Branding is hard y’know? Getting it right the first time rarely happens, and inherently it is more of a journey than a onetime activity. Quality branding requires a substantial budget, and substantial input from a creative, passionate team but often the true extent of holistic branding is an afterthought.
As mentioned in my previous articles, branding isn’t about a conjuring up a pretty logo; it’s about the underlying company values and ethos, and the ways that this is communicated to your audience in a way that is unrelenting in its integrity. Branding will play a huge role when it comes to the way the business is perceived by a target audience, and when you step back and gain some perspective on it – you really can’t afford for it to be an afterthought. I understand, there is a strict budget in place right? So let’s take a look at how it can be put to best use.
Research is Key
Just like our time in education, the start of a business project should begin with thorough research. Research your target audience; who are they? Age range, gender, hobbies, jobs, salary, political or ethical opinions, where do they shop? Build a couple of audience profiles, complete with pictures – this often helps to build emotional connections to the target audience.
Knowing exactly who you are aiming to appeal to will mean that all of your branding efforts are focussed and consistent.
Next, look at the competitors; how are they performing? What are their prices – (you may need to get a little sly here and make some fake enquiries) How is there branding perceived? Taking the time to conduct market research and ask people within your target audience their opinions and feelings towards the business based on its brand is insightful.
Finding out how your competitors branding is perceived will give you direction for your own, making the process far more streamlined.
Don’t Go It Alone
When it comes to your business, you are the expert. You may have some strong concepts when it comes to the visual side, but don’t attempt to go DIY in the branding process. Design and branding agencies have trained for years, hiring experts and have gained ever important experience and knowledge.
Your time will be best spent creating a solid set of company values that will be lived and breathed by every part of the business. A good agency will be a great long term investment.
David Dews, creative Director at Speed Agency explains their journey into their company values and ‘reasons’, “I own yet another creative and digital agency… there’s thousands of us in the UK… sure we’re integrated and can offer complete solutions from brand strategy and development to web development, video animations and national marketing campaigns but that’s just what we do…and most good agencies offer the same…. So how could I stand out in this crowded place? We created our ‘why’…I spent some fairly agonising evenings pondering on what got me up in the morning and also what got my key members of staff excited by the work we do. I surveyed some my best and worst clients to see what they really thought of us and where we were stood out but also where we were found wanting. In the end once we brought all this information together, the theme just presented itself. Our ‘why’ was our depth of human insight and behaviour and the level of customer understanding we carry out for every project. Since identifying that we’ve reviewed all our branding and marketing collateral and communications and even reviewed some of our internal processes to really build on our ‘why’. The result has been growth… and not just growth from anywhere but new clients that actually value the same things we do!”
Learn To Let Go
For obvious reasons, your business is always going to remain very close to your heart and the emotional ties you have to everything that relates to it will be strong.
Learn to detach yourself from those emotions.
When you are presented with ideas and concepts from your agency, don’t think as a business owner – think like your target audience. It’s vital that you place a degree of trust within the team at the agency and understand the reasons for the concepts being presented. The designs may not be to your personal tastes, but ask yourself would it appeal to your target audience and does it reflect your business?
In reality, when it comes to your brand, it’s all about how other people perceive you; you might think that I’m urging you to relinquish control, but in reality you never had full control anyway.
Pay Close Attention to Your Website
There is nothing worse than reading or hearing great things about a brand to be greeted by a poorly designed website (yes, even in this day and age), a website that doesn’t work (404 pages are JUST the worst) or for some unfathomable reason, no website at all. Why would you not have a website? I don’t have the mental capacity to figure out the reason for this, I don’t care if you are trying to be clever or exclusive – it’s not working for me. (NB – I also feel the same way about businesses that don’t use social media.)
Actually, ‘website under construction’ gets my goat too – get it finished already.
There are so many options when it comes to website creation, contrary to earlier point – it is possible for someone with little knowledge of web design to create a functional, albeit basic website. However, it depends on the businesses values and target audience, what are their expectations? The chances are they will be pretty savvy when it comes to websites and can tell an amateur attempt from a mile off, whether you care to give them these kudos or not.
A well designed, functional website with well written, relevant content will provide a massive return on investment. Just make sure that you are given the back end logins from the developer and be sure to discuss the cost for ongoing maintenance. If you opt to use a marketing agency in the future, it is likely that they will suggest changes to the website, discuss this from the off so there are no nasty surprises down the road.
If you want to know what your customers think of your business and your brand – you are going to have to ask them. Talk to them about their brand journey and experience with the business and the things that they believe could be improved.
You may not agree, but again – this honest, unbiased feedback is invaluable and should be taken on board, it will do wonders for increasing client engagement!
If we are honest, social media platforms mean that you are going to receive feedback whether you asked for it or not. You will find you experience both positive and negative comments on social media, and while you should amplify, share and respond to the positive – the negative needs attention too. Acknowledge the negative in public and if it’s genuine – resolve it in private, it’s all a learning curve.
As Social Media Influencer Warren Whitlock says, “”At the moment they choose to complain, they are frustrated and looking to vent that frustration and be heard. When you appear as a person who cares enough to listen, they get most of what they are looking for. A connection to lead them out of their predicament. They may yell, curse, or scream, but mostly they want to tell their story to anyone who will listen.”
And the trolls? You might experience some of those too, so kill them with kindness – they hate that.
Developing a robust branding strategy that calls upon creativity and expertise will mean you can build a brand that immediately evokes emotions, positive connotations – and ultimately sales. It’s always worth the investment because the most powerful brands always tap into emotion. Figure out the message first and build the rest from there.