The concept of branding has evolved substantially since the Mad Men era. If you’ve been poking around any marketing sites, you’ve probably come across buzz words like “storytelling” and “brand building.” So let’s talk about what those mean today and how they apply to your business goals.
What branding used to be: A sexy logo and tagline you could broadcast to the masses… (and we do mean broadcast with TV and radio marketing in its heyday). It was all about the product or service and the company.
What branding is now: It’s not as linear as it once was with TV, radio, billboards and print ads. Branding and innovation have evolved to thrive on change, curiosity, and desire. Today, branding is an ecosystem. A toolbox. A representation of who your brand is and how it behaves in every possible medium – what we call your “Brand story.” Taglines and logos are tactics we use to tell your story, but today’s successful brands start with bigger discussions around look and feel, tone, consistency, and how your target market should feel when they engage with your products or services. If yesterday’s branding was all about the product, today’s branding is all about the user, and consistent brand evolution makes your product/service more relevant, more contemporary and more competitively advantaged.
“Often enough, we see business owners who have the antiquated view of branding as a simple logo – a static representation that’s a finite or finished product,” says Misty Trompeter, Make It Iconic Founder and Chief Client Strategist. “When actually, in today’s ever-changing digital landscape, branding is an evolution. It may start with a memorable creative representation of the brand and its intended position in the market, but it is an ongoing process. A brand stays healthy and relevant by continuously evaluating its position against new competitors, consumer habits and innovations, and then modifying its strategy to keep on thriving.”
Why it’s important: Shoppers want to know what to expect before engaging with your product or service. There are a few different ways this can happen. 1) They get a referral to check out your product from someone they trust, or 2) They pick up on consistent visual cues and messaging that aligns with their interests, builds trust in your brand, and drives them to engage. Consistent visual cues and messaging help everyone understand.
“Your brand is your shopper-magnet. The best companies have a commitment to quality and to seizing every opportunity to demonstrate their brand promise and position their company in their customer’s mind,” says branding specialist and seasoned designer Kristen Merry. “The key to a successful branding or repositioning program is clear thinking about the nature of your brand promise. Many companies skip this important introspection period and jump straight to marketing and sales efforts or product line planning. But if you haven’t thought deeply about your brand purpose and values, you’re undermining your success and building upon a faulty foundation.”
Who should do it: Everyone can benefit from some degree of an effective branding exercise. (Yes, even a lemonade stand.) Let’s dig into that a bit. Consider the CPA with a steady flow of clients. While they may not need a comprehensive brand reconstruction, they do need a strong SEO strategy, online reputation management, consistent representation and a social media strategy to build trust in a volatile, saturated service industry. Conversely, brands that have a broader reach and rely less on referrals should absolutely develop a more detailed story – more branches within their ecosystem for enhanced trust, recognition and engagement.
“Survival of the fittest requires a brand to evolve,” says Merry. “Just like a baby, your brand needs to be fed and nurtured in order to grow. Think of an entrepreneur who started their business at the kitchen table and has fostered it into a successful publicly owned company. Think about their need to communicate: First with their earliest customers, then later with distributors and vendors, and on through the growth cycle to venture capitalists and shareholders. As the business grows, it’s imperative to send a strong signal to the world that they are an industry leader.”