In the real world, you don’t have endless resources; you don’t have a limitless budget; you don’t have a viral product; and you don’t sell to a growing market without competition. You’re also not omnipotent, so you cannot enforce what people think your brand represents. It is a simple fact that under these assumptions, most companies need all the help they can get with branding. At MarketingModo, we are your branding experts so here are seven tips to help you improve your branding efforts.
• Seize the high ground. Like a good military commander seize the high ground. What does this mean? This means to establish your brand on positive conditions such as “doing good,” “changing the world,” and “making people happy” —not doing in your competition. Think about it this way: when is the last time you bought a product to hurt a company’s competition? Not often right. I don’t go out and purchase a HP just to screw over Apple not do I shop at Target just to put the screws to Walmart (well that one might be true but I digress). If you want to beat your competition, establish an uplifting brand, but don’t try to establish a brand based on your silly desire to beat your competition. It doesn’t work and never has. Be uplifting, be cheerful and base your brand on the positive and not competition.
• Create a single message. It’s hard enough to create and then communicate one branding message; however, many companies go out of their way to create multiple and often conflicting messages because they are afraid of being niched and want the entire market. They try to be everything to everyone and as a result they aren’t much of anything to anyone. Rolls Royce does any excellent job at delivering a single message. There is no doubt what market they are going after with their singular message of luxury cars. They don’t try to be sports vehicles or cars for the everyday man. This gives Rolls Royce the privilege of being a branding success story for nearly one hundred years. Pick one brand message and stick with it. Now you can change your brand message but try to wait at least a year to test it out, and then try another. But you can’t try several at once or switch every few months.
• Speak Normal English. Now I don’t mean necessarily “English,” but speak in non-jargon terms. Many businesses overload their messages with industry jargon and acronyms. If your positioning statement uses any acronyms, the odds are that most people won’t understand your branding, and your branding won’t last very long. For example, some printing businesses speak about processes such as “foiling”, “die-cut” and “thermography”. Most customers have no idea what these terms mean; all they know is the end result and not the process that created it. Foiling makes their stationery nice and shiny, die cut creates interesting shapes and thermography creates beautiful raised printing ideal for wedding invitations. You must speak to customers in these terms.
• Cascade the message. Let’s say that you craft the perfect branding message. Well done but it is not over yet. Now it is time to cascade your message up and down your organization until it becomes one with it. You will be surprised at how many companies only the marketing team truly understands what the brand message is. Sharing the brand message throughout the organization allows it to sink in until everyone is living that message. The same also applies to cascading the message to your customer base.
• Examine the bounce back. You know what messages you send, but you really don’t know what messages people receive. Customers can often have the opposite interpretation of a message than what was originally intended so here is a concept that can help: You should ask them to bounce back the message that you sent so that you can learn how your message is truly interpreted. This feedback is worth its weight in gold. In the end, it’s not so much what you say as much as what people hear.
• Focus on PR, not advertising. Many companies waste away millions of dollars, sometimes more, trying to establish brands with advertising and pure marketing. Too much money is often worse than too little because when you have a lot of money, you spend a lot of money on stupid things. Brands are built on what people are saying about you, not what you’re saying about yourself. In fact, most people will completely ignore most of what you say when you speak about yourself. People say good things about you when you have a great product and you get people to spread the word about it.
• Strive for humanness. Great brands achieve a high level of humanness. They have that personally connection. They speak to you as an individual, not as part of a target market. It’s “my iPod.” “My Macintosh.” “My Harley Davidson.” “My bottle of Coke.” By contrast, you never think, “My Microsoft Office,” so I wouldn’t label Microsoft as a great brand although kids think of “My xBox.” Unfortunately for Microsoft, “xBox” and “Microsoft” are not closely linked to each other. Now step back and ask yourself the million dollar question: “If we don’t spend a dime on marketing, will people be aware of our brand and understand what it stands for?” Because the real world of marketing is this: you don’t have a big marketing budget so you have to depend on people “creating” your brand for you.