Company image has given way to branding. To make an impact in today’s overcrowded markets it’s no longer adequate to merely have a ‘good’ company image, you need to develop it into a brand. A good company image is a great foundation for a great brand, but you can’t stop there. To develop your company image into a brand you need to understand what elements make a brand and why it matters.
The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” This is the brand, but is not the brand value. Neither is it the cost of the marketing design, the value of your company or how much you make per year. Brand values are intrinsic to the worth of your brand so you need to understand how they differ and what they can do for you.
Whenever the word ‘value’ is discussed in relation to business it usually is linked to a monetary figure. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everything of value is linked to a cost, but the brand values we are talking of here cannot be bought for any price. It is almost a financial irony that to make your brand be worth real money you have to buy it with values that cannot be bought with money.
Brand values are the principles behind the logos, custom design and graphic design styling. They are the ethos that makes up the way the company is run and are the emotions that the design wants to evoke. If you want to build a successful brand you need to decide what you company values are and how you want them articulated. Without this foundation you cannot build a cohesive brand, period. It’s quite simple, if you don’t know what Branded road you want to go down, any road will take you there.
For many small to medium businesses (SMB’s) the logo and styling is already in place. You physical logo designs and stylings have to be reworked to reflect your articulated brand values, but this foundation will allow you to build a robust brand that is futureproof.
One of the best ways to know what you want to be at the core of your brand values is to look at the brands you admire. It sounds a lot more complicated than it is. Play a game of ‘word association’ to sort out what describes a quality brand to you to begin building up a consumers view of your brand.
Think of all the single words you want to sum up your brand. Write them down. Make a coffee. Sit back down. Read the paper. Go back to your list of words, but this time read through them again and as you do, see which companies immediately pop into your mind when you read them. Write them down next to the word.
Write down the first company that pops into your head when you read these words:
Review the words and the companies that you thought of. These are the masters of the branding you wish to have. Take this branding development and use it to give you an idea of where you need to go to emulate them.
It is crucial that you pick words that indicate the values you want to be known for as they will be your guide. When you have your core values defined you can begin to make a plan of how to make them the ethos that your company is known for.
Your brand identity is the visual representation of your company’s reputation through the conveyance of attributes, values, purpose, strengths, and passions. Well developed, successful brands are easy to recognize, their mission is clear, and it fosters a customer loyalty all businesses permanently crave. A brand is one of the most valuable fixed assets of a business, and it must be carefully crafted to ensure it properly represents the business, and resonates with the intended customer base.
When you have your brand values you need to determine where your brand is now.
Your Strengths. What gives you the edge over your competitors? What is your advantage? Why do people choose you above others?
Your Weaknesses. Now is not the time to agonize over your shortcomings or to deny problems you know are evident, you need to honestly evaluate why you may be losing to competitors to understand what may weaken your brands integrity. Anything that puts you at a disadvantage is a weakness, whether it be a lack of equipment, a lack of training or a lack of dedication to your company.
Your Opportunities. Evaluate what parts of your company or processes can be exploited, and if you are taking the best advantage of them.
Your Threats. Anything that could cause a threat to any project that you involve yourself in is a threat to your brand integrity. Identify where they are.
You can collect this information in many ways, but a simple email questionnaire is the easiest way to gain information or contacting a few loyal customers and conducting an interview. Don’t be afraid to contact those who have had a negative experience as their input is just as valuable in gaging where your brand currently stands. If you aren’t in possession of all the facts, you can’t create the right path to the brand you want to become.
Now you have your start point, where you currently stand, and you finish point, where you want to be, so it’s time to create a strategy to get from one to other.
Start with a mission statement. It may seem ‘old’ and ‘hippie-fied’, but if you start with your Nirvana of what you wish your company to represent everyone knows what they are working towards. They can then work towards it as a group.
To help you see how beneficial a mission statement is, here are a few examples:
“Our Roadmap starts with our mission, which is enduring. It declares our purpose as a company and serves as the standard against which we weigh our actions and decisions.
To refresh the world…
To inspire moments of optimism and happiness…
To create value and make a difference.”
Coca Colas mission statement is so important it covers a whole web page!
Audi changes its mission statement every year. This is the mission for 2015:
Audi – the premium brand
Our overriding strategic goal is to develop Audi into the world’s leading brand in the premium automobile segment. This vision is at the core of our Strategy 2020, which was first unveiled in 2010. In the years that followed, we further substantiated and fine-tuned the topics under the roof of our strategy house to reflect changing economic, ecological and social requirements. The strategic cornerstones remain unchanged and have long-term, sustainable corporate success as their objective.”
Wal-Mart’s advertised mission statement and its advertising slogan are the same:
“We save people money so they can live better.”
In addition to this mission statement, the company looks to its founder, Sam Walton for a company “purpose”:
“If we work together, we’ll lower the cost of living for everyone…we’ll give the world an opportunity to see what it’s like to save and have a better life.”
It’s an unusual and more nebulous set of brand values, but it obviously works for them.
Developing a brand is about aligning the atmosphere, work ethic and goals with the values you want your company to be. It won’t happen overnight. Your brand values will also be associated to your company for a long time, so make sure you choose the right goal, plan the right campaigns and always have them at the heart of everything your company does.
One of the most important things you can do for the future of your company is to know your brand values. If you do and work hard towards them, then everything else will fall into place.