Before we get into the detail of the 10 things you can do to define your branding efforts, we have to take a step back and define branding. Anyone you talk to in marketing and communications will tell you what branding means to them, and like snowflakes, you won’t find a duplicate answer. In fact while researching a definition, I came across a post by SVA Masters in Branding student Sara (Fudin) Hermalyn who gathered 100 definitions from various people in the industry. An interesting read.
Business Dictionary provides this definition for branding.“The process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumer's' mind, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers.” A definition as unique, but as valid as any other.
The brand itself is basically what is left after the marketing campaigns, the product designs, the communication efforts, the word-of-mouth, the social media conversations, the media buzz, and the day-to-day business operations.
If you have a goal in mind for how you want your company or your product perceived and remembered, look to your branding strategy or options. With that said, let’s run through our list.
1) Determine if its time for a new logo and branding effort.
Seems like a good place to start. Do you feel that your logo and overall visual branding are stale or in need of an overhaul? Is your competition passing you in this area? If the world perceives your logo as out-of-date, perhaps they feel the same about your entire company. It’s certainly possible to look at a logo, brochure, or website at quick glance and feel something. Work towards getting that to be the RIGHT something. You can’t brand your company as professional and reputable with a poorly designed logo and visual identity.
2) Look for opportunities to create a consistent image/message across print and digital platforms.
Even a small company may have a big reach in terms of the image and messages that reach the public. Review your website, social media, forms, signage, printed material, audio/video, and all touches between your company and clients. This is basically your inventory list of areas that need to be addressed. Do you need all of these platforms? Do you need to add others? Which are displaying the proper vision and which need your attention.
3) Update your email signature blocks (perhaps consistently among your team).
No. 3 is an inexpensive one. It’s your email signature area. Consider adding a logo or company tagline. You might even promote an event or special across all email signatures in your company. Website and social media links are also a great addition. Add the signature blog to the style manual that we will introduce in No. 7.
4) Redesign business cards or other printing that is outdated or inconsistent with your brand / message.
This suggestion is an extension of No. 1 which basically identifies that a new branding effort is needed, and No. 2 which builds an inventory of items to update. Now we’re suggesting that you finish those print pieces to match your new vision. Make sure your card is up-to-date as well. You shouldn’t have to cross out / revise a number or email for too long before you get new cards printed. Every element that the public sees should have a consistent look and message.
5) Ask a focus group of current or potential customers about your branding
Consider a focus group of current or potential customers on topic of your brand. Ask them what they think about your image, the reliability and expertise of your company. I would suggest organizing a session with team members from various areas as well. Ask them about your brand. If you have a large email list of customers, you might also consider a survey for some quantitative research. This article is a nice comparison of focus group vs survey.
6) Google yourself. What outdated or negative findings can you eliminate or replace?
Lots of times we worry that our website will be found on Google and other search platforms. But don’t forget to determine if what is being found best represents your brand. Is that old website still coming up in search? Dead pages, bad links, old brandings/logo? What about reviews? Can you do anything to bring the best reviews forward and minimize the bad? Make a wish list based on your search and a plan to clean-up the results. It’s worth doing for both your company and yourself.
7) Create or revise your company style manual.
Be consistent in your organization’s writing, publications, and graphic elements. As you build a brand whether it is within a very small OR very large company, it helps if you create both a graphic and editorial style manual. Collect logos / design elements and come up with some rules for how they can be used. Document your Pantone and other primary and secondary color palettes. Choose a style for key terms and language for your company. You might even document a set of approved fonts. Take a look at some examples on the web and incorporate the sections that work best for your brand.
8) Create or revise your vision and mission statements.
All companies and organizations should take the time to construct and refer to their vision and mission statements. If you already have these, consider a review. Are they in line with your branding? A recent article in Inc. does an excellent job in defining and discussing this topic. These words may not be as exciting as the logo design project, but they should in-fact be developed before your visuals. Your visual identity should support your mission and vision.
9) Overhaul or review your personal brand (LinkedIn and other personal social media profiles).
Never underestimate the value of your personal brand as well. If you have personal social media accounts, do they represent you and your company well? Make sure they are up-to-date, in use, well spoken, and not offensive. If there is a connection between you and your company, make sure that your message is not contrary to the mission and message of your company or organization. It’s worth a look to see if you are coming across professional, well rounded, philanthropic, talented, or however you feel represents you the best.
10) Make an effort to never be caught without your business cards.
You have a box of business fancy business cards in your home, office, or car. Don’t leave them ALL there. We’re not saying that you need to hand out a business card to every person that could possibly use your services, BUT if the subject comes up and someone actually asks for one … a card should be with you. It’s also helpful to get a potential client’s email address, so that you can control the next point of contact. If they don’t reach out to you, you might send a friendly check-in email.
These lists are not in any specific order and are by no means all-inclusive; but we hope that they inspire some ideas in you. Set aside some quiet time to review the list and see what stands out for you. What do you want to focus on each month? As all businesses/organizations are unique, your marketing efforts will not succeed with a cookie cutter approach.