You might recall retailer Duluth Trading Company’s ads featuring a giant animated beaver and an everyman character held back by the limitations of his clothes. Or the lumberjack who’s flannel was out of whack. Duluth Trading Company had some notable ads over the years. But their success goes far past brand awareness. They reported their 32nd consecutive quarter of increased net sales year over year. Their net sales increased 25.3% to $471.4 million in 2017 compared to $376.1 million in 2016.That kind of performance makes you wonder what Duluth Trading Company is doing to continuously be successful in a retail market that is competitive and turbulent. Is it the beaver? Is it the distinct visual style? Is it the unique product names like Fire Hose Work Pants? Yes, it is all that, and much more. It’s everything that goes into their brand.
Duluth Trading Company’s brand strategy has a target audience and knows their problems intimately — like, talking about “
How do you get to that position? In this
We all seek that kind of brand. One that defines who we are as an organization and drives revenue through purchases and loyalty. But it’s not always an organizational priority. When sales start to slip
Before launching a company-wide initiative to improve your brand positioning or to refresh your brand identity, set expectations for what building a brand means, then communicate that with your stakeholders.
Branding and brand management is more than a marketing thing. If your brand only aspires to mimic the visual styles of the most successful brands, you’ll miss the opportunity to uniquely connect with an audience. A brand should be embraced across the business.
Branding is not a one-time project. There’s no quick fix for years of neglecting customer service or inconsistent marketing messaging. To build up a reputation and trust, you have to deliver consistently over time. As you rally for an investment in your brand, make sure your stakeholders expect and commit to the long term.
You can’t be everything to everyone. Audiences have different preferences and desires. Don’t get caught between trying to be too many things for too many people. If you do, you’ll lose who you are and that special sauce that your true audience desires.
It takes organizational self-reflection, focus, and discipline to create a brand that reflects who you are and that customers prefer over the competition.
We know that it’s going to take some time, hard work, and focus to become an admired brand. We’re talking about evolving every facet of your business that impacts your customers. This includes customer satisfaction, packaging, visual presentation, positioning against the competition, digital experiences, and more. Where do you start? How long is this going to take? Is it too late? Should you keep reading?
It’s like the classic high school movie where the high schooler tries to fit into a different group to attract their crush. As they try to look and act in a way that’s not authentic to them, awkward hilarity ensues. Let’s skip the awkward part of trying to be a brand you’re not.
If there’s a core reason your business has been successful in the past, don’t completely abandon it. If you provide stellar service, embrace it. If you can provide the cheapest option for the price conscious, flaunt it.
To figure all this out, a good place to start is by listening to your leadership team and working to align everyone about who you are, what you stand for, and what you aspire to be. Ask 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? 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.
Knowing who you are isn’t enough to build a successful brand. You need to pair who you are with the wants, needs, goals, and pain points of your audience. You may be tempted to rely on assumptions you’ve established over the years. You need to know about who they are and what they desire now. So, literally or metaphorically, get out of your chair and learn about your audience.
Seek to get qualitative and quantitative data on your audience to gain a more dimensional understanding. You can have conversations with prospective customers at an industry event. You can dig up data in website analytics tools. You can send out surveys. Whichever ways you get to know your audience, you’ll better understand how your brand can connect with them — through the problems you solve, the language you use, and the ways you talk to them.
As you collect information about your audience, you might realize that you have customers that don’t fit with your purpose. That’s okay. Remember that you can’t be everything to everyone. Use that focused energy to pursue your target audience with reckless abandon.
A note on personalization and brand management: "So many people say 'we personalized this' because we put your name in front of it. That’s ridiculous. Personalizing something is not just using people’s names. It’s designing a personalized experience, so consumers feel the intention of it, the thoughtfulness. Think about the new bars or restaurants you like. They feel like they “get you” because of their point of view. Like, oh my god, they’re playing Springsteen’s “Gypsy Biker,” no one plays that, I bet they know I’m here or scanned my Spotify – and that’s the kind of the personalized experience we strive for; one that feels like its tailor-made and connected for you without being overt or obnoxious." - Mike Altier, Alight, Consumer Experience Agency
All the interviews, collaboration, and strategy
Other ways you can communicate your brand essence include your:
Once you know who you are as a brand, it’s time to start identifying ways that
Everybody writes. Your teams use writing to communicate with your audience in emails, ads, social media,
Try it: Copy and paste some of your brand’s copy into a blank document. Then, do the same with two competitors. Without any brand or product names, could you tell your brand’s writing apart from the competition?
Once you’ve identified your writing style, take your time to enunciate this clearly and thoughtfully for all to embrace. Since your business is made up of people with a range of comfort levels with writing,
Visuals are another powerful tool to connect with your audience. The subject in your visuals and the colors, shapes, and lines you use all work towards evoking emotion. How do you use all the visual elements of design to capture your brand?
Two forms of balance are symmetrical and asymmetrical. Symmetrical balance is created by repeating the reverse of a design on the opposite side of an axis. Think of it as mirroring the image on the other side. Asymmetrical balance is created by elements that are of equal weight but not identical.
You can use space to create emphasis and hierarchy. White space is just as important as the objects in the design. It helps direct the viewer’s eyes. The more space around an object, the easier it is to notice. You can also use white space to provide the
How is this translated across your different mediums like photography, iconography, typography, video, and graphics?
What does your brand sound like? This will help your teams developing videos, podcasts, and other audio mediums.
In addition to creating brand standards, you can give your team a condensed brand management checklist to help them quickly review their content to meet those brand standards.
You know who you are and how that translates across mediums and departments. Now it’s time to share all this great new brand information with your company so they can further embrace who you are.
The big announcement. When you first announce any changes coming to your brand, be clear on what triggered the initiative, what the goals are, and why it’s important for everyone company-wide. If you can get your leadership team to do this, great.
Drip out key information over time. A big announcement can generate excitement and help with buy-in, but updates to a brand are more than something that can be communicated in one big meeting or email. Create a plan to break up snackable chunks of information and drip it out over the course of a few weeks or even months. This will help you focus on the details that will allow your teams to bring the brand to life across all customer touchpoints.
Try it: Break the ice at your next meeting by asking for a definition of one of your brand values or characteristics.
Provide a physical artifact. Another way to keep your updated brand top-of-mind for your employees is by giving them a physical artifact. This object could be a table tent that shares your brand mission, vision, and values that employees can keep at their desk. It could also be a fun item that represents your brand archetype. Is your brand the creator? Give everyone a Lego block that’s in your brand color, they then have a physical reminder that what they do should inspire others to create.
Include brand training in onboarding. As your company grows, use brand training to reinforce the importance of your brand, what it’s made of, and the resources available to support the new employee(s) to embrace the brand in their work. This could include sharing your brand standards, how to access brand-approved templates, and where to go when they have questions.
“Content is what the user came to read, learn, see, or experience,” says Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach in Content Strategy for the Web, Second Edition. With the volume and velocity of content being created across an organization, updating and creating new content with your brand is a daunting project. But it’s a critical thing to do.
All of those experiences need to reinforce your brand. Each image on social media,
Step 1. Content and channel audit. The web gives you countless ways to connect with your audience. If you’re going through a rebrand, that’s countless places you need to update your content and channels.
Resources are finite, so use a content and channel audit to prioritize what gets updated with the new branding and when.
Step 2. Initial launch + turn off the faucet. Set a date for the first launch of your brand in the most critical and highly-visible places. Major changes like a new logo, brand colors, product name, or tagline should be launched across channels at once
Step 3. Update off-brand content. Based on the prioritization of your content audit analysis, update your off-brand content. Have a process to keep track of what’s been updated and what work still needs to be done.
DAM side note: If you’re using a digital asset management system, and have set up embed codes for your assets, this process is considerably easier. That said, with or without embed codes, you still need a comprehensive list of what needs to be updated so nothing falls through the cracks. Processes to keep your content on-brand
If a unified brand across your content was a challenge before the rebrand, consider what processes and tools can help your teams create on-brand content.
Map your current process
Get out your pen and draw up your current content creation process. Think about your own work and the order in which you do things. Then think about what happened before you could start your work and what happens after your work is done. Include departments, teams, goals, and roles throughout the process.
Evaluate your current process
Look at your current process to identify opportunities for improvement. Eliminate redundant work and reviews. Fill gaps where brand-damaging mistakes can be caught. Assign responsibility where it’s ambiguous.
Map your ideal workflows
Take the information you’ve gathered and your analysis of the current state to map out your ideal processes for projects your team frequently creates. Use this as a guide to update your process to deliver more convincing and accurate brand content.
As your creative team develops your brand’s visual style, share that content with your teams. Create on-brand templates for presentations, Word documents, and other commonly used mediums for your customer-facing teams. Not only does it save your team time when creating content, but it will speed up the brand approval process.
You can also create, curate, and give access to an image library of brand-approved files. Self-service access removes that bottleneck for teams communicating with your audience.
As you launch your new brand, you’ll want to monitor the progress of the change and its success.
Sources for monitoring and tracking your brand include:
Surveys: Survey a representation of your audience. How do they perceive your brand? How do they describe your brand? Survey for your net promoter score, then you can measure the impact the changes to your brand have on if your audience would recommend working with you. Does the NPS change over time? Does a unified customer support experience improve customer satisfaction ratings?
Social media: Set up social listening for when your name and account handles come up in social media feeds.
Customer-facing team: Listen to your customer-facing teams to learn about how their contacts are reacting to the changes. Did they notice? What are they saying about it?
Building a brand that’s true to who you are and that drives sales and loyalty is not a small task. Take a look at the Duluth Trading Company website, product reviews, and Twitter account. You’ll notice all the details that go into delivering a consistent, unique brand. It’s proof that it takes a lot of hard work and dedication across teams, but the payoff can be your business’s most powerful asset. So get started!
“You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do.”
— Henry Ford