To enhance your brand image, you have to understand – and we mean really understand – your starting position. Give your brand a long, hard look, trying to be honest rather than aspirational.
Every major brand has a distinct personality. While these companies serve similar customer needs, you’d never confuse Tesco for Sainsbury’s, Microsoft for Apple, KFC for McDonald’s, Holiday Inn for the Ritz, or British Airways for Emirates.
Having helped companies develop effective brand communications over the past 10 years, we’ve come up with a handful of tips to help you improve the way others perceive your brand.
1. Know your brand image
Brands develop specific attributes, most of which are earned through their actions. Smart brands always look to improve that list of attributes in order to attract the type of customer they want to serve in the future.
Ask yourself these three questions:
- Why do customers choose us? (Not why would we like to think they choose us, but why DO they choose us?)
- Relative to other brands serving the same customers, how does our brand stack up?
- How would our brand attributes change if we better served our customers?
2. Attract the customers you want
It’s not all about you; your personal preferences, while interesting, aren’t particularly relevant. Your brand image should speak to what your target audiences care about and value.
Engineering-driven technology companies sometimes create brand images that reflect the technical founder’s view of the world. That’s usually a mistake.
Your customers may buy ultra-high performance networking gear from you, but what they really want is improved employee productivity, enhanced employee satisfaction, and the ability to fulfil their customers’ orders during peak seasons.
You may think you’re selling boxes when what you’re actually selling is peace of mind. IQ is important, but when it comes to your brand, EQ is perhaps a little more important.
So, let’s say you’re selling peace of mind. Think about colours, fonts and imagery that convey peace of mind. People will judge you – at least initially – by your appearance, so think long and hard about how to convey your brand image in everything you do, always putting the customer first.
3. Communicate your brand values
Your website and collateral aren’t the only things communicating your messages to customers and prospects; every single person in your company is a brand ambassador.
Given this, hire carefully and build your brand promise from the inside out. Set and enforce the right tone, making sure everyone who works at your company knows what you stand for, how you operate, and what kind of a customer experience you intend to deliver.
For Zappos, the brand promise involves delivering superior service and selection to online shoppers. The company has very generous free shipping (both ways), and a 365-day “no questions asked” return policy.
More importantly, perhaps, is that all Zappos employees are aware of the brand promise, and they’re given latitude in their interactions with customers.
The result? 75% of Zappos customers are repeat customers. That’s pretty remarkable, but then, Zappos has done the work to build a great brand.
What is your brand promise and do all of your employees know it and act accordingly?
4. First impressions can be lasting
It’s true you cannot make “old friends overnight” and it’s “what’s on the inside” that counts. That said, many people will make snap decisions about your brand based on the first impression. If they like what they see, they’ll investigate further. If not, they’ll go elsewhere.
For instance, it’s not right that pretty babies get smiled at more than homely babies, but studies have proven that to be true.
It may not be fair, but that’s life.
So, carefully review all of your potential customer touch points to ensure that prospective customers get a “brand-appropriate” first impression.
What impression will they take away of your brand when they visit your website, stop by your exhibition stand, connect with you on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, come to your offices or meet your employees?
If it’s positive and consistent with your brand promise, congratulations! If not, you’d be well advised to make the necessary changes as soon as practical possible.
5. Be consistent with your brand image
A “smart consistency” is critical to building your brand and growing your business. Emirates Airline is a great example of how consistency of interaction increases customer loyalty; the interactions customers have with the Airline have a tone/tenor customers can get used to and enjoy.
On one occasion we also had an “off brand” experience; the same day that we let Emirates Airline know about that interaction, they responded promptly with a sincere apology, and a satisfactory resolution – preserving their positive brand image in our eyes. Smart move indeed.
Customers like knowing what to expect from the interactions they have with your company.
This means you need to deliver brand-consistent experiences across sales, customer support and accounts receivable calls, in all your direct marketing efforts, on social media channels, throughout your PR and advertising programs, on the web, etc.
It extends to the tone and personality your people and processes take when interacting with customers and prospective customers anywhere along the line.
Why do you need to ensure that your company delivers the same brand experience across every department? Because when people know what to expect, they come to trust you. Once they trust you, they’re more likely to recommend you to their friends, family and colleagues.
The industry term for this is brand continuity, and it’s very important to your long-term business success.