You have worked hard at growing your company. You have dedicated your time and energy and probably a bit of your souls to its growth and development. You are proud of what you have been able to accomplish, and the reputation that has been built.
Now that you have succeeded the hurdle of becoming an established business, you want to continue to grow and ensure that the positioning of your company’s brand is in line with where you want the company to go. Only one problem, the brand is not about what you think or want for your company, it is all in the minds of the public. Your customers, your competitors, people who have heard your advertising, or a story about an experience someone else had with you. These people control your brand.
Today there is a lot of talk about branding, re-branding, and brand management, but there is a lot of misunderstanding about exactly what a brand is.
A brand is not your logo, although a logo is the face of your company.
A brand is not your color pallet, although colors do effect and influence people’s emotions toward your company and help them identify you from your competitors.
A brand is not the sales pitch or marketing materials you give to potential clients.
A brand is not something you can hold in your hand. It is a feeling, an attitude, the intangible emotional response that occurs when someone thinks, or talks, about your company. It is for this very reason that branding is such a difficult arena to understand. It is not what you say it is, it is what they say it is.
To fully understand who you are, and what your brand is, you need to take a hard look at how your brand is being perceived by the public. What type of interactions have you had with clients, employees, and the public? What do people say about you, your company, and your employees? Do you stand out from your competition? What makes you unique? What are the key tenets that describe your organization? How do you describe the culture of your company? What are your values? Do the interactions and materials that you publish uphold the values and key tenets of your organization? Are the materials you produce reaching and connecting with the audience that you intended?
If you find that what people think of you and what you want them to think of you align then your brand is in good position.
If you find that these do not align, you may want to take steps to influence the opinion of the public and your target audience through a renovation of your identity. Your brand is not something of which you are in control; it is in the mind and hearts of the public. You can however, control your identity. This is where consistent logo usage, stationary and marketing material layout and tone become very important.
Utilizing the information that you have uncovered during the evaluation of your brand, you can make changes to the appearance of your materials. Make them stand out from your competition, and align better with the values and key tenets that you have identified. Make sure that your text, or audio is also in alignment with the visual identity. You do not want your identity to have a confusing story. Every touch point that your client, or the public, comes in contact with needs to be consistent and supporting your values.
The consistency of your identity is not the sole responsibility of your marketing, advertising or design department(s). It is the responsibility of every individual in your organization to ensure that each interaction that they have is in alignment with the values and key tenets. This will only be successful if you engage everyone in your organization, and discriminate the organizational values, key tenets, and the tone in which communications need to occur. The development and distribution of identity standard guidelines and pre-designed templates can assist your brand stewards in enforcing compliance of the identity’s visual consistency.
Will all this work and effort change the way your brand is perceived? As stated before, your brand is not what you think, but what they think. Through a consistent and targeted approach you can change the way your organization is thought about, thereby changing your organizations brand. Remember, that if you can make a positive shift to your brand image through hard work and consistency it can also be changed negatively. Neglect of brand / identity management, inconsistency in tone and action can spread quickly through social media outlets and quickly effect your brand equity. The best defense against this type of brand degradation it a strong brand and identity policy and empowered brand stewards to ensure the organizational values and key tenets are consistently represented in all communications.
Neumeier, M. (2006). The brand gap: How to bridge the distance between business strategy and design. Berkely, CA: Peachpit.
Wheeler, A. (2009). Designing brand identity: An essential guide for the whole branding team, 3rd edition. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.