People connect with brands the same way they connect with people.
Brands cannot be developed and maintained without design. Branding is not design, but it requires design to give it presence in the marketplace. The graphic assets you utilize to connect your enterprise with your audience need to convey personality, engender trust and be relevant.
Even so, a company is not a logo, brochures, web sites, or sales forms. A company is people. Organizations are people. Every enterprise on earth is made up of people and has customers who are people.
Every person has a brand and is always marketing. Whether an individual or corporation, the marketplace or community has an opinion of you and will readily share it with everyone.
Following that thought, it’s obvious that we relate to brands as if they are people. We look for avenues of relationship and ways to connect via the head and the heart. It’s the heart that is where loyalty lies… your customers need to have an emotional connection in order to engage and stick around.
Think about the emotional connection Harley-Davidson owners have with their bikes and with with brand. And once you’re a Marine, you will never not be one. Are you an Apple aficionado or PC owner? Royals or Mets? Cowboys or Packers? Corona or Blue Moon? We attach to brands that provide a sense of membership, relevancy and identity. We rally and connect based on meaningful shared experiences.
Brand is reputation.
We don’t create reputation; it is the result of our words and actions. Reputation is how others see us. The composite of actions, communication, personality and history makes a reputation — a brand. Given that, no one can actually “brand” themselves or their businesses, but they can do things in order to relate with their audience in such a way that their brand gets built.
Organizations and businesses have personality. Organizations are really good at some things and not at other things. Be sure you’re not trying to be every thing to all people. Just as no one person can do that, no organization can, either. So, when you add services or products, be sure they fit strategically into your brand. Always run with your bent. Be okay with what you don’t do well in order to focus on your strengths. This is important. You cannot be all things to all people. Not everyone is your customer.
Reputation is managed.
Although we cannot build our own brands, we influence how our brands are built. We need to manage that to keep loyal customers loyal. No owner should take their brand lightly or become lazy in their relationship-building. When we don’t manage our brands in terms of how people — our customers — relate to them, our competitors will manage them for us. Put a strategy in place and set someone to watch over it. This is what marketing and creative directors do. Make sure everything you publicize and promote is in line with your values and mission. If you do what comes naturally, you will not need to imitate or invent.
You cannot grow your brand unless you know where you want to end up. Good branding will help you get there. Bad branding, neglect and indifference will keep you tied to your current situation.