The definition of “brand” seems obvious at first, but surprisingly it can be misunderstood. Does brand just refer to a company’s logo, its colors, and its name? Or, is a brand defined as the overall identity of a company and its perception in the market? The paradox is that every marketer knows that their brand should be at the core of their company, however, many can’t clearly define what a “brand” is. Before diving into brand marketing, let’s clarify exactly what determines a brand.
What is a brand?
In the past, branding referred to just putting a label on a product or company asset for the purpose of indicating that it belongs to you or your company. Take Guinness for example, one of the worlds most recognizable brands. They were one of the first companies to trademark a symbol, the harp, in 1876. The company recognized that adorning their beers with this image builds trust and recognition around their asset, beer. In 2018, branding still stems from the company’s logo and name, however, it’s evolved to become dynamic and multifaceted. A strong brand today requires a personality that resonates with its audience in a synchronized way, across all platforms, from social media to billboards, to its packaging. Modern-day branding can be defined as the art of representing a company’s identity from who they are, what they do, the level of quality they offer, to their reputation.
What is brand marketing?
Brand marketing promotes your products or services in a way that highlights your overall brand. The goal of brand marketing is to link your identity, values, and personality with communications to your audience. Essentially, your brand is the bridge between your product and your customer. Brand marketing is not just about putting your logo and business name as many places as possible and expecting to generate sales. Many times, the importance of brand marketing gets overlooked, as it takes time. Many marketing departments are focused on short-term goals, rather than nurturing long-term goals that impact the entire business, like building a brand.
The importance of developing strategic and consistent brand equity
Brand equity is beneficial for building your company’s reputation, trustworthiness, and market reach. Consequently, your products and services will have a higher value. For example, why do customers choose the brand name painkiller, Tylenol, over non-branded options that would offer them more value? Because the brand is consistent, recognizable, and trustworthy. Having strong brand equity allows them to charge more for the product and create brand extensions like the release of a new product, Tylenol PM.
Apple is an example of a company with long-lasting brand equity. It’s built an authentic brand by positioning itself as an innovative maverick in the tech industry. The brand is centered on product quality but also uses distinct, creative communications to strengthen both the sale of a particular product as well as the overall brand. When they launched the MacBook Air laptop, the advertisement demonstrated the exceptional features of the product through the distinct lens that is the Apple brand.
The ad shows both the unique features of the laptop, while undeniably being “Apple.” When your brand has strong equity, each piece of communication can increase both the awareness around the new product and the overall brand.
How to build a brand marketing strategy that aligns with your business
When building a brand, it’s important to create a long-term plan. All brand marketing strategies should be guided by establishing a company vision, determining a target audience, creating consistency, and communicating emotion.
1. Establish a company vision
Your company should first decide what it wants to be known for, and then develop a strategy to pass the message through all available marketing channels. For example, does your company want to be known as the leading innovator in your industry, like Apple? Or perhaps the provider of joy and happiness, like Coca-Cola? How about the power source for the athletes, like Nike? Or even the provider of all things value like Walmart? Monster Energy, for example, initiated a brand marketing campaign that involves having their drinks branded with popular Formula One drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Valentino Rossi. Monster wants to be known as the edgy and adventurous energy drink that powers fearless Formula 1 drivers. Fans of these champions will identify their success with the energy drink.
2. Identify a strategic target audience
If you don’t correctly identify your target audience, your brand marketing efforts could be unsuccessful. A target market is much more than understanding basic demographics. Many marketers fall into the trap of saying “I’ll target anyone that wants to buy my product,” or I’ll target all moms in the UK. Instead, a target market should be broken down by psychographics and explained by creating buying personas. For example, say you’re an all natural ice cream company. Instead of setting your target as “moms with young kids” it should be, “parents between the ages of 28 and 38 with elementary school-aged kids, that center their purchases based on sales and markdowns, but place value on the ingredients of the products they serve to their kids.” You should also have multiple personas within this one target market. Such as moms that have different shopping habits, or feelings towards the brand. Once you have established a strong target audience, move on to creating a consistent brand.
3. Be consistent
How you interact with customers over time is a crucial cornerstone to effective branding. Your message, visual aesthetics, and brand tone should be recognizable and aligned for the long-term. Consistency is vital to building trust and loyalty. McDonald’s is an example of a brand that has maintained some of the strongest consistency over the last few decades. When ones see’s the infamous Golden Arches, they can almost taste the fries, or picture the inside of the restaurant. The brand stands for inexpensive, easy to access, and quick to purchase fast food. Although we’re all not McDonald’s, through consistent branding in any industry, you’re product or service can be well recognized and trusted.
One way to ensure consistency is to build awareness and trust online. Since most, if not all companies use some sort of online marketing, creating brand consistency online can be the first and least expensive step to developing a consistent brand. Although consistency is an important aspect of brand marketing, it can be a challenge to monitor and measure. Lucidpress is a tool that offers branded content templates to streamline the consistent production of content, making it easier to create and maintain your brands look and feel. To reinforce your brand consistency and overall trust, use branded links when sharing any link, both online and in person. Links bridge the gap between brands and their audiences. When you use branded links, you’re attaching your company’s name to every piece of content that you’re sharing, which also creates consistency.
You also need to ensure your visual marketing is on-brand as well. Portraying a consistent brand aesthetic online unifies the image potential customers see and builds authority and credibility for your audience base. One way to do this is to ensure the way you present photos and videos evokes your brand. Use a good photo editing tool to transform content by using colors, text, and borders that stick to your brand standards.
4. Make sure your brand marketing follows through in real life.
You could have the best brand when it comes to personality, design, content, and consistency, but if your product does not follow through on its promises to its customers, all these efforts could be lost. Product quality should be the key factor when looking to establish a robust brand. When you have a poor product or service quality, it negatively affects the perception of your brand. Plus, you should ensure that attention to quality extends to all areas of the company’s interaction with clients – including social media platforms and support.
Department store, Nordstrom is an example of a company that follows through on their brand promises. If you ask anyone familiar with the store what Nordstrom is best known for, they immediately respond, “customer service.” This starts from each employees first day. They have one rule, “to use good judgment in all situations.” This trust empowers each employee to make the right call. Because of this, there are extreme examples of employees that went to great lengths to meet customer requests, from searching through vacuum bags to find a customer’s missing diamond, to accepting the return or tires (although Nordstrom does not sell tires.) On the other hand, Volkswagen, a car company known for producing affordable, reliable, practical, German cars. In September 2015, their reputation was damaged, when it was announced that they lied on emission tests for their diesel cars. When a company lies or does not live up to its promises, its brand marketing essentially does not align with what you’re actually selling, creating distrust from your current and future customers.
5. Draw emotion
Coca-Cola’s brand is built on establishing an emotional connection with its consumers is vital to its success. If you position your business as a must-have brand and build a following, you’ll have tapped into the full power of brand marketing and benefit in the long-term. Don’t worry creating emotional links can be done in other ways than by having the highest marketing budget in the world. By providing great customer service and randomly surprising customers with next day delivery, Zappos’s customers have built up an emotional connection with the brand. Zappos is notorious for going above and beyond for its customers, from sending a customer recovering from surgery flowers to delivering a free pair of shoes to a shoeless best man at a wedding. Because of this, Zappos has built an emotional connection with its customers, creating loyalty which leads repeat purchases and advocacy.
The evolution of brand marketing
Brand marketing has evolved over the years as new ways of communicating developed, and companies found new ways to build their image both on and offline. Through social media, brands have a new channel to engage with their followers, get insights, and broadcast their values and personality. Companies are building brands through immersive digital experiences that mirror how their followers behave online. Adidas used Snapchat to launch a competition for its #myneolabel because the platform is popular with their younger target audience. Millions of followers participated by submitting designs that Adidas selected from and produced, both growing their brand and boosting customer loyalty in this target.
Brand marketing originated from the need to label products so consumers knew what they were getting. Today, although it has a similar basic role, the overall goal of branding has been impacted as new channels of communication develop, and customer preferences evolve. As the rulebook for brand marketing continues to rewrite itself, don’t get left behind – implement a strategic and consistent brand marketing strategy and future proof your business.
- Online Branding Best Practices
- 6 brands killing it with co-marketing campaigns
- How to choose the perfect brand name
- How to rebrand: 4 must-follow steps
This Article is About:
- Brand marketing defined
- The elements of a brand
- What is a brand?
- How to build a brand