For marketers, a brand is only as powerful as how it’s received. You may put hours into developing and curating branded content, but if consumers don’t latch on, your time may as well have been wasted.
Branding isn’t only about coming up with flashy materials — it’s about developing an identity that people can genuinely connect with. It’s never easy to predict what will engage your customers and what won’t. But doing some creative strategizing can get you on the right path.
Just because branding is challenging doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort. To give your marketing a major boost, focus on the key elements of your brand:
1. Think outside the box.
Consumers might not be drawn to your brand in the way you would expect, and that’s OK. When a product or service is deployed, there’s no way of knowing exactly how it’s going to be utilized by customers. Brainstorm the different reasons people could engage with your brand, even if some seem a little unorthodox.
Take kid-friendly phone network Gabb Wireless as an example. By giving children access to safe cell phone technology, you’d expect the brand to focus on increasing screen time and computer usage. Stephen Dalby, the company’s founder, centers his brand on using phones to encourage kids to go outside and use tech responsibly. By taking a counterintuitive approach to his branding, Dalby promotes the well-being of his customers while attracting new ones.
2. Talk to your customers.
Want to know which aspects of your brand will have the biggest impact on customers? Just ask them. On the whole, consumers are eager to share feedback if they expect it to improve their experience in the long run. More than 80 percent of customers completed at least one feedback survey in 2015.
Roger Kamea, vice president of data science and technology at digital marketing firm Adviso, recommends using social media feedback from sites like Facebook and Twitter to get a sense of how your base is engaging with your brand. Posting surveys or allowing customers to contact your business directly establishes a line of connection between you and your clientele. You can use this information to constantly reconsider and refine key elements of your branding.
3. Identify your base.
Not all types of branding work with every customer. Businesses geared toward products for older generations shouldn’t waste time trying to follow every new trend in youth outreach, and vice versa. Building a successful brand means developing an image that caters to your customers.
For the past several years, Netflix has been using customers’ watching patterns not just to influence recommendations, but also to make decisions on what kind of original programming it should greenlight. While your brand might not produce big-budget films, you can still use power analytics tools. These can help you develop a deeper understanding of how you can connect with and satisfy your customers.
4. Evaluate your marketing channels.
After identifying key figures regarding your consumer base’s wants and needs, look at how these might affect the marketing channels you use. Brands today have more options than ever when it comes to getting their message out there, but not all of these channels will work equally.
Steve Harvey of Fabrik Brands proposes a marketing channel strategy that helps your brand identify where its communication and marketing efforts need to be directed. If, for example, the vast majority of your customers are regular Facebook users, you might conclude that heavy Facebook marketing will catch the attention of customers likely to engage with your brand. Far too often, marketers put their focus on the message without thinking about how that message is delivered.
5. Look at competitors.
Brands don’t exist in a vacuum — whether you like it or not, you’re constantly competing against other companies for the same groups of potential customers. To stay above the competition, you have to know what you’re up against. Performing regular competitive analysis is key, but your job doesn’t stop there.
Once you understand the branding logic of your competition, you need to figure out how to set your brand apart. Bethany Shepard of marketing consultancy Element Three compiled a helpful list of brands that successfully differentiated. But your brand’s story needs to be its own. Return to the core elements of your brand’s identity and move outward, constantly keeping in mind the movements of similar brands.
Branding is a never-ending process, but putting in some serious effort early on can pay off big down the line. By developing an understanding of your brand’s most important elements, you can better connect with key customer groups — putting your business one step ahead in the process.