Basic Rules of Branding: Crafting Your Image in the Public Mind
A lot of people spend time merely trying to mimic the business models and ad campaigns of iconic brands without really looking deeper into what makes those brands stick. Whether you’re putting together a new brand for your start-up idea or you’re conducting a brand refresh to focus your messaging after major market shifts or changes in leadership, it’s vital that you stick to some basic rules.
Your Brand is Built upon Core Principles
Contrary to popular belief, your brand is about more than your name and logo, or it should be. Your logo, slogans, product presentation and especially your company name are critical to the impact your brand has, to be sure.
Your efforts to build and manage a brand need certain fundamental ideas and values that anchor it. It’s when brands forget those key values that their brands are based on that they stop projecting an image to customers and the public that resonates.
Those core principles need to be more than just empty platitudes, though. Ask yourself and your executive team just what is important to them about operating in your industry, what sets them apart from competitors and what kind of presence they want your brand to communicate.
You Have to be Consistent
This means you have to defend your brand against erosion by bad marketing or just the variety of minds working on your campaigns. Inconsistent graphic design, colors, logo presentation, haphazard marketing copy that doesn’t project a consistent tone or follow central brand principles—your brand manager needs to corral all of these disparate messages into a consistent brand representation.
It’s much easier to maintain brand consistency if you’re able to launch your brand internally, getting buy-in from all of your staff and ensuring that branding gets consideration in everything you do. When everyone is aware of—and reminded of—your core principles and branding standards on a regular basis, they’re more likely to maintain a consistent brand representation collectively.
Customer Experience Must be Controlled
If you properly present your branded messages to customers in every instance, you’ll be successful in creating a consistent impression within just a few impressions. But if your messaging, styling and tone are all over the place, they may fail to remember your brand at all.
This is the reason for your obsession about consistency in graphic design, messaging and everything else. Not every customer will see every display ad, every commercial or every business card. But that’s all the more reason to keep them tightly controlled, so you get the same effect no matter where the customer is exposed to your brand. You’re controlling the image of your brand in customers’ minds by controlling the contexts in which they experience it.
Follow the KISS Rule
I don’t want to fall into the cliché of simply saying that you need to “keep it simple, stupid!” because it’s easy to dismiss. Yeah sure, you should keep your brand simple, but why and what does that mean? I’ll tell you what it doesn’t mean: It doesn’t mean that you should dumb down your brand; just the opposite, in fact.
The principles around which you’re organizing your brand should be basic, but they shouldn’t be communicated in a cliché or tired manner. For example, everyone wants to say that they provide good service to their customers; you’re not going to impress anyone just by making sure you mention it in every branding message or slogan. But you will impress people by getting that message across elegantly, and in a manner that almost communicates that your brand is about service without actually saying so. This can happen in the tone and style of a branding message, right down to the way a brand tweets.
Mike Mann is an entrepreneur, author and philanthropist who funds his many charitable aims through profits from his many successful companies. Learn more about his principles of success in business and charity by downloading his book or reading his blog.