When it comes to marketing, a strong brand is a powerful asset. Whether it’s your product brand, your organizational brand, or your own personal brand, considerable effort should be spent developing your brand image in a manner that resonates with your desired target audiences.
When customers purchase a particular brand or use that brand’s services, they’re often acquiring much more than a product or using much more than a service. They’re associating themselves with an image or reputation that can both reflect and represent their own image. Because of this, your brand positioning needs to be clear enough to portray positive attributes, yet flexible enough to respond to marketplace evolutions. You have to consider not only what your target audiences want right now, but also what they’ll want over the next 5 or 10 or 20 years. Too strong of a focus on the current needs and desires of your audience might put your brand in a situation where your audience will, in essence, outgrow your brand.
To build a long-term branding strategy, consider the following five concepts:
First, develop your brand from the inside out. Your brand is not merely your company name, your logo, your color scheme, your slogan, or your product line. Think of your brand more as your reputation and your image than what you portray on the surface. Build your brand image by providing the type of products, services, and experiences at the levels of quality, speed, innovation, etc. for which you’ll want to be known.
Second, build your brand with conviction, but allow it to have the flexibility to grow and change over time. People change, and if your brand doesn’t change with the marketplace, it runs the risk of becoming obsolete. Building your brand on evergreen concepts like compassion, quality, innovation, and other positive concepts is something to consider, but remember that there should also be a clear connection with filling a need that your audience experiences.
This leads to the third concept: focus your brand attributes more on your customer experiences than on your product offerings. Fulfilling needs, helping people succeed, removing obstacles, creating memories, etc. are much more likely to resonate with audiences than relating a brand to mere product attributes. Yet, your brand still needs to be recognized as being related to a particular set of problem-solving tools if those are what are sought by your target audiences.
Fourth, don’t be afraid of allowing your brand to have different meanings to different audience segments. Some people may see your brand as representing primarily innovation while others see it as customer service while even others see it as consistent quality. You can’t be everything to everyone and you shouldn’t try. It’s beneficial to have a multi-faceted brand and to communicate particular facets differentially to different audience segments.
Finally, a great brand strategy needs to include a set of storylines that can be woven in, out, around, and through your product offerings, your people, and your audiences, with the details of each story developing from multiple engagement experiences. Sometimes your team may be the impetus of a new story and sometimes it may come from somewhere else. You need to be agile in your storytelling so that you can pick up quickly on a storyline that may help to enhance the image of your brand.
In the end, any lasting brand strategy should represent the intersection of what your organization has the ability to become and how that can help your target audiences achieve success.
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