Regular reviews and adaptation
- Objective definition
- Brand risk management & more
So what makes us a good choice for your brand project?
We’re methodical and thorough in defining your brand, leaving no stone unturned. Here’s a glimpse into our process:
Define: Because your ‘why’ is just as important as your ‘what’ and ‘how’.
Immerse: Understanding comes from the inside… we dive deep into what makes your business tick and ask the questions that matter.
Devise: Analytics and insights are our best friends, and we use them to your business’ advantage. We’re not fans of shooting in the dark and we know that an informed and calculated approach provides safety, even in the midst of risk.
Implement: The course is set, the elements are in place… now it’s time to deliver. We tie everything together seamlessly and make your brand work for you, not the other way around.
Evaluate: Sure, we could press the ‘launch’ button and run… but that’s not our style. We’ll delve into exactly what’s worked, what hasn’t and how we can leverage those opportunities. It’s all about evolution and adaptivity.
As Brand Improvement Consultants, we will take your business and shape it into a powerful brand built to perform.
Tired of your search for Branding Perth?
Not sure where to start or where to go next? If you’d like to align with a Perth Brand Agency that really get’s it give us a call on (08) 9317 1540.