This is not going to be another piece of brand content that starts out by telling you how important your business’ brand is. If you’re here, you already know that. But just knowing your brand’s importance to the success of your marketing isn’t enough to make it work.
So let’s talk about some effective branding strategies that will help you strengthen your brand, whether you’re starting practically from scratch or you’re just trying to cross your t’s and dot your i’s.
How do you strengthen a brand?
There are a number of branding strategies that you can use to take a weak brand to the next level, or to ensure a strong one doesn’t become stagnant and fall behind the competition. But before you set off on your brand journey, whatever it is, there’s one thing that’s critical to remember: no single brand strategy is a silver bullet. None of these ideas alone are going to revolutionize your marketing, fix all your problems, and dump a pile of revenue in your lap.
But together, they can take you far.
Map out your brand framework
Do you know your brand backwards and forwards? Do you have a good handle on what you’ve done in the past, what exists today, and what you’re missing?
If you lack visibility and expertise in your brand...as you can probably guess, it’s going to be pretty difficult to make the changes you need to make, or even to know what changes are necessary. Two tools can help you here: the brand inventory and the brand audit.
Each is pretty much what it says on the label. In a brand inventory, you are simply gathering everything that has been created in support of marketing your business’s products or services. Yes, that’s likely to be a LOT of content, from your website to any digital ads you’ve run to things like webinars and podcasts. But you need to have it all at hand, if you’re going to dig in—and that’s the brand audit. The purpose of an audit is to create clarity around your brand’s consistency, and help you determine whether your brand is telling your story the way it should.
The better you know where you stand today, the simpler it is to decipher how to improve your brand image. That’s where we’ll look next.
Reinforce brand alignment between your view and your audience’s
One important way to build brand equity is to make sure that what you think you’re saying and what your audience is hearing are the same things. After all, if they aren’t picking up what you’re putting down, you’re going to need to make adjustments to make sure your marketing efforts are building that connection between yourself and your prospects and customers.
How do you determine whether your brand alignment is sound? You’re going to need to talk to people. You’ve already done your own internal research, but going outside your four walls is going to be necessary in order to get the answers you need. There’s a number of ways your brand research can take shape—surveys for surface-level information, interviews to dig in a little bit deeper, focus groups to get a little of both and also allow for interaction to take conversations in interesting and unexpected directions.
The goal here is to get as much information as possible from different angles about how people see your brand. What do they think you stand for? Who do they think you serve? Do they like you? If their answers are what you expected, and they match up with what you’ve been aiming for, that’s great! Your brand is where you want it to be, or at least not far from it. But the farther apart your brand and the public’s perception of it are, the more urgent it is that you make changes to bring them back into alignment.
Connect your brand and customer personas
How much do you know about your audience? If you’ve done your brand research right up to this point, you hopefully have a pretty good idea. But the more detailed a profile you can build of the people you’re talking to, the more easily you can bridge the gap.
When we think about our audience, we do it through building customer personas. The persona represents the “ideal customer”—the person we think will be the best to work with, who will get the most out of our services. We learn as much as we can about this ideal customer from interviews and market research (that’s right, more interviews and research!) and then build everything we put out into the world around trying to connect with those people.
This can’t be something that you just make up as you go along. And it can’t be something that you simply pay lip service to. If you can’t connect with the right people, your brand is not doing its job.
Consistency, consistency, consistency
One of the most important brand awareness strategies is to ensure that your brand shows up in a consistent fashion at all times and in all places. Brand consistency helps in a lot of ways, but in this context the main positive is to guarantee that any time someone sees your marketing, they’re able to associate it clearly with you.
Here’s the deal. If your brand is inconsistent, it’s really hard to build awareness. You can flood the market with ads and content, but if it’s all coming from different places in terms of tone and look, the connection to your business is really tough to make.
Honestly, in a lot of ways, consistency is probably the most important thing about your brand. If the colors are a little off, or the tone doesn’t quite resonate with your audience, that is obviously not ideal, and you should do what you can to adjust it to better fit what your audience is looking for. But at the very least, they will see your work, and know that each time they come into contact with your brand, it’s you. If you have three different unrelated (but awesome) versions of what your brand looks like, it’s very hard to build momentum with individual prospects as they come into contact with you again and again.
Again, this can come from the research you’ve done—specifically your brand inventory and brand audit. When you have the totality of your brand communications laid out before you, it’s usually pretty easy to tell whether or not your brand shows up in a consistent way. If your spread looks like a patchwork quilt, you have some work to do.
Build the pillars of your brand
Building up your brand identity is not an easy task, but it is a rewarding one. Reinforcing your brand means your ROI on each and every marketing engagement increases. Know where your brand stands. Align what you’re saying with what your audience is hearing. Build connections with the right people. The stronger these pillars become, the stronger your brand will be. And the more you’ll get out of your marketing.
Thomas fills a few roles at E3—writer, editor, and resident European soccer expert—but his chief responsibility is content creation. When he's not crafting thoughtful content for the Element Three blog, he's captaining our kickball team, watching the Mets, or talking up Indianapolis to anyone who will listen.
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