Brand Essentials: Experience is Everything

I often get asked, “what exactly is branding?” You could say branding is similar to Zen–both concepts are casually tossed around and misused to the point of becoming cliches. While this analogy may be a stretch, considering Zen is based on personal enlightenment and branding is a recent invention of capitalism, my point is that they are both complex ideas that elude everyday understanding.

So, what exactly is branding? Simply stated, your brand is the overall perception people have of your company or product. Marty Neumeier framed it nicely by saying, “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company.” This perception or gut feeling may be a singular thought, but the actual architecture behind a brand is made up of many different parts that all work in tandem to construct that one thought.

The “parts” are often referred to as “touchpoints,” which are the collective channels used to engage or connect with your customers. A laundry list of touchpoints could fill this entire blog post, but to give you an idea here are a few common touchpoints: logo, website, advertising, direct mail, social media, email, voice message, word of month, retail environment, the items on your desk, and employees. As you can see, the list covers much more than just your logo and website. Branding is all-encompassing–it transcends traditional marketing avenues. Branding is all about how customers experience your company, regardless of what touchpoint they encounter.

Essentially, good branding unites all touchpoints into one core message or position. A customer should grasp a common thread whether they are looking at your logo, talking to an employee or walking past your storefront. No matter where they enter, the brand experience should always be the same.

To achieve this perfect alignment requires a lot of hard work. For the sake of brevity, I’ll give the CliffsNotes version of how to build a formidable brand experience:

Understand stakeholders:

First, you need to truly understand your key stakeholders. We often hear about “target audiences” and “niche markets,” but stakeholders include basically everyone who has a relationship with your company: customers, employees, vendors, the media, partners, general public, etc.

Establish positioning:

Once you have a clear understanding of your stakeholders you can start to craft your positioning. How will you position your company or product against the competition? What makes you different? Can you invent a new position unique to your strengths? A sound positioning statement is imperative to creating a positive brand.

Map out strategy:

A brand strategy gives a clear vision for how to precisely present the brand over several touchpoints and to various stakeholders. The strategy should take into consideration a company’s core values, vision, philosophy and long-term business goals. A solid strategy will help differentiate your product or service and give you a clear communication platform.

Prioritize touchpoints:

To develop the right blend of touchpoints, first look at your key stakeholders and think of ways to engage them. A balance of tactics is required to connect and communicate your message. It’s important not to limit your vision and invest in only one or two avenues–a logo and website may be important, but they can only get you so far. On the other hand, don’t try to do everything at once. Look at cost-effective ways to produce the greatest reach.

Identity design:

I’ve said this many times before, but it’s worth repeating: a well-designed brand identity is the foundation to any successful branding and marketing program. A logo should be the flag a brand rallies around, a symbol that represents the face of your company and inspires all future work.

Brand rollout and management:

This is a big one…I’ll tackle it in a future post.

If you’re thinking of launching a new brand or reinvigorating your current brand, give Bozeman branding company Engine 8 a call. Our business is building better brands. 406.222.7566

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