Editor's note: this post was originally published in August 2019 and has been rewritten and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
I have bad news, and for some, it’s going to be hard to take. The reality is you don’t own your brand. I am sure you're asking, “What do you mean I don’t own my brand? How could I not, it’s mine after all.” This is true, but what’s also true is that your brand touches and connects with people in so many ways that it’s impossible to control them all. Ultimately, your brand lives in the minds and hearts of consumers.
Think of your brand as your child. You can teach your child, dress them, and give them everything they need to succeed. At some point though, you'll have to let them go and be their own person. Sometimes they'll fall in the mud or even say a bad word – it happens.
The good news, however, is that there are several tools at your disposal to strengthen your brand so it can stand tall on it's own. If you master them all, you’ll be able to control your brand image as best as possible.
The 5 golden rules for building a stronger brand
Rule One: You need strong aesthetic appeal
When it comes to aesthetics, the brain loves what it sees. More than 50% of your brain is used to process visual information, compared to only 8% and 3% for touch and hearing respectively. Visual appeal is so important with how your brand is perceived – all day long, humans are seeing and interacting with thousands of brands and judging their visual appeal. Having a cohesive, beautiful, and appealing look for your audience helps build credibility, trust and value.
Think of the strongest valued brands in the world – Coca Cola, Apple, Mercedes-Benz – they all have a strong, consistent look and feel. So much so, you don’t even have to see their logo to know it’s them.
Rule Two: Memorable key messaging
Have you heard of the "Rule of Seven"? It says that you have to hear something seven times before it sinks in and that information is retained. It turns out that that's pretty accurate. According to a study conducted by Microsoft, hearing a message anywhere between six and twenty times is optimal for memory retention.
To make this most effective, it's important to have simple, direct key messages and repeat them as often as possible.
Apple is a great example of this. When you think of the brand, what key messages come to mind?
- “The longest battery life ever in an iPhone.”
- “The largest Apple Watch display yet.”
- “More personal and more entertaining than ever.”
Do you see a pattern? Pretty simple, but Apple uses these phrases to define their iPhone XR, Apple Watch, and Apple TV, and they do it over and over and over again. So much so, you can’t help but remember. It’s not just for you to remember, it’s also to help build brand credibility. The more common a piece of information is, the more it is repeated, the more likely we are to believe it.
Think of, “Make America Great Again,” or on a more positive note, “Yes we can.” Both are key campaign messages, told over and over and over again. Both memorable and both believed because they were commonplace. And referrals are "Yuuuuuuuge". People love to tell other people about the brands they wear, eat and listen to. If they're willing to back up a strong message, they will.
Rule Three: Create a brand community
Humans are social creatures, constantly seeking validation from peers. The feeling of being included in a group or sub-set can be a strong motivator to how one acts. Creating a sub-group for your customers, labelling them, and assigning them qualities you would like them to have will help them feel like they belong and increase the likelihood they will reflect on those behaviours.
Lululemon is a perfect example of this behaviour. They sell atheleisure, so to encourage people into their gear, they get them sweating through community classes and product gifting. Not only this, they also invite customers to interact in-person and online to make them feel part of a larger collective. This drives sales to stores and boosts their brand reputation.
This doesn't just go for your customers but this goes for your employees too. When employees understand the mission and core values of a business, and feel included in them, they're more likely to work in the same direction to achieve the company goals. A strong brand turns customers and employees alike into brand advocates.
Rule Four: Consistency
As your competitors become more competitive than ever, it's easy to want to change what you're doing in hopes to set you apart. Unfortunately, changing what you're doing will often have the opposite effect. Why? Because in order for branding to be effective, it needs to be consistent. There is no better way to lose the trust of your audience then if you are all over the place. Be as consistent as possible with your aesthetics and key messages, and you’ll find yourself with a much stronger brand.
Rule Five: Brand purpose
This should really be rule number one, as it's the foundation all strong brands are built upon. The brand purpose is your brand's reason for existing beyond just making money and it's often how you connect to a like minded audience. Lululemon's brand purpose is elevating the world from mediocrity to greatness. Nike's purpose is to move the world forward through the power of sport – breaking barriers and building community to change the game for all.
The brand purpose serves as the direction in which all things should work towards from product to messaging, ad campaigns to operational function. When a brand purpose is properly established, it becomes a north star for the whole organization.
Your brand goes beyond your logo, it's your company's DNA. The preceding rules might not be all of the rules to follow, but they are some of the most important rules to help your company reach its goals. The greater a company’s devotion to building its brand value, the better the financial return from its efforts. So take a look at your company and all of your customer touch points - be it in-store, your online presence , your products and/or services and figure out what your why and what you're consistently doing to appeal to your audience.
Want to learn how to properly express your brand purpose? Join us for our free webinar!
On Tuesday, April 27 at 9am (MST), our award winning Director of Storytelling, Kurt Beaudoin, will discuss how to creatively express true brand purpose in your marketing campaigns. We'd love to see you there, just register for your ticket below.