A brand is more than a logo or company name. Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room, the perception that clients or customers have of your business and the voice that defines your organization as a whole—to recognize the value potential here; however, requires branding strategies encapsulating each element.
The rules around branding are evolving more rapidly than ever, thanks to a changing consumer environment. The rise of Millennials, social media and thought-leadership are pushing brands to think differently and engage with their audiences in new ways.
In a world where 64% of customers pursue relationships with brands based on shared values, companies need to identify branding strategies that are designed to make people stop and pay attention. In simple terms, if you want to succeed, then you need to learn how to create a brand that becomes your customer’s best friend.
How to Create a Brand: What is Brand Strategy?
Branding strategies are the action plans that organizations use to differentiate their products, services, and identities from their competitors.
Essentially, a brand strategy is your long-term brand, which helps to identify what kind of image you want to build for your customers. This means thinking about what kind of feelings and expectations you want your audience to associate with your company.
Do you want to be authoritative? Sophisticated? Funny? Professional?
A brand is a culmination of all the intangible feelings and thoughts that accumulate in a customer’s mind when they think about your business. Brand strategies are your way of altering those perceptions until they suit your company goals.
The Anatomy of a Brand: Components of Branding Strategies
According to experts, a good brand can lead to better customer loyalty, enhanced company image, and a more relatable identity.
As more customers continue to differentiate between businesses with emotion and experience, instead of price points and product features, a brand could be the first step to getting ahead of your competition. The question is, do you know how to create a brand that really speaks to your audience?
Before you start investing in social media branding and professional brand consultancy, remember that a successful brand contains the following features.
It’s easy to assume that your brand purpose is something simple, like a desire to make money or be successful. However, the best companies have a drive that goes beyond those obvious elements and separates them from their competitors.
If you can define why your shareholders get up and go to work each morning, then you can begin to establish brand strategies that resonate with the fundamental goals and “vision” of your company. While making money will always be important to any business, consumers feel stronger connections to brands who want to accomplish more than a fat paycheck.
For instance, Tesla wants to be the most innovative technology company in the world – but they’re also fueled by an ambition to transform the world with sustainable, electric power. When Elon Musk shot his convertible into space at the beginning of 2018, he wasn’t doing it to make a profit. Instead, he was demonstrating the durability and innovation of his products.
Once you’ve decided what’s driving your brand forward, you need to stick to those underlying ideas religiously and provide your customers with a consistent, familiar identity. After all, according to studies, brands that present themselves consistently are up to 4x more likely to experience brand visibility.
Consistency is easier to achieve than you might think. It simply means assessing everything you do and asking yourself whether it fits with the image you’re presenting to the world. For instance, if you decided that you want to portray a professional and sophisticated identity, then you might not want to post a meme on your Facebook wall.
A great way to improve your chances of consistency is to create some “brand guidelines”. Walmart is a company that’s done this exceptionally well – providing direction on everything from the brand’s editorial voice, to how to use their logo online.
Remember that consistency in your brand image is also essential for your internal communications plan, as it can help to reinforce your core messages and vision with your employees.
Customers are more “emotional” in their buying choices than you might think. In fact, even B2B brands get more sales when they use “emotional” rather than logical marketing messages.
Emotion is the component that makes good branding strategies, great. If you can find a way to connect with your customers on a deeper level, you can enhance engagement and develop a more sustainable relationship for the long term.
For instance, Apple is one of the best examples of a company that uses emotions to establish strong relationships with customers. The Apple branding strategy uses clean design, simplicity, and a desire for innovation to connect with a wide audience. Apple is powerful because it appeals to our need to be a part of something that’s larger than ourselves.
Apple recognizes our need to be social, and our desire to be a part of an important “group” dynamic. That’s why we see people lining up for days just to get their hands on the latest iPhone or Apple release.
Finally, while your customers are an important factor when it comes to helping your company thrive, there’s another group of people who are frequently overlooked in the business space, and that’s your employees. Whether you’re investing in a new type of social media branding, or you’re building a brand from scratch, you need the insights and buy-in of your customers to be successful.
Integrating a brand advocacy strategy into your branding strategies could help you to create an image that’s inherently more powerful. After all, if multiple people are saying the same things about a company, they’re far more believable than just one voice. What’s more, your marketing messages reach up to 561% more people when shared by employees.
Employee advocacy reinforces the company culture and values that you rave about in your press releases, and through your website “about” page, showing how concepts can translate into real behaviors and campaigns.
For instance, Patagonia publishes employee-generated content onto their corporate blog to showcase their position as a sustainable lifestyle brand.
Employee Advocacy is the Key to Great Branding Strategies
Your staff is the people who live and breathe your identity every day, and according to the Edelman Trust Barometer of 2016, employees are three times more trustworthy than CEOs. Employee engagement (or an absence of it) can affect your brand perception, and how much your customers trust your company.
While brands are beginning to recognize how important their teams can be to their branding strategies, you might not know how to tap into the true potential of your employees when it comes to social media branding.
Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Step 1: Educate Employees & Provide Guidelines
If you want to achieve a strong and consistent brand identity, then you need to make sure that your employee advocates are all on the same page. Asking your staff to create content can be an overwhelming concept at first, as it means they need to combine writing skills with a deep understanding of your brand persona, and the messages you want to send.
If you’re hoping to use your employees in your branding strategies as a way of diversifying the content you publish online, it might be helpful to host training sessions, study groups, and workshops where you can educate them on how to use your brand voice successfully on different social media channels and blogs.
For instance, one of the most commendable features of the Starbucks employee advocacy strategy is the fact that they call their staff “partners” and deliver comprehensive social media guidelines for them to follow when they’re creating content.
Talk to your staff about why you’re including them as part of your brand strategy and give them the tools they need to achieve the consistency your customers crave.
Step 2: Share the Right Resources & Tools
Employee advocates have the power to develop emotional, insightful content for your brand – perfect for establishing long-standing relationships with your customers. While offering educational guidance is a great way to get started when you’re enhancing your branding strategies, you may also need to offer practical resources and tools that can help workers to create and distribute emotive content easily.
For instance, if you want your advocates to share your content, but you know they might have problems writing it themselves, then you could always use a tool like Bambu to share curated content on a connected platform for your staff. That way, your employees can simply share relevant content from a list of available creations, rather than having to write something themselves.
Just remember that if you’re asking your employees to share thoughts about a recent product or service, you should help them to customize their messages with their own voice, so it doesn’t sound like an obvious advertisement.
For instance, L’Oréal has an employee onboarding process that includes “discovery courses” for new products, that allow staff to get a better understanding of the products and services that they’re talking about. This helps each message to sound more natural.
Step 3: Motivate & Reward Your Advocates
Finally, while many of your staff will be happy to talk about your company and take part in social media branding efforts on your behalf, some will want to know what’s in it for them.
Brand ambassadors, just like any other employee, want to be recognized for the hard work they do for your company—the good news is that rewarding your advocates doesn’t have to mean giving them a huge bump in their paycheck. Shout-outs from managers in a team newsletter or small celebrations can be enough to convince your people that an advocacy strategy is worth their time.
You might even consider driving some healthy competition among members of your brand advocacy group by posting a monthly leaderboard that showcases who gets the most shares and comments on social media.
A good way to start adding advocacy to your branding strategies is to work with people who love social media first, as these people can help to motivate other employees. For instance, General Electric used an advocacy pilot that began with 500 employees already engaged on social media to create an army of social sharers.
A Better Brand Starts with Engaged Employees
Branding strategies are all about building an identity for your company, and who better to show off the unique aspects of your business, then the people who spend every day working within it?
If you can inspire your staff to advocate on the behalf of your business, then you can create a brand that’s consistent, emotional, purposeful, and more believable too! All you need to make do is make sure that your team has the right resources on hand.