Make no mistake about it: your brand is a living thing. You conceive of it, you bring it into the world, and you nurture it. Like a person, your brand is a multi-layered, ever-evolving entity, with its own personality and voice. It communicates and makes promises to people. It lives in a world where only the strongest survive.
In our information-choked world, brands compete with thousands of bits of information every day in an effort to occupy just a small part of the consumer’s brain. If yours is a strong, consistently-delivered brand that connects with your customer, it can cut through all that clutter so that your customer can absorb its message, and respond to it.
So, good branding matters. It’s more than catchy marketing speak. It’s what builds customer loyalty over time, and in turn builds your business.
You can measure the strength of your brand through an examination of its layers—the various aspects that make up your brand. These layers should be aligned with one another. When a brand’s layers are out of alignment, it’s like a person who has difficulty communicating effectively, or whose words don’t quite jive with certain actions. The confusion or the distrust that ensues can quickly turn people off.
It’s easy to allow your brand to get out of alignment. You may feel the urge to imitate your competition, or you may get excited about pursuing a new market segment. When you add to your offerings or seek out new marketing tactics, you need to have a good handle on what your brand is—and what it isn’t—so that these efforts strengthen your brand instead of dilute it.
Start by identifying the layers of your brand, then work to reinforce those that feel weak or undefined. Is your brand in strong health, or is it in critical condition?
We see the layers of a typical brand as including:
Internal brand layers:
Brand Definition. This is a detailed description of what your business is—who you are, what you offer and to whom, and what makes you unique. As the foundation of your brand, your brand definition should be stable and solid, and never confusing.
Brand Values. These are the ideals that your brand represents. What do you stand for? Whether your brand values are quality products, reasonable prices, or sustainable business practices, these are the things you believe in, that you want your customer to believe in as well.
Brand Promise. This is the underlying guarantee that you’re offering to your customers by doing business with you. It’s something that everyone in your organization should internalize, and it should come through easily in all your messaging. Your brand promise must be neatly aligned with both your brand values and your brand experience.
External brand layers:
Brand Identity. This is the visual face of your business—its “look and feel”. Your brand identity comprises the elements that are used to visually communicate your brand definition, such as your logo, brand graphics, colors, fonts, as well as a consistent set of marketing materials and your online presence. Having a strong, well-designed brand identity makes your brand memorable, helps define its personality, and greatly improves its public perception.
Brand Positioning. This is the unique position in the market that is held by your brand—how you differentiate your business from your competition. Positioning sets your brand apart from others in your field, where there may be many other businesses offering the same thing. A unique feature, a well-defined set of values, or clever brand personality can create the positioning your brand needs to stand out.
Brand Messaging. This is the voice of your business. A brand’s messaging includes what a business needs to say about itself, and also how it says it. The writing style you adopt for your messaging helps define your brand’s personality, giving your brand an attitude that should align with the audience you’re targeting. Your message includes things like your tagline, positioning statement, key messages, and marketing copy. It should be relevant, consistent, and true to your brand.
Brand Experience. This is the way in which your customers interact with the products or services you offer. How you deliver your offerings is critical, since the experience your customers have with your business solidifies their opinions and contributes to powerful word-of-mouth advertising. To create a successful brand experience, make sure that the quality and performance of your offerings, as well as the process of interacting with your company, is strongly aligned with your branding.
Carefully developing your brand is key to its success. It takes effort to build and maintain all the layers of your brand, but it’s a process and investment that helps your business grow and stay strong… so it’s well worth it.