Even on a basic level, smart business owners and managers know that building a great brand is vital to the success of their business. But how do you define a great brand?
Is it sales? Is it market share? Obviously, these are vital business metrics, but what about love? Do your customers love your brand or is it something they buy without much loyalty?
Think of brand love as a kind of capital. When everything is going smoothly, you’re growing that capital. And when something goes wrong: the more your customers love your brand, the more capital you have and the more likely it is they’ll forgive any missteps.
For smaller businesses, branding can often seem like a daunting task, especially when you compare your small business to brand giants like Google, Microsoft, Mercedes, etc. They enjoy enormous brand equity built up over years of heavy brand investment and advertising, but all brand love boils down to a few easily identifiable steps.
These simple steps apply to businesses both small and large.
1. Learn Your ABC’s
The first step to becoming a brand that is loved is gaining clarity on what your brand stands for, who your customers are, and why they should care about your brand.
Consider these the ABCs of branding: “We are the only ‘A’ that fills ‘B’s’ need in ‘C’ – a different and engaging way.”
- Think of A as the business category or the actual product/service type that you are marketing.
- Think of B as customer demand. A problem they have that needs to be solved, a point of pain that needs to be relieved or a dream that needs to be fulfilled.
- Think of C as your unique advantage. What are you offering that meets your customer’s demand in a unique and engaging way.
2. Telling a Story
Mission statements are so retro! If you want to really bore your target audience, just grind out a new mission statement. While mission statements can be valuable from an internal managerial perspective, they have little or no value in the mind of your customer.
People respond to brands emotionally, and nothing touches the emotions like a good story does.
So tell a story about how your brand evolved and developed into the success it is today. Talk about the people involved, their lives, and their belief in what they’re doing.
Make your brand story connect with your customers on an emotional level. Show how your vision aligns with their needs and desires. This kind of storytelling will help make your brand more than something people just buy. It will turn your brand into something people love.
3. Be True to Your Story
Authenticity is a vital component of telling a great brand story. Authenticity is proven by examples—not just words. If your brand doesn’t reflect the essence of your story, you’re probably doing more damage to your brand than if you had never told your brand story at all.
So how do you know if your customers think you’re authentic?
Essential to becoming a brand that is loved is the Brand Audit, which begins with clarifying the aforementioned ABC’s and reflecting on your strategic goals. Then ask your employees, directors, customers, and business partners what they think about you and how you can improve.
Examine your company’s visual identity, print materials, advertising, website and public relations. Are they properly aligned with your brand essence? Do they tell a truthful and engaging brand story?
The Brand Audit will reveal the gap between your management’s perceptions about the brand, the reality of how your brand is performing, and ways to close that gap.
4. Strategic Integration
Telling your story consistently across all marketing channels is critical to success.
Everywhere your customer encounters your brand should be properly aligned with your brand essence. From your visual identity and style to sales collateral, website, social media presence and public relations, all must be aligned and consistent.
Integration begins with strategy. The ABC’s of brand positioning, your brand story and your visual identity must be clearly defined through your brand strategy. When you begin to execute tactical actions such as advertising, social media campaigns, public relations and search engine optimization guided by your brand strategy, all channels will be effectively integrated.
5. Give Something Back
Finally, for a brand to be truly loved, the customers must connect with the brand’s highest ideal.
If the brand is seen as existing only for the benefit of the company shareholders or to maximize profits, then there can be no trust.
Where there is no trust there is no love. Therefore, great brands give back. They get involved in local charities, they help the farmers that grow their raw materials, they provide free health and wellness advice, or invite customers to pay only what they can afford for their meal.
They demonstrate that they care about the people involved with the brand.
So, is your brand something people just buy? Or is it a brand they love?