You may have recently reached the conclusion that your brand is not what you want it to be. On the other side, you may be a start-up who is only just beginning to think about what you want your brand to be. In both cases, what is required is an effective brand strategy, or in the case of the first example, a new brand strategy. But what is a brand exactly, and why is it even important. Surely if you have a good product, and sell it at a competitive price, then that is all that is required, right? Wrong. Because a brand is more than just a name and a logo. It’s more than a product and a prize. Your brand is what people say when they talk about you. It is the perception that people hold of your company (rightly or wrongly – this is all about what people think they know, not what they really know), and it is also the voice that you use to promote yourself. Unsurprisingly, in the age we live in, the concept of the brand, or at least how people relate to brands, is evolving. Social media and social awareness and responsibility are taking care of that. What is certain is that a brand strategy of ten years ago certainly wouldn’t wash now. For example, of those that say they have a brand relationship (an affinity with a particular brand), 64% of people said that it was because they had shared values with that brand. Only 13% said they had a relationship because they frequently used that brand. So, here’s a revelation: just because something buys your product or uses your service, it doesn’t mean they have a relationship with your brand. In conclusion, you need to establish your brand, but to do that, you first need to establish a brand strategy. Here’s how you can do just that: Purpose What do you want your brand to be known for? Is it something purely functional, or is it something more than that? Ikea is a good example. In its branding strategy, the company proposes to change the way people live, not just sell them so nice-looking furniture. So, what is your purpose? Do you even have one? This is perhaps the first thing to think about. Who do you want to relate to? In the business, this is called knowing your audience. But do you? I mean, you might have a good idea, but do you really know what makes your audience tick? Do you understand how your audience communicates, and what it seeks in terms of products and services? Do you know what a brand relationship means for your audience? All of these are critical questions that you need to answer in some way shape of form. There may be no single concrete answer to every single question, but adequate research in terms of engaging with your audience and finding out and looking closely at what your competitors do will point you very much in the right direction. Establish a voice A brand voice is pretty much as it sounds: it’s the way you talk to your audience. That means that you have to make a decision about the way you are going to interact in terms of the images you use, the language that you use, the opinions and ideas you wish to express, and the values you wish to promote. For example, you cannot really promote family values if you are selling two-seater sports cars, because how do you marry those two conflicting concepts? Develop your Social Media Voice Your marketing personas might vary between networks. Audiences on TikTok and Snapchat are, for example, typically younger than audiences on Facebook or Twitter. The same content might not work for both networks. You should start with the company’s customer base and then map them to the different social media platforms you want to use. Your Twitter account could target millennials, whilst Instagram targets small business owners. This way, you can figure out your voice on each platform and work on content ideas. Chipotle, for example, uses memes on its Instagram account to connect with a younger generation of internet-savvy customers. These tongue-in-cheek posts are meant to be funny and lighthearted and create a desire for more memes from Chipotle – which means more profile views, follows, and likes! In summary: exam your network’s different demographics or set up a questionnaire to find out, create marketing personas that match these demographics and start creating content to match! Social Media Basics The minute details of social media branding go down to having a consistent logo, color palette, bio, boilerplate and handle. Some companies like to change their logo styling slightly between social media networks, as it depends on the allotted space of profile photos and banners. Whatever you decide to do, just make sure your profiles have a common thread that consumers will recognize as your brand. Burt’s Bees, for instance, uses the same yellow color palette in all of their logos, alongside the same font and images. Although the text content and composition of images changes, the brand idea remains the same. In sum: ensure all logos, banners, bios and posting styles are similar across social media platforms, work on a consistent schedule and content, and then work on adapting your content for current events, news and holidays. Develop Your Social Media Strategy As noted, you might want to standardize all of your social media posts to fit your brand. This consistency goes a long way: your Instagram stories should be in the same style as your Facebook posts, and so on. You might want to design a color palette, pick a font, and then keep these design choices throughout all of your social media accounts and websites. Write out a visual brand guide for your team to include fonts, their uses, and colors. Create a graphic template for each type of post, for example for product announcements. Work on Engagement Once you have decided on your brand voice and brand visuals, you must ensure that captions and other copywritten material have the same personality. Are you aiming to be sarcastic, snarky, informative, or wholesome? Create a voice and tone guide for all employers in the media department to use. Everything, from the smallest details like using the word ‘client’ or ‘customer’, should be examined. Having a reference guide will make it easy for everyone to stay on brand. The one key thing to avoid is having one account saying one thing, and another saying a different thing! Consistency across networks and departments is absolutely essential. Don’t be disparate in your branding! Consider performing social media audits to see what can be improved, too. Be consistent Once you have established your purpose, who your audience is (and what makes them tick) and what your brand’s voice will be, then you need to seek consistency in the way you engage with your audience. Nothing screams of failed branding messages than mixed messages sent out across multiple mediums. Why are you posting what you are posting? What is your latest advertisement really trying to say, and how does it fit in with your brand voice? Understand the Customer Journey When developing your business branding strategy, be aware of what the customer journey is. This means understanding what the ‘ideal’ customer is and where they would be on the consumer journey. The idea behind this is to show how a consumer is connecting to you as a brand at any moment, and this can range from ‘not connected at all’ to ‘loyal brand advocate and repeat customer.’ Other stages include ‘interested in buying your product,’ ‘interacting with you on social media’ and ‘first-time buyer.’ Come up with a roadmap to move customers or potential-customers along this path to the ultimate goal: being a loyal, repeat-buying customer! Points worth examining are if many of your consumers are dropping off the journey map after buying your product once – why are they not returning? What can you do about this? Consider creating a loyalty rewards program, email follow-ups, discounts for repeated buys and so on. Competitive Analysis Another point brand should be doing is researching the competition – in doing so, you can better execute your marketing strategy. Brands do this via competitive analysis: it allows you to understand what other similar companies are doing, what differentiates your company from everyone else, and how you can focus on your individual selling point in your branding strategy. Don’t even think about executing your marketing strategy before analyzing the competition – you don’t want to end up saying the same thing as everyone else, as this will never convince customers to buy from you! Competitive Awareness As well as knowing the lie of the land with competitors, you need to also know what they are saying and doing against you! You’re in the same business and going after the same customers, after all. So, watch what they are doing, and be aware of what tactics succeed, fail, and when they are out to get you. Take this example. On Twitter, a tweet asking which was better, Dominoes or Pizza Hut, was swiftly replied to by Pizza Hut saying, ‘you know our vote!’. Being on the ball with funny social media comebacks and doing everything you can do to promote yourself over your competition, is absolutely key! Flexibility In this ever-changing world, remaining flexible is crucial to remaining relevant. This means you can be creative with your campaigns! Okay, we know we emphasized consistency – but you can be flexible whilst remaining consistent in your branding. Consistency aims to set the standard for your brand, and flexibility allows you to make changes that can build interest and set you out from the competition. In essence, your branding should be consistent enough to be identifiable, but varied enough to remain fresh, interesting and human. Old Spice completely reinvented themselves recently – men of all ages are now wearing Old Spice, whereas before they were a ‘dad’ brand! Emotional, or not emotional? Some brands hang everything out on emotion because they know that’s what most people respond to. However, what’s your product, and what kind of emotions does it inspire? Do you even know the answers to these questions? Building an emotional brand and brand strategy is definitely a winning approach if you pitch it right, and if you are offering the right product or service, but it is also a risk. Get it wrong, and it can deal a major blow to your relationship with your users. Taking a more distant, functional approach can work too in some cases, but it’s very difficult to create any kind of attachment with your audience if you take emotion out of it. The effect is that you just seem cold and if you’re looking for a business and marketing tips, visit BizDig.co Empower your employees What is a better manifestation of your brand than your workforce? Your people are your brand in most cases, so empower your staff to get involved and to reinforce everything that you want your brand to be. This works from a customer service perspective, and from a marketing perspective if you use your employees to market your brand. Build loyalty Above all else, it comes down to loyalty. How can you inspire loyalty in your customer base? Apart from continuing to provide a killer product, offer rewards, engage with your users on social media, listen to their feedback, and even include them in your future marketing and branding approaches. Because if your staff are your brand, then your audience and users are too. Author Bio: Professional proofreader Beatrix Potter is a major contributor to Academic Writing Service. When she isn’t editing and proofing all company literature, Beatrix also enjoys blogging.