"Branding" is a popular buzzword these days, but there's a lot of misunderstanding about what a brand is. It's a non-tangible asset that can't be seen, heard, or felt. However, it pays off handsomely in terms of client loyalty. Strategic brand consulting services can assist you in establishing a 'Brand' that is consistent throughout all of your content, design, and social media platforms.
A brand is more than just a logo or a tagline. Instead, a brand is a mental image that people have of your company after they've interacted with it on three levels:
The emotional level (experience, personality, and character);
The functional level (what you sell, how it works, who uses it);
The rational/sensory level (what you look like, what your promotional materials say, how it's packaged).
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The aggregate of these is the impression customers have of your company after interacting with it.
Emotionally – Your brand is "how" your customers feel your business will treat them. This is a perception based on what your company says and does, how you say it (word choice) and what actions you take on behalf of your customers. The emotional level tells consumers if they will trust and like doing business with you.
Functionally – What do you sell? How well does it work? Is there evidence that the product or service is of high quality? Testimonials, prizes for quality, guarantees, third-party reports, prominent positioning in retail locations, and so on could all be used as evidence. Consumers will buy based on perceived value to them as determined by these factors.
Sensibly – The sensory level includes all the elements that touch their senses: Your logo/trademark, the appearance of your promotional materials and/or packaging, the way you talk in your advertising, etc.
Some brands are outstanding on the sensory level but not so much on the emotional or functional. As a result, some brands have a lot of money but little trust — they might have a well-known logo, but consumers think their items aren't particularly excellent (or that the company doesn't stand behind its products). Likewise, some companies might be credible based on a history of solid performance and backing it up with good service and quality products/services. However, if those businesses do not distinguish themselves from their competition, they will eventually fail.
The emotional, functional, and sensory dimensions must all be properly integrated while building a brand. As a result, customers continually feel well-served by your company, and they will refer others to you as a result of their positive experiences.
The Seven Elements of Emotional Branding:
1. Design your business to have a purpose that is bigger than selling something:
Consumers trust firms with higher aims, such as Starbucks or Whole Foods Market, because they display character and consistency in their acts and ambitions. Having a soul makes you people-centric, not just ROI-centric, which helps build credibility in the minds of consumers.
2. Ask yourself what "heart" customers will feel from doing business with your company:
Will they be respected? Valued? Have you shown empathy for the hardships you've faced? Are you being treated fairly? Understanding? Before putting out a marketing strategy, you should figure out what you want to do.
3. Commit to actions that reinforce the emotional brand attributes you want to establish:
Treat customers honestly and fairly. If you make a mistake, admit it, and rectify the situation as fast as possible. Follow through on every commitment you make to the letter (no matter how trivial or significant). Take care of business quickly without any undue excuses. Make sure your employees share these traits.
4. Speak with authenticity:
It’s good practice to avoid clichés at all costs; while communicating about your company, use "heart" felt language; instead of telling people what they need, communicate in terms of what value accomplishes for others. Also, keep in mind that deeds speak louder than words!
5. Storytelling is critical to building an emotional connection with customers:
Share examples of how your product or service has helped others in the past to demonstrate how it can help them in the present. Use stories that make your consumers connect on an emotional level. Whether you are doing a print ad, Facebook post, or tweet, use storytelling to engage people on a deeper level.
6. Create a team of leaders who are respected for their character and credibility:
People who lead by example and believe in what they are doing are sometimes referred to be "brand evangelists." This is the type of ambassador that the top businesses have: people whose reputations are so solid that customers want to do business with them because they trust their judgment.
7. Always ask if the actions/words being considered reinforces the emotional brand attributes:
Will this action demonstrate respect for others? Will it show empathy with a customer's needs? Is this action honest and fair to the customer? Will it show that you stand behind what you say and do?
For examples of how we implement emotional branding through our strategic brand consulting service check out our VSTA course and framework.
The Seven Elements of Functional Branding:
1. When writing a logo, brand name, or slogan, try to avoid the "cutesy" or gimmicky:
Always be truthful in your communications. Even if something seems appropriate at first (like Starbucks' mermaid logo). Customers, on the other hand, will eventually see through the gimmick because they expect businesses to be authentic from the start. (Note: That doesn't mean you don't use good design!)
2. Design your business activities around solving problems for people:
Businesses that are intentional about solving problems for people will stand out, whether those problems be worries, expectations, a potential misunderstanding, or anything else. Consumers, for example, want to conduct business with a brand because it makes them feel better, not just because they're being sold something!
3. Make sure the customer receives value when doing business with your company:
This doesn't necessarily mean you lower your price on the product – but make the process of buying and service as easy as possible; Answer questions within a reasonable timeframe; deliver on all promises, and so forth.
4. Add clear calls to action in communications (including websites) so consumers know what to do next after reading/watching a message:
Never assume that people know what they should do next; keep it simple, make it plain, and provide them with clear options.
5. Use social media to connect with the community around your brand:
By interacting authentically (i.e., responding to comments), you can help build trust in your business and make people feel like they have a voice within your company. This is where responsiveness is crucial!
6. Give away information— but only if it's of value:
There's no need to offer something that doesn't add value for consumers; always think about what other people will benefit from reading or hearing first before putting out information on the web, blog, or other media outlets. (If you do, make sure to provide "value-added" information that is relevant to all potential clients, not just current ones.)
7. Add a "social proof element" to all marketing messages:
When producing communications, start with the end in mind. Social proof is any positive reference or suggestion about your business. Always ask yourself how you can add social proof to each piece of communication being worked on (i.e., testimonials, reviews, invitational contest, etc.).
The Seven Elements of Rational/Sensory Branding:
1. Remember that people make decisions emotionally, then rationalize it with logic:
Aim for sensory branding that interacts with people on a deeper level, from the design of your website to the usage of words in an ad or social post. Images and emotions are typically more influential than facts and data, whether it's through pictures, music (for advertising), or other means.
2. Find ways to differentiate yourself from others in your industry:
Being unique means having those one-of-a-kind characteristics that set you apart from the competition; if everyone sells the same things, what makes you stand out? This could be as simple as starting a podcast, building your Youtube channel with one-of-a-kind vlogs, offering consulting services, logo branded products, or even something as simple as a personalized email send-out.
3. Know what motivates people – then use it to influence the way they think and act:
Any time you are trying to persuade someone through a message (i.e., web pages, ads, commercials), find their "hot button" and push on it! You can do this by appealing to someone's wants (unmet needs) or needs (unmet needs) (something vital for survival). In each message, you should always include as many "hot buttons" as feasible.
4. Use brand equity with small businesses when possible:
The truth is that big brands have an advantage over smaller ones. If you're a small business owner, though, you can use brand equity inside your sector by positioning yourself as a viable alternative for those who dislike big brands.
5. Create distinctive one-of-a-kind packages or "brands" for each of your products:
One way to do this is by using creative packaging, but it doesn't have to be that complicated either— imagine a clever package idea for canned goods, household items, etc.— something that makes you smile! If you’re not selling a product this can be as simple as a templated format or style ‘branding’ for your social media. It causes them to naturally think of your company when they see it (an image or a message). If you're unsure about creating a style guide or a message, we recommend taking our VSTA course. From there we can create a campaign to establish your brand and get it out there to your customer base. Campaigns can include but are not limited to:
– Email Marketing
– Print & Digital Ads
– Content / SEO
– Lead Magnets
– Graphic Design
– Social Media Management
6. Use adjectives and phrases in your brand name instead of a product's name:
Some corporations are household names in every industry, while others are not. Consider how you could utilize adjectives to describe your products (or services) and then use those terms in the company or product name itself to turn your firm into a powerful brand.
7. Take advantage of brand differentiation opportunities:
Remember that the same concept may be used for purely practical, functional purposes by different brands. Coca-Cola and Campbell's Soup, for example, both include red and white in their logos. Although both color schemes are iconic to their respective brands, no one will mistake one for the other. It isn't clear if one "borrowed" from the other, but both brands are iconic at this point.
Closing Thoughts on the Elements of Building a Brand
"Maybe it's because I'm from Kansas… but I've always believed that if you work hard and tell the truth and treat people right, then good things will happen."
– The Wizard of Oz
When selling a product or service, it's useful to consider the three major aspects of branding. First, emotional branding is all about connecting with your customers on an emotional level (think Nike and their famous slogan "Just Do It"). Second, functional branding focuses more on how well your product works for the customer (like when Apple says that Macs are designed without compromise).
Finally, rational/sensory branding appeals to a person's senses, like, vision, taste, and touch. Understanding these three different types will help you connect better with your audience by speaking to them in the way they want to hear from you.
In Need of Strategic Brand Consulting Services
If you require strategic brand consulting services, iProv can help you in a variety of ways. To learn more, give us a call and speak with one of our client consultants, or enroll in our VSTA course to get started!