Monday, June 10, 2013

What Are Brands and How Are They Created?

A  brand is the unique experience audiences have with an organization or product. It is the perception your customers have based on all their experiences with the brand including, most importantly, the product experience itself, plus all communications about it – website, emails, customer service interactions – virtually every point of contact that leads to their beliefs and feelings about the brand.

A brand is like a person 
I love this analogy. Just like each of us, a brand is unique and quickly recognizable.  The core things about you don't change much over time. If you're a big-hearted, relational, outgoing person, people pick up on that pretty quickly. And while you may act slightly differently with friends than with casual work acquaintances, regardless of whom you're with, you're still you.

When we develop or relaunch a brand, we uncover the core, attractiveness that never changes. It's a promise founded on the product itself and an attractive positioning against other competing organizations and brands. Brand strategy and development articulates the best of what the brand has to offer and in communications, expresses it with messaging and a look and feel that captures its essence and personality.

For example, if your organization is characterized by leadership, cutting-edge knowledge, trustworthiness, reliability, and top-notch customer service, the communications experience should reflect that in content, look and feel. Other organizations may have some of the same traits, but your organization is memorable and distinctly compelling. You'll often see entire industries with cookie-cutter websites, with, say, one financial services firm looking like any other. Good brand development helps you rise above and create value with strong design.

Why purposefully create and manage your brand?
Branding provides clarity in your audience's mind about who you are and your reason for existence. It's an ongoing effort that increases efficiency – and profits – through consistent messaging and a look and feel that can be carried through all communications, leveraging consistency to make an impact in your customers' minds.

The brand process also can lead to greater focus within an organization and help direct decisions regarding product development, resource allocation, and prioritization of initiatives.

How do you create your brand?
Every marketing agency or brand strategist probably handles the process slightly differently, but the same elements all need to be addressed. At our branding agency, we have a strategy phase and an implementation phrase.  

Strategy starts with an understanding of the envisioned future of the organization incorporating purpose, values, and consideration of target audiences. It's at this point where we also want to understand where the gaps are between who you are and want to be versus how customers perceive you.  

Defining your brand includes:
  • Brand positioning – The distinctive that your audience cares about that creates an emotional attachment and is unique to you
  • Brand promise – The compelling, credible promise that connects with your audience
  • Brand personality – What your brand represents in terms of values beliefs and behaviors
Bring it to life!
Brand identity is the look, feel, and words that express your brand. These include color palette, typeface selection, use of space, photography and images, graphic elements, textures, and logo usage  these are the raw materials of your brand look and feel.

Remember, it's living. Your brand, just like a person, will evolve over time and that's okay. You'll develop new products and your marketing communications will evolve.  Part of the process of a brand relaunch is identifying how much you want to keep (your brand equity) versus how much should change. Very rarely do you want to completely start over. Instead, you'll want to keep the "best" of the current, making sure that customers know it's still you and building on the investment you've made to date.  

Purposeful branding will cause an increasingly larger number of people you communicate with to become brand advocates who are emotionally attached and strongly loyal. It's an art and a science, founded on strategy, expressed in creativity and design, and a valuable business asset to be nurtured and protected!  

Joan Begitschke is Founder, Marketing and Brand Strategist at Verve Marketing Group in Chicago. Follow Joan on Twitter @jbegits and find her on Google+.