It’s not uncommon for our clients to associate the worth of their brand with the quality and impact of their visual assets. Brand components such as logos and visual designs should convey aspects of your brand’s personality, but they don’t exhaust the equity you’ve worked hard to establish. Before you can measure the effectiveness of your brand and put it to work for the good of your business, you need to appreciate its intangible scope. Let’s consider a few key characteristics of brand before reflecting on how to approach a brand-building exercise.
What’s in a brand?
Think of your brand as an asset residing on your balance sheet that encapsulates the virtues of your business. Some of those virtues are linked to features and benefits of your products or services, while others are associated with the merits of your sales execution and the satisfactory customer service you provide. The totality of these subjective associations, impressions and practical interactions combine to form your brand.
Your brand also embodies your prominence in the marketplace and positions you alongside your competitors. Remember, brands such as FedEx immediately summon to mind similar brands such as UPS. No brand exists in a vacuum, so it’s best to think of your brand as locating you within a competitive landscape, not designating you as a unique entity. The key is to evoke the right set of comparisons.
Your logo is the visual cue standing in for your brand story, a convenient abbreviation that conjures up all the impressions — positive and negative — a person attaches to their experiences with you. It should reflect design decisions that capture your core value commitments and operational attributes. Brand is irreducible to logo, but a logo’s capacity to reference your brand’s intangible value through the power of association should not be discounted.
Thinking holistically about brand
To summarize, your brand is more than your logo or how your website and business letterhead look. Each of those elements deserve your attention, but no one asset captures the entirety of what your brand means to your customers. To do your brand justice requires that you think purposefully about how it impacts other business decisions.
Consider the following:
- Think of brand as the lens through which you evaluate future initiatives and determine whether messaging collateral satisfies strategic imperatives.
- Every marketing exercise should stay true to brand, so your brand ultimately influences every factor of your business’ expression.
- Not only should your brand inform major business decisions, it serves as a well-defined internal rallying cry to energize your employees around a common goal.
- At its core, brand is the essence of who you are and what you strive to achieve as a business, as well as the attributes that qualify you to succeed.
Putting brand to work
Few other factors are as crucial to your success or as fundamental to your identify as brand. As the bedrock of your business strategy, it deserves careful cultivation. Interbrand, a brand consultancy that publishes an annual appraisal of top performing brands, stresses the importance of providing employees with a clear sense of your brand's mission. "Clarity about what the brand stands for is the condition for growth. A well-crafted, well-communicated, and shared vision of what the brand stands for, who it is targeting, and how it should be experienced is a foundational cornerstone that will ensure the whole business is pulling in the same direction to support growth objectives."
In light of the importance brand plays in your business' success, consider completing a brand exercise that challenges you to define the discrete elements comprising your brand identity. What ideals or value commitments shape your brand personality? What is the central vision propelling your mission? Standardize these insights by incorporating them into a document your employees can reference when formulating messaging collateral. Encourage businesswide adoption to ensure messaging consistency, and impress upon your employees the importance of projecting a consistent brand persona.
Sometimes it’s difficult to manage a brand-engineering exercise internally. If you’re struggling to pinpoint your key differentiators or define your business objectives in ways that appeal to external audiences, consider recruiting the aid of an experienced brand consultancy.