Do you sizzle: a Rare Medium, Well-Done?
Imagine yourself holding in your hands a large iron rod that at one end has a custom steel handle. At the opposite end is a well-smithed flourish of metal, which is a reversed manifestation of your ranch’s identity in visual form – it’s your brand!
The Medium is the Message
Don’t skip through this section! Sit around the blacksmith’s fire for a quick “origin story”.
The word “brand” is proto-Norse and means “to burn”. Historically, a heated metal branding iron was used to impress physical marks via cauterization. As the practice evolved, everything from livestock to wood crates of, say, tea were marked with company monograms. Records of these marks were eventually developed to document and identify an ever growing number of owners, craftsmen, or artisans. The idea is that if you were looking at an item, you’d immediately be able to tell point of origin. The brand mark is acknowledged as the precursor to the modern day logo.
In modern times, “brand” has evolved to mean a strategic personality for a product or company. It conveys this idea of what is promised to a consumer when they “buy in” — literally, by paying for product or service, and figuratively, by connecting to that company’s culture. When we engage in branding (notice the -ing!), we are imbuing that artifact with the spirit of the company and announcing “this is part of us”.
Why is Branding Important?
Branding is the method(s) of marketing and communicating the distinguishing traits of a company over competitors. And it’s more than simple identity collateral (ie. logo, tag line, website). It’s your promise and reputation – to yourself, your company, your employees, your customers, and your community at large. You and your company are held to higher standards — and a vision and a mission enables company integrity and longevity.
Making your Mark
Think about how your “mark” will be forged and how it will be used to identify you and your company moving forward. By defining and developing your brand, you’re doing more than just establishing brand recognition; it’s about articulating and executing a brand strategy. If everyone knows your name, do they perceive you in a positive light? Is what you are doing aligned with your business objectives? Do you have all the assets to present and position yourself in the marketplace? Is it flexible enough to remain relevant in an ever-changing market?
Leave a Mark – & Make it Meaningful!
At CTCI, a fundamental part of our process is to discuss your brand and help you develop your brand strategy – and also to help define what it is you hope to achieve and how. At the Enterprise business level, this is standard procedure; but this is not the case for individuals or small business owners. Developing and articulating your brand strategy may seem over-the-top, but we promise that honing in on what your brand means and looking at what is supporting it will only help your return on investment – on all fronts. Think about what kind of impression you wish to leave for others to see and how you want to convey your expertise as the solution for their needs.
- Holistic Approach
Answer the following questions: What makes you special and different from your competition? Who is your target audience – is it specific? Do you engage leads aggressively or passively? Dig deep and think about how you feel your brand would be best positioned.
- Define who are your target clients & competitors
This seems simple, but it’s actually quite complex. If you understand your industry and the space in which you exist, you can better narrow down who you want to attract and thus problem solve how to get their attention much more quickly.
- Establish harmony
A seamless brand works harmoniously and breaks down barriers to engaging your audience. Your audience isn’t just your potential clients and customers, but also your potential employees, influencers, business partners, etc. There are some best practices to establishing consistency, which include basics like a brand style guide — where you can define company name presentation, logo specifications, color schemes, language tone, image preferences, and so much more. That said, your logo (and it’s presentation variations), a tagline, and a website are important assets but recognize that they are only tools for communicating your brand’s vision. Your messaging needs to tell your story – one that is for all audiences, but addresses specific needs of your target audience.
- Key Brand and Branding Assets:
- Company Name and presentation
- Defined Mission, Vision, and Core Values
- Logo and specifications for presentation
- Tag line
- Brand Style Guide: which includes how to present the company name, logo, color, imagery, etc.
- Storytelling Tools: print identity collateral (business cards, letterhead, white papers template, rack cards or similar walk around pieces), website, social media
- BUT! Also, let others tell your story
Marketing can be an emotional space – and providing ways for customers to feel part of a larger group makes them feel more connected to each other (and to you!). If you are able to reward that loyalty, do it! It could be a thank you note or a neat giveaway – find ways to highlight the positive relationship you have between you and your existing customers. Your potential ones will take note.
- Be flexible
If your old tactics aren’t working, consider why and brainstorm what barriers you need to overcome. Are you looking to engage a wider audience? Is there something different about your new product that hasn’t been showcased? Don’t fear change – as it’s the only constant. As you move forward, excite and connect with new customers, as well as remind existing ones why they love you.
Branding is a verb, thus it has a lifecycle – just like products. Once you understand your brand and how to work within it, you can develop strategies that are scalable and flexible as the market changes.
- Live it!
Working with brand and branding is not just for your Creatives! Everyone involved should be versed on how they should be engaging customers and representing the brand. Some things may be outlined in your company handbook, others things in your procedures, or maybe it’s mentioned in regular company newsletters. This is a team effort – at every level. Commitment to the customer experience isn’t just a theory, but something that must be practiced and regularly revisited! Employees should be reminded of your company’s vision – which articulates high standards that reinforce company core values. The result will be a reputation for legendary helpful and happy customer service and product.
- Track it!
Data is priceless and feedback is a gift. Track how your brand strategy is planned and implemented, and document the results of your efforts. Having this information – like web traffic metrics, new leads, employee applications, etc – is invaluable to see if your company and brand are growing in the best possible direction. If you are able to track tasking using SMART criteria, you can make your brand dreams into brand goals with deadlines. And the best compliment to a business is a qualified recommendation from a customer to someone new, especially when that produces action!
- What will be your legacy?
What will you leave behind? What will people take away from their experience with your company or your product or service? Sure iIt’s better to be a “has-been” than a “never-was”. Aim for people to say, “thank you for being here” – be Legendary.
Want to Learn More?
If you would like to know more about how to develop and make your mark, and what it looks like to leave a lasting impression (and specifically one that is positive, productive, and profitable), we at CTCI can meet and work with your team to discuss how to do just that.
In my next blog post “Unlock Your Potential – the Keys to Developing and Effective Brand”, I will go over the specific assets and tools that help in showcasing what you have to offer, and how they support and help communicate the message of “we’re here for you!”
In December, as part of our Learn with CTCI series, we will be conducting a session called “Defining Your Brand”. Come with your questions and insights, and bring a friend or other business associates, to learn more about the brand strategy process.