Getting your corporate branding right is an essential part of business growth. David Langdown, Sales and Marketing Director at Focus7 International, a business development company providing creative expertise and business growth support to SMEs, and an expert in brand strategy, looks at some of elements that make up successful corporate branding and when you should consider a brand refresh.
“The single most important thing to remember about your brand is that it isn’t about how you see yourself, it’s about how other people see you. Yes, that means a great logo, colour schemes, choices of typefaces and so on, but it goes deeper than that. The best brands stand out because they consider everything including tone of voice, choice of imagery, method and style of communication and so on. They develop not just an image, but also a culture that reflects their values in their marketing activity and through the whole organisation.
“A failure to participate in the brand results in a disconnection with the customer. For example a grumpy customer-service experience completely undermines the position of “The World’s Friendliest Bank.”
“Authenticity is therefore key, and there’s nothing wrong with being the most efficient or the lowest cost if that means you can’t be the friendliest or the highest quality. In many cases, it’s the personality of the business leader that sets the tone for the brand. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways will both fly you from London to New York for the same fare, so why is one seen as youthful, fun and adventurous whilst the other is stuffy and corporate and reliable? Surely the fact that one is led by a long haired maverick who started out in the music business and risked his life crossing oceans in powerboats and air balloons is a very significant factor? That creates a series of values that run through the business.”
“We can’t all be Richard Branson but we can be authentic. People deal with people who they relate to, so make sure you reflect yourself in your brand.”
“All brands need to refresh as time goes on. Even giant brands like Google and Unilever undergo subtle branding changes to fit the way their businesses are evolving. Timing is important when planning a brand refresh so how do you know when the time has come?
· Look at your logo, website and marketing literature:When you set your business up it may have all been visually cutting edge, but fonts and colours go out of fashion just as much as haircuts and clothes, so are they now starting to look tired or dated? Ask your peers and colleagues for their opinions on your branding, and if you want really honest opinions, ask your customers!
· Has your business diversified since you started out? If it has, then you may need a brand refresh to reflect the change in products and services. Some businesses may have diversified their product portfolios so that now, even the name of the business doesn’t reflect their activity. For example Apple changed their name from Apple Computer to Apple Inc as they expanded their range of products. Have the courage to make the change!
· Are you expecting to grow your business? If you are planning a merger or partnership with another business, you will need to revisit your brand strategy in line with any changes in your target market. Business transition provides the ideal opportunity to create a new brand, because it also gives you the opportunity to talk to your customers. “You’ll have noticed we’ve changed our name and logo – here’s why and by the way, check out the new website...
· Is your brand doing its job? Maybe initially it worked but you may have widened or narrowed your key target audiences or you want to create a slightly different feel for it. Make sure you get your messaging right if your customer base is changing and ensure that your new branding reflects how you want to be perceived by that core audience.
“Branding is essential to your business strategy and it is therefore vital you get it right. Make sure you think through changes carefully and take expert advice to avoid costly mistakes.”