Recently, a friend was telling me about some training she had done to prepare for a major conference. ‘What does your brand walk like?’ the trainer asked her. ‘Walk up onto the stage like that.’
She said she felt like a fool, but she knew exactly what her brand would walk like and she did it – and all the other crazy things they had her do to be ready for a TED-talk style presentation.
It left me wondering, how well would you have to know your brand to know how it would walk?
Why you must know your brand
As we’ve discussed before, your brand is so much more than your logo or your corporate colors and fonts. It’s your whole identity. Customer perception is central to your brand but you should be in control of the messages they’re receiving to build that perception. If you can’t pin down exactly what your brand is, customer perception will be muddled – and that endangers brand loyalty and, ultimately, sales.
How to build a brand identity: Create your brand character
This article from Entrepreneur recommends you imagine your brand as a fictional character:
'What is this person like? How does he or she behave? It’s also helpful to create a persona for your average target customer as a counterbalance.'
This is such a great step in building brand identity. Imagine if your brand spoke – does it have a regional accent? Maybe an exotic foreign accent? What kind of clothes would it wear? What would it do in its free time?
Some companies have been very successful at pouring this brand identity into a character within their advertising campaigns – remember the Marlboro Man? Of course, not all brands need or suit this level of personification, but knowing what your brand would look like as a person is still helpful when making branding decisions.
Building the customer persona is equally important – you need to know who you’re selling to as well as what you’re selling. Obviously, it doesn’t make sense for those two personas to be the same. The brand has to offer something for the customer to aspire to, otherwise why would they buy?
Develop a ‘look’ and a ‘voice’
Now that you know how your brand talks and dresses, you need to work that into a look – i.e. a visual identity, including logo, design, colors, fonts, etc. – and a voice. What are you saying to customers and how are you saying it?
When it comes to look, this article from HubSpot showcases 20 stunning examples of brand style guides. From this, you should get a feel for how specific you need to be and the range of differences you may wish to allow. This is the kind of thing that marketing would give to design agencies or web development companies, but it’s also important that the sales team know the guide should they venture into developing their own sales collateral.
Defining your brand’s voice is a bit harder. This article from the Content Marketing Institute guides you through the process of definition, right up to building a brand voice chart. By using the brand personality developed above, it is possible to pinpoint three words that describe that personality and then use those to build a voice. In the example in this article, one of the three words chosen is ‘passionate’, which translates into using strong verbs, being champions and cheerleaders, and steering clear of the passive voice. You can see how such directions would help in content development, particularly when directing people from outside the company, such as freelance copywriters.
Train up your brand ambassadors
Even if you work in an organization that specifically employs brand ambassadors, it’s worth remembering that all your employees should be trained for this role. This is especially true of your sales people, who are most frequently customer-facing.
In order to build a strong brand identity, everyone needs to be on the same page. That starts with training. Check out this insightful article from Influitive about building a brand ambassador training program. They give 5 tips, including giving your employees tools for success – like hashtags they can use, events to attend and swanky branded merchandise; dedicated social media training; and clear and accessible brand content. Harvard Business Review, meanwhile, recommends that corporate culture should also reflect your brand.
'If your culture and your brand are driven by the same purpose and values and if you weave them together into a single guiding force for your company, you will win the competitive battle for customers and employees, future-proof your business from failures and downturns, and produce an organization that operates with integrity and authenticity.'
Maintaining brand identity
Developing a brand identity is hard work, but it’s only the start of your journey. In order to maintain and build on your brand strength, everything always needs to come back to your brand. Consistency is crucial, but don’t be afraid to grow as your products, customers and market grows.
As mentioned above, making sure that your employees have access to brand content is essential. Using a Sales Enablement tool as a platform for your content is a great way to ensure that marketing retains control of brand identity, but that sales can make use of all the available brand content to have conversations with customers. All of the content can be stored in one place with a quick-search function that makes it easy to find the resources you are looking for. Using a platform that is available on mobile devices means that your salespeople can introduce your brand to customers anywhere, any time.
What has been your most useful tool for building and maintaining your brand identity? We’d love to hear from you!