Well, yes, but fortunately branding for your business doesn’t have to be painful, and in the event you outgrow your branding, you can always reassess and start over. The poor cows are not so lucky.
So what is a ‘brand’ exactly? Is it your logo? Your tagline? The name of your business? Or is it less tangible – like a feeling or emotion. There are two ways to think about this. You have a brand name – which is the name of your business and that functions most like the branding that happens to cows. When you put your name or your logo on something, you are “branding” that product or service as yours.
Your brand, on the other hand, exists only in the minds of your customers. What thoughts come to mind when they hear your ‘brand name’? These thoughts might range from concrete facts about your business (e.g. They’re located in a green building) to beliefs about your business (e.g. They make the best coffee) or less tangible feelings (e.g. I feel special when I go there).
As a business, your goal is to shape the perceptions that your customers or potential customers have about your business, thereby influencing your ‘brand’ identity with the public. You do this through the images you pick to represent your business, the language you use to describe your business, and by the way you interact with your customers or clients when you talk to them in person, via email or over the phone. You do this through print advertising, social media and email marketing.
So how well does your business do at presenting a cohesive brand identity across all of these platforms? The clearer you are in your messaging, the more likely you are to shape the perception of your brand in the way that you desire.
It’s very natural for a business to outgrow it’s initial branding efforts, and for the overall brand image to become a little cluttered, or as we like to say, hodge-podge. If that’s the case, you might want to follow the steps we take during a brand audit:
Step 1: Identify Key Messages
Identifying and refining key messages is an integral part of a successful and cohesive brand strategy. When a business identifies strong, integrated and clear key messages, the business’s entire brand identify comes across as solid, cohesive and authentic.
We tackle this step by brainstorming, writing and then refining 3-5 key messages that you want people to know about your business. What is the unique value proposition that you want to convey about your business, product or services to your customers? What do you offer that customers can’t find anywhere else? How do you want people to perceive your business? Your key messages will become the building blocks for your brand’s identity.
Step 2: Analyze Your Brand
Now’s a good time to get some feedback on your brand from the people who matter – your customers! Take some time to ask for feedback through any channel that makes the most sense for your business. If you’re on social media, ask your followers to describe your business in three words. You’ll be surprised how insightful this can be.
During this step, you should review the different elements that currently comprise your current brand identity and analyze how each element promotes, enhances or possibly detracts from the key messages and overall brand messaging. These elements include, but are not limited to your logo, product packaging, website, advertising, social media campaigns and more.
It’s also really important to consider whether your employees are truly familiar with these key messages. Why does this matter? Because every interaction an employee has with a customer – whether in person, on the phone or via email – is a reflection on your brand. Don’t skip this part of the process.
At the end of Step 2 you’ll have a better sense of what’s working, what isn’t, and where you need to go next.
Step 3: Get Strategic About Your Plan
This is a good time to review your overall marketing plan and consider where you need to make adjustments. If your current brand identity isn’t in sync with your key messages, then outline the steps you need to take to make that happen and consider how best to implement them. At the end of the process, you’ll have a marketing plan that identifies a clear set of goals for improving your brand positioning and strategically communicating with your target audience.