What makes up a person? Why do we like and connect to some more than others? Is it because of the look, behavior, characteristics, personality or the value he or she stands for. I would say it is a combination of all attributes and the closer we get to know a person the more we realize that real beauty comes from the inside. We like when someone dares to be who they are, has a healthy belief in themselves and stay authentic.
I believe this is valid also for brands. Successful brands are those which have a clear understanding of what they are. They listen to and understand their customers, they engage with them and are willing to adapt to changes and admit mistakes.
In following I would like to share ten best practices which I think are crucial for developing a successful brand image.
If you want to succeed with something you have to be passionate about it! In my previous blogs I described a few successful persons who have built up a personal brand image around their passion. Let it be Mandela, Bill Gates, Malala, PewDiePie and Beyoncé – the list can go on forever and no matter in which field they are active in, all these people have a common denominator: They all love and are passionate about what they do. No matter if you build or manage your personal brand or the one from a big organization, your passion will affect and influence the whole organization and will naturally create brand advocates within the company. They are the once that spread the word about your positive company culture and great products/services! Think about big brands like Google, IKEA, Red Bull, Apple and H&M – who would not like to work for these successful companies – even if it is only for a short time to get them in your curriculum. They simply embody success!
If you start from scratch, you will need to come up with a brand name for your company. There are many aspects that’s need to be considered when creating a brand. It has to be unique, easy to remember and to pronounce. Think about feelings and emotions you might want to communicate with the name. If you act world wide you need to pay attention to differences in cultural and language. Should the name be descriptive or fictive? Also make sure that the name is free from trademarks on all social media channels and lastly do not forget to secure your brand name.
If your brand name already exists, communicate the story behind it. It gives you the possibility to personalize your brand. I came across the story behind the name OXO. It was chosen because “whether it’s horizontal, vertical, upside down or backwards, it always reads “OXO”. IKEA is formed from the initials of Ingvar Kamprad (the name of the founder) Elmtaryd Agunnaryd (the name of the farm where he grew up). Make a story out of your brand name – tell the meaning of it. We know of parents spending hours and hours coming up with a name for their baby.
I’d like to think about the famous “elevator story”. It is a short story used to quickly describe the brand and with a few words summarizing the mission of an organization. Applying this will help you to set up a vision for your company, deliver a cohesive message about your brand that will resonate with your target audience and be consistent with your message that you would like to get across. Setting up such an elevator story also automatically delivers the keywords to describe your brand and you should make sure to incorporate these keywords throughout your communication.
Your brand’s story defines you from a user perspective. It is like introducing yourself on a speed date.
So you are passionated about your idea, have a brand name, you know what it stands for and the message that you want to get across. The next natural question to ask yourself would be: Who am I going to adress? In other words, you’ll have to define your target audience. But before your start you should identify the influencers in your market, as they usually have strong and loyal followers and can give you an indication of your target audience. Theoretically you can group them according their demographics and physiographic or by e.g. behavior or geographic. What you want to get, is a customer persona – as in order to tailor your message and get it across it is really key to know who you are talking to and to understand them. Let your message trigger emotions, that will make it easier to build a relationship with your audience, you want to give them a reason to engage, to feel good, to feel special and you want to give them something to talk about – YOUR BRAND! It’s like with friends that you share common interest with – you can’t wait to meet and talk.
Digging deeper into your message and talking about generating content you will want to create content which builds relationships and creates awareness. You want people to read your content because it is either funny, entertaining and/or informative, however it should always deliver a clear value. Having a well thought through content strategy is essential.
You must give your audience a reason to follow your blog, Twitter account, Facebook page, Instagram or any other social media platform. A rule that helps here is the the Pareto Rule i.e. sell your product/services/achievements 20% of the time, but the other 80% should be focusing on delivering valuable content. A website can be used to sell the products but social media content should fulfill the purpose to engage your audience so that they want to buy without you actually selling to them. We all know – having a company that sells 100% of their time can be really annoying. You have surely met people that talk on and on forever, not noticing that in fact nobody is listening.
Depending on your target audience you’ll have to choose your channels. It is important that your message is cohesive throughout all platforms, but it might slightly change depending on who you address i.e. Target Audience, Consumers, Influencers, and your brand advocates. Furthermore, each social media channel might also call for adjustments, but from a recognition point of view it is important that you ensure a consistent brand appearance over all channels. See some good example here. In real life you chose a location to meet up with friends depending on what you want to do or talk about. Have a fun evening in the bar or go out for a walk having a deeper conversation. Depending on the purpose the place matters!
7. Listen, listen, listen
Consumer today do not only consume, they want to influence other consumers and the providers of products and services, and also be part of product development. By carefully listening to your audience you can get ideas to improve your offering and adjust your strategy. Make sure to follow them back and respond both to positive and negative criticism. This shows that you care – we all like to get attention!
Listen is key but can be very time-consuming and sometime things start to become meaningful only when put in a larger perspective. With the help of various analytic tools, we are nowadays able to analyze what has been stated about our brand and put it into a perspective. We get insights about what really bothers our audience, what they have on their minds, the best time to communicate, and what is being expected from the brand. Analyze means to care, to understand what is being said, adjust and act accordingly – let your target audience have part in influencing and develop your brand.
To build a brand and to build it solid takes time. You have to be patient and work hard. Growing at a fast pace might be motivating in the beginning, but you must be able to manage growth and keep control of everything that comes with it. You’ll have to ask if you have the manpower and other necessary resources to manage, control and maintain your success. Growing at a slower pace gives you the opportunity to listen carefully, to analyze and act accordingly.
Having moved around in the world I know how time consuming it is to make friends and establish your network. You can throw big parties and invite, neighbors, colleagues from work, sport mates, families of your children’s friends, etc… Very soon the guest list gets very long and you ask yourself how to keep up with all acquaintances. Depending on what you want to achieve, it could be good to invite a few friends at a time, get to know them and have time for deep conversations, rather than small talk and shallow discussions. You might realize you have little in common and they remain a first contact, but still, you have given these persons your full attention.
Some of them will click with you and they will become your friends. You will care for them and they will care for you. In business these persons are called your brand advocates and these are the ones that will help your brand to grow and help to manage crises. They will influence the main stream and help to keep your ship on a steady successful course, just like ripples spreading with a single pebble dropped into water.
10. Social Media Etiquette – Social Responsibility
Although we live in a fast moving technology society, some things never change. Humans have basic needs, like wanting to be appreciated, and to be treated respectfully. Therefore, apply the social media etiquette – be humble, do not ignore (just because you can’t “see” them), be polite, show appreciation and say ‘thank you!’. Nobody is perfect – mistakes are allowed. You just have to deal with them in the correct way.
So to summarize building a successful brand is about to be passionate and give it a name, define the right audience, tell them your story in terms of message and content and communicate it on the right channels. Listen to what they have to say, put it into a perspective and analyze, adjust and act accordingly. It is about creating trust, being humble to your followers/customers etc. and building relationships over time!
Good luck in building your brand and if you have other brand building success factors I’d love you to share them with me.