Your brand is the visual incarnation of your company’s personality, principles and preferred dog breed. If you want to let your customers know what you stand for; what you value and what you contribute to society in general, you must have a well-defined branding strategy. Here are 10 tips for creating a successful brand identity:
1. Begin from the Inside Out
Once your core values are identified, your business plan is streamlined, and the employees drink the Kool-Aid, you can begin to build your brand. Ask yourself how your company wants to optimize employee experience and encourage productivity. Do you prefer the use of compassionate good humor? Typical ideals of professionalism, or do you like things informal? Every corporate environment has its own personality, and if you think that your consumer base will appreciate the type of internal atmosphere you’ve created, you can begin to externalize it.
2. Create an Environment that Builds an Internal Fan Base
Do your employees dread the 5 to 9? Meaning, they hate going home at 5 p.m. and can’t wait until 9 a.m. the next morning because that’s how much they love working there? An excited team is a motivated team. Moreover, the happier and prouder they are to be a part of your organization, the more successful they will be in projecting your brand image. Employees that are inspired by the brand’s principles serve as great ambassadors in spreading the word about the company’s unique qualities.
3. Speak to Your Core Demographic
It’s all well and good to cultivate a brand identity that tries to be hip, but if your company manufactures and distributes walking canes, your target demographic isn’t even going to give you a second look. Before you commit to certain type of company culture, keep in mind the type of company with which your target customer wants to work.
4. Inspire with Themes
A visual brand identity can’t just look cool; it has to convey the core message of your company’s philosophy. For example, McDonald’s has adopted “I’m Lovin’ It” as its slogan. Because it’s a fast-food chain, it’s able to use a simple, common-day saying to indicate not only its quality, but its accessibility to its core demographic and the ability to speak its language. Conversely, “I’m Lovin’ It” wouldn’t be as successful for a university, for example. It improperly uses a stative verb in the progressive, for heaven’s sake.
5. Don’t Rely on a Single Game-Changing Idea
Every company wants to set themselves apart from their competition. However, deciding on an image for the sole purpose of giving your brand “edge” might only result in alienating your consumer base while possibly creating an effective punch-line for the competition.
6. Don’t Allow Fear to Govern Your Choices
Sometimes, the boldest choices are the most effective ones. Many companies are afraid to speak directly to the consumer for fear of causing confusion or offense, and wind up with a generic and boring strategy. Remember: “No risk, no reward.” Use your judgment as your guide and trust that you are capable of embracing a brand image that intrigues but doesn’t trigger anti-defamation suits.
7. Find Your Moment
Timing is everything. You don’t have to latch onto the latest trend, but it is possible to find inspiration in contemporary culture. If you sense a growing shift in modern ideology, you can employ it to reach a whole new audience; unless you involve Snooki in some unholy fashion.
8. Don’t Arbitrarily Change Your Image
Brand image can evolve even without the direct involvement of frenzied marketing teams. Pabst Blue Ribbon beer became thoroughly fashionable amongst young people due to its lack of direct marketing and advertising revenue; it was seen as unpretentious and “counter culture.” Although the brand decided not to pander to the market that suddenly embraced it, it managed to earn a reputation as the type of product that speaks to the young.
9. Don’t Let Coolness Be Your Model
Brand identity is more than just how you want your company to be perceived in your wildest hopes and dreams; it’s about capitalizing on what your company truly is, what it can achieve and how your core principles help you to achieve it. In order for your brand identity to endure, you have to appreciate what your consumer base thinks is important; both in a company with which it does business, and also in terms of the culture at large.
10. Appreciate the Whole Picture
It’s important to focus on the entire landscape of your company’s identity rather than just a single attitude or badge; logos can change over time, but a trusted brand identity remains more or less consistent. Your website, packaging and print campaign must all be in service of sending a coherent and consistent message to your consumer base; even if that message involves the celebration of tambourines and talking Chihuahuas.