We pick up many subtle cues from the way things look and quickly form opinions about them. We do this every day when we look at how people are dressed. We also do it with the way companies look & feel in their advertising—also known as their brand identity. Just like people, brands give subtle cues that allow us to quickly form opinions about them. This article dives into why and how this happens, and how it applies to your business.
Your brand identity is basically how your business shows up dressed for work.
Take the picture of the following two salesmen:
Who would you feel more comfortable buying a luxury car from? Easy right?
But now take the following two:
Based on a quick glance, which one do you feel more comfortable taking the keys from?
Is it the guy on the left?
Why? Technically both are well-dressed, well-groomed, textbook examples of a professional salesperson. But the difference here is much more subtle. It’s in the body language and subtle expressions of both people. The guy on the left looks more friendly. He’s smiling. He’s not imposing. He’s not pushing the keys out to you like he just lost a bet to you. He looks like he’s genuinely happy for you.
We can pick up subtle cues in people’s facial expressions because we’ve spent years interacting with them and learning about their behavior.
Brands are no different because people have also spent years interacting with the media – brands, advertisements, products and companies. We are completely surrounded by them. In fact we probably interact with brands as much as we interact with other people – if not even more! Do you think that those interactions are training our minds to react to things a certain way too?
A logo and brand identity contains the same sort of obvious and subtle visual cues as a person’s facial expression. We know that some things we look at just feel right, or they don’t. How do customers respond to the cues your brand is sending them?
Early warning signs that your brand identity isn’t working
When a brand identity isn’t sending the right message, it can cause a host of problems with your marketing efforts. Here are some tell-tale signs to look out for:
- You are not attracting enough customers
- You are attracting the wrong customers
- You consistently have to compete on price
- You have a hard time improving customer loyalty
- You have a hard time educating customers about what you do
- You have a hard time getting customers to talk about you
- You constantly hear employees complaining about your shirts or uniforms
Of course, a brand identity may not the only factor contributing to these symptoms – but it’s an important area that you should definitely examine if you’re troubleshooting your sales performance.
Attributes of a well-managed brand strategy
Can you answer yes to most of these questions?
- Did you hire a professional branding agency to design your brand identity?
- Did you use the same agency to develop the rest of your core marketing materials?
- Does your website, brochure, letterhead, business card, billboard, flyer and – basically anything you show to a customer – have the same look & feel?
- Do you have an official logo, color scheme and fonts – and are these used consistently in all of your publications?
- Do you have a brand style guide, documenting the elements of your visual style and providing designers clear instructions on how to work with your brand?
- Do you have an official logo files CD, containing your logo and style guide in multiple formats?
- Do you have a process in place to review the quality of your advertising & determine if it meets your brand standards?
- Do you have pre-designed templates for your marketing materials that designers can use to ensure consistency (and reduce your ongoing design costs?)
- Do you review your brand identity on an annual or bi-annual basis to determine if it is still relevant and current with your current market position?
If not, you should consider having your brand strategy evaluated by a branding agency. Such an evaluation can give you priceless insight on what is and isn’t working with your brand identity and provide you with useful information on how to improve it.
Benefits of a proper branding strategy
Changing or redefining your brand identity is a valuable investment in the future of your business. Businesses who employ an effective branding strategy enjoy many immediate and lasting benefits:
- Branded products command higher prices (think jeans) = Higher Margins
- Customers choose your brand more often when faced with a choice = Higher Revenues
- Customers respond better to your advertising = Lower Advertising Costs
- Customers are more willing to refer your business = Lower Advertising Costs
- Customers make personal associations with strong brands = Customer Loyalty
- A powerful brand is a line-item on your balance sheet (“goodwill”) = Higher Equity
- Branded templates reduce time & money spent on ongoing design = Higher Profits
P.S. The economy is not an excuse… it’s a reason!
A bad economy is the worst reason to put the quality of your brand identity and marketing efforts on the back-burner. Especially if you have a well established or quality brand already – you are damaging your image in the one time it is actually easiest to build it up.
That’s right… a bad economy is the best time to build your brand. Your competitors are all going to be pulling back, “hunkering down” and waiting for the ship to leave port. What better time than now to bolster your position in a less competitive marketplace? Your marketing dollars will go much further than in times of economic prosperity, and let’s face it – you need the business.
So if you can’t afford to spend the money on your marketing right now, that’s exactly the reason you need to spend money! Because the longer you wait, the worse things will get, and the further you’ll have to go to catch up.
Branding is a strategic investment in the future of your company.
Make the investment and reap the benefits both now and years down the road!