Regardless of funding, revenues, or company size, one of the strongest differentiators an organization can have is its brand. But brand strength doesn't happen on its own. It's a competitive advantage that needs to be earned. It takes organizational self-reflection, focus, and discipline to create a brand that customers prefer over competitors. So it must be tended to and carefully managed. It must have rules placed around it to be easily upheld and presented appropriately. And it needs to be considerate to a quickly changing world with numerous cultural nuances.
Brand management is an ongoing process that involves maintaining consistency around your brand and delivering on the values your organization holds dear to forge a positive association with your audiences. This includes facets like customer satisfaction, packaging, visual presentation, the competition, and more. It’s also a critical business practice for organizations of any size who want to stay relevant in the minds of today’s powerful consumers.
But you don't have to take our word for it. Palmer Hestley, Senior Brand and Marketing Officer at YMCA England and Wales, shares the importance of a brand for their audience in the video clip below.
Inspire a positive brand perception
From the person who answers the phone at your front desk to the sales rep they interact with to the website page they visit and the support people they chat or email, your organization is sending a message. Your brand isn’t just a logo, campaign, or tagline. It’s the culmination of every experience a person has with your organization — which leaves a perception in their mind.
Unfortunately, you can’t control perceptions. You can only influence them.
There are three important things your organization can do consistently to influence positive associations with your brand:
- Follow through on your promises
- Deliver genuine, customer-centric experiences
- Behave with integrity
Know who you are
Positive influence starts with knowing who you are and what you stand for (your brand essence), which is no easy task. You need to ask yourself difficult questions, gain consensus about your organizational values and traits, and activate your brand across teams, locations, and channels.
To make sure everyone is on the same page about who you are, ask your leadership team these types of questions:
- What three words would you use to describe how your organization should always behave? And what three words describe how you should never behave? Then distill a common list of three for each category that you all agree on.
- Who are your top competitors today? Agree on who they are, then determine what value they each deliver and how your organization is uniquely different from them.
- What are three meaningful stories you can share with your audiences that truly encompass the essence of your brand? Don’t tell a big, crazy story to get people’s attention. Make it real.
Know your audience
You also need to know your audience and what they truly want from you to ensure that your brand essence resonates. Ask yourself these types of questions:
- Who are your core audiences today? Maybe you used to serve small businesses, but now you serve mid-size or enterprise businesses. Identify and agree on your target audiences today.
- Are you talking to your audiences regularly? Are you interacting with your audiences via surveys, interviews, dinners, in-person events, or one-on-ones? If not, it’s time to get outside of your office. Your audiences are a mirror and the greatest source of feedback for your brand.
Rally your employees around your brand
Your employees are absolutely essential to managing your brand. After all, they’re the ones who interact with your customers, buyers, and partners every day. The more you communicate about what the brand means to them and how they can move it forward, the more they’ll evangelize your brand and contribute to the success of your business.
Use employee onboarding as an opportunity to teach people how your brand came to be, where it’s going, and why it’s important. Then continue brand training with employees at regular intervals so teams continually learn what’s new and what role they play in bringing it to life. The brand is a living, evolving thing with your employees at the core, so their input is of tremendous value. Ask employees:
- What’s missing? What more do they need to understand the breadth of your brand fully?
- What tools could you provide to help them consistently represent the brand?
- How do they prefer to be communicated to about your brand?
- What will help them control your brand in their everyday work?
Stellar brand management produces real, tangible results for your culture and employees, and it also drives sales revenues not only for one product or service, but for other products and services positively associated with your brand. For example, if a customer loves your cleaning service and trusts your brand, they’re likely to give your cleaning supplies a chance as well. People tend to gravitate towards what they already know, especially if they’ve had a good experience.
Safeguard your brand
There’s only so much you can do to manage your brand if you’re not controlling your brand assets. Logos, photos, product images, sales collateral, and videos have a value associated with them, which needs to be protected. Brand guidelines should be created to explain how and when to use these valuable assets, to get everyone marching in the same direction, and to make it easy for your teams to create communications that are on-brand.
Your guidelines should go beyond logo usage to include all aspects of the brand — mission, vision, values, promise, and visual expression — that lay the foundation for great marketing.
A proven strategy for safeguarding your brand is digital asset management. A DAM system organizes and distributes brand assets from a central hub, serving as a single source of truth for brand visibility, monitoring, and consistency. It’s also a powerful engine for content delivery to empower sales, resellers, e-commerce, and more.
A DAM system can help your organization:
- Create a digital gateway for your brand by using a branded login page, dashboard messages, custom URLs, and more.
- Share more memorable and meaningful stories by using brand portals, shared collections, embed codes, and share links.
- Segment marketing stories by business group, audience, content type, and more using metadata, categories, and search filters.
- Personalize brand experiences using landing pages in different languages, curating asset groups tailored to different audiences, and localizing the brand with custom sales collateral.
- Save brand guidelines where people can easily find them, centralizing brand assets and standards in one location with on-demand access.
- Track how brand assets are being used online, by whom, where, and when using asset-level and site-level content analytics.
This single-source-of-truth strategy enables you to simplify both employee and customer experiences — a common quest for many modern-day marketers.
Measure brand perception
How do you know if you’re managing your brand successfully? You have to talk to your customers and employees. Present them with your brand messages and ask them what they think. Try to get at:
- Message resonance - Do they understand who you are and what value you offer?
- Brand recognition - Can they describe what market you’re in and what you do?
- Brand loyalty - Would they recommend your product or service to others?
- Culture confidence - Do your people know your core values and brand essence? Do they know where to find your brand guidelines, templates, and tools?
Depending on how clearly people connect to who you are or if they can recite your core values, you’ll start to identify areas where your brand is resonating and where it’s not, then you can adjust messaging, brand training, or tactics as needed. Continue to measure every six to 12 months until what you say and what people perceive moves closer together.
Remember, brand management isn’t just about using the right version of a logo. It’s an overarching business practice that distinguishes your company in the marketplace, ensures the strength and consistency of your brand, and helps your organization live up to its promises. In short, brand management can make or break a business, so make sure your brand gets the attention it deserves!