In an increasingly crowded marketplace, branding is more important than ever. Not only do we want customers to be aware of our existence, we want them to be passionate about us, too. Branding is when your target audience perceives to know your personality and feels engaged with you. A strong brand will instill specific attributes – excitement, prestige, value, security or peace of mind, depending on what you sell – when the customer thinks of your company.
It’s not just businesses, either. Politicians and celebrities have brands, too, from Obama to Justin Bieber to Will Ferrell. Take Tom Cruise, who – love him or hate him – clearly understands his brand. With the exception of a few deviations, his movies are high concept and action-oriented. When people buy a ticket to a Tom Cruise movie, they know exactly the experience they will receive, right down to the stunts and big-budget special effects.
You’re thinking: Well, that’s great for an actor, but making my widget (or software-as-a-service) company grow a personality is harder. And that’s true. Marketing professional and author Al Ries understood this when he said, “A branding program should be designed to differentiate your cow from all other cattle on the range. Even if all the cattle on the range look pretty much alike.” Unless you truly are currently the very first in your field, you most likely have (either a few or a lot of) competitors.
Here at Carabiner, we spend time with new clients, encouraging them to think about the company they want to be, and helping them to identify their true, most compelling differentiators. Knowing these things helps us in crafting messages and establishing a “voice” for the company, both crucial to building a brand.
Following are a few tips we give our clients:
Have an engaging story to tell. Whether it’s about why your company was created, or a big problem it’s set out to resolve, it’s important for you to have a passionate reason for your existence. The more an audience knows about the “whys” of your business, the more relatable it becomes.
Look deeper to differentiate yourself. Oftentimes, when we ask a client what’s unique about them, we hear things like “customer service.” And while this is so very critical, it’s also something that basically every company claims. If you’re going to say it’s your differentiator, you’re going to have to validate it in some unique way, whether it’s a 100 percent network uptime guarantee or delivery in thirty minutes or less or it’s free. Take a hard look at what’s really unique about your company and capitalize on it.
Manage your brand on social media. The Internet is a powerful tool for brand building, since it lets you have regular, two-way communications with prospects so they become engaged and begin to feel like they “know” your company. However, it isn’t all a bed of roses, as any company who has had a disgruntled customer sound off on Twitter can attest. Manage your brand on social media by knowing what’s being said about you, by being responsive in public forums, and by using it not as an overt sales tool but as a way to communicate who your company is, what it thinks, and what it cares about.
Think about these brands and what springs first into your mind: Apple, BMW, Allstate, Nike, McDonald’s and Mountain Dew. You may even remember their tag lines, but the point is that each has a clearly developed personality and a well-communicated customer experience. A compelling brand can help you rise above the market noise and attract the attention and loyalty of customers.
Does your company have a brand? What strategy are you using to build one?