In Part 1 of this article I focused on what a brand is, and the visual and conceptual components of an effective brand. Brand is not a logo. It’s not a set of graphic assets that you put into play. Brand is reputation. It is how you’re identified, yes, but more importantly, it is how you’re known. You build your reputation on how you use your graphic assets to connect with your customers. To brand well, it is critical to launch carefully crafted designs.
Once you send your graphics out into the marketplace, you will need to manage perceptions. Allowing things to simply float out there without steering and adjusting your course can bring unfavorable results. You never know what may come along and broadside your brand. In fact, the greater effort begins once the brand is launched. You will spend far more time and money on managing your brand than you did on its visual development.
The success of your brand is up to you. Once the designer has created those amazing graphic assets for you, your work really begins. It’s no longer up to the designer, but up to you and how you will use they’ve created. This is how I advise my clients when I release the designs I created into their hands:
Use and enforce visual guidelines. The most basic aspect of brand management is to ensure that the visual components are being used consistently and appropriately in the marketplace. The larger your enterprise is and the more people you have working with those components, the more you will need to make sure the graphic guidelines are being upheld across all touch points. Hopefully, you had your designer create a graphic standards manual for your brand. If not, go back to him or her and have them create one. The originator of your designs is the one who knows them best, so it is best that you have them create the guidelines.
Build trust. Trust is a core value of branding. In launching your brand, you will want to build trust both internally and externally. A successful brand is well-defined and authentic. It is not a copy of another. Your brand emerges from your own unique history. Beyond the quality of your visual communications, you’ll need to address the intangibles such your customer service, your voice, your attitude, how you manage and train your staff, and consistency of your message compared to your actions. When your business breaks trust with your customers, your wise, intentional responses will cover – not cover up, but cover – the misstep, rebuild good will and trust, and emerge with increase esteem. It’s what you do when you mess up that builds trust or breaks it.
Stay relevant. To be successful over the long term, your brand must remain valuable to your audience. How many businesses have launched a product or service that flared and fizzled within a few months or years as culture, technology or systems changed? To remain relevant, constant monitoring of the marketplace is necessary, plus the ability to “read the signs of the times” and anticipate the direction things will take. To remain relevant, connection with your customer base should make use of email marketing, social media and print. Ask questions. Conduct surveys. Listen to the feedback your customers provide. Take note of the questions your customers ask, and tweak your touch points to address those questions. Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing. Take the lead in updating and innovating new products and services.
Update strategically. A change of values or a change of audience requires a brand update. When the vision of your enterprise changes, your brand assets need to update as well. But don’t update just to follow a trend. Branding is based on values and vision, not popularity. Update based on your core values. Updating any visual pieces to be trendy means that they will no longer be on trend once the trend fizzles.
Be patient. Reputations are not build overnight or in one launch. Staying-power, adaptabilty, and consistency build brands. A well-managed brand establishes value through strategic choices and implementations over time. A well-managed brand is inherently meaningful and becomes powerful in time, and that’s what you need to sustain your enterprise.
Your brand is what your customers experience and remember. Enduring brands are meaningful, visual and actionable. They represent something that people want to attach to. Growing your business and growing your brand are intertwined. You should establish a consistent process for implementing and supporting your brand that’s part of your regular, everyday business activities.
For questions about developing your brand identity, or managing your brands, connect with me.
Journal of Brand Management