Every successful business or organization knows that the recipe for a successful brand includes carefully defining what your business represents and delivering a consistent customer experience every time. Whether you are a for-profit business, a non-profit service organization, educational institution, or health care provider, your brand says, “This is who we are and this is what we can do for you.” The stronger your brand is, the greater the connection is to consumer interaction with your organization. This is why it is so important to understand your brand, and why it is so critical to safeguard it.
Protecting your brand, which is your identity in the marketplace, starts with careful brand management. Your brand is used in marketing materials, signage, business stationery, and most importantly, it shows up in the quality of your product or service and the consistency of its delivery. It is perhaps the most valuable piece of your organization, and without proper care and attention, it can easily become tarnished or even disappear completely.
Although you can never completely control how the consumer perceives your brand, you can influence their perception of your brand by carefully guarding its reputation, product quality, and consistency of its reproduction. Be very careful with your brand; promote it, market it, and guard it. Have a strong, creative logo that is visually appealing and indicative of the product you produce or the services you provide. Continuity is the key to an easily recognizable brand, so make certain your provider can manage your company’s color reproduction across numerous media channels that includes the web, print production, signage and all ancillary pieces you might need, such as promotional items.
On the subject of promotional items, remember that any product you give away with your brand imprinted on it becomes an extension of your brand. An inferior product will reflect poorly on your brand, whereas a useful, well made item will support your brand (potentially) for years to come. As an example, approximately twenty years ago, a vending partner gave me a multi-use screwdriver during the holiday season. It included 8 different, interchangeable driver bits, a battery operated light so I could see in dark areas, and a magnet that extends out three feet to retrieve dropped screws from otherwise inaccessible locations. To this day, when I grab that screw driver I still feel appreciation for the sales representative and company that I received it from. I’ve often wondered if they ever imagined that a $10 item would buy over twenty years of positive brand reinforcement and loyalty.
Going full circle brings us back to the ever critical customer experience. It is good practice to periodically ask yourself how you can shape a more positive experience for your customers. How are you treating your customers before, during and after the sale? How do you shape their perception and experience? Is your brand identity consistent with your customer service? When you carefully consider every aspect of customer experience, it is clear to see that your brand reputation plays a large part in both connecting with and retaining customers.
The brand promise must be embraced by those people who support the brand, which includes all the company employees. A brand promise cannot be delivered intermittently; everyone, from the bottom up, must work at delivering it consistently, day after day after day. “Brand loyalty” is one of the most remarkable benefits of branding, and studies have shown that it can be an even greater influence in purchasing than price, advertising and even recommendations from family and friends.