In our new world of global communications, brands have become ever more relevant to our everyday lives. We use brands constantly to help us speed up the buying process.
Whatever it is we are looking for – quality, consistency, service, value for money, no frills – it is there in the brand. Companies spend a lot of time and money trying to create brands that do ‘Exactly what it says on the tin’… i.e. the brand communicates to us exactly what attributes the product or service is providing. We develop an understanding of brands, and trust what they are telling us. This is called brand integrity.
Having strong brand integrity should be a goal of every business strategy, no matter what the size. This is equally as important for B2B businesses as it is for those that are consumer facing. Your company name and logo should evoke a certain message to your customers, a message that should be reinforced at every stage of their interaction with you. It is an important exercise to determine what that message should be and to ensure that everything about your business – and everyone in your business – is getting that message across.
So, as an example, let’s say your brand identity is about making life easier for busy families. Your message is conveyed through:
- All of your communications, both internally and externally
- All of your products and services
- Your store environment and facilities
- Your staff
- Your opening hours
- Your parking lot
- Your community interactions (ie sponsorship of local teams or schools)
It could be that your brand is a victim of an historic strategy or positioning, where the business offering has been trying to be all things to all people and, as a result, not doing any of them effectively. In this case, the brand could be stuck in the middle of nowhere, and not sending any effective message other than one of under-performance.
If you find yourself in this situation, it is crucial that you go back to basics. Figure out what you want your brand to say about your business, and shape all of your actions and decisions around that message. If you stay true to your brand, your customers will better understand your values and, as a result, why they should do business with you.
I had an enlightening experienced recently when I needed to travel at short notice to Portugal. I looked for flights on a comparison website with a brand that I recognised. I quickly found a BA flight (this brand says to me ‘quality’ and ‘reliability’) at a reasonable price and went to book. I was taken off-site to a brand I didn’t recognise and they tried to charge me more! Needless to say I didn’t book it, went back online and found the same flight on Expedia. They provided an excellent service and I was booked in 10 minutes.
Quite a few things have happened here to the various brands:
- 1st website, which I did recognise. The brand has been damaged as it took me off-site to someone who tried to overcharge! Not now trusted.
- 2nd website, which I didn’t recognise and therefore had no expectation. Tried to overcharge! Brand not now trusted.
- 1st time I have used Expedia. Excellent service will use again. Brand strengthened.
- BA service on flight excellent, as expected. Brand strengthened.
An important lesson from this is that once you think you know what your brand is saying, you need to be constantly assessing and interrogating what your brand is actually saying.
- Does your brand say what you want it to?
- Does it say something that you aspire to, and not always provide?
- Does it say nothing at all?
Ask your staff. Ask your customers. Ask someone who has never dealt with you before. You might be surprised at what you hear.