If we didn’t already believe that brand was all about colors and slogans and storyboards, Mad Men burst on the scene a decade ago and totally convinced us. It’s pretty rare these days to find someone who thinks the word “brand” extends beyond schemes and logos.
Unfortunately, it’s so much more, especially in the wide-reaching digital age. If you’ve curtailed your definition of what a brand is – and perhaps more importantly, what it has the potential to become – you’re doing yourself, and your clients, no favors.
Below, we’ll explore five surprising truths about what it takes to build your brand in the digital age.
1. Your Employees Are Part of Your Brand
Slapping a themed badge on an eighteen-year-old boy doesn’t make him an asset to your team. It does make him a brand ambassador – i.e. someone showcasing your company to the customer and the public – but if he represents your brand poorly, it will suffer. Likewise, plopping your colors on bunting, business cards or delivery vans does absolutely nothing if the employees hanging them up, handing them out, or driving them don’t represent.
What are we getting at here? Simple: the idea that your brand means something. Your slogan shares your values; your colors enable recognition. But it is your employees who draw customers in, make them happy or pique their tempers, add to your displays or detract from them. Your employees deliver on the promises your brand creates … or they don’t. The best design team in the world can’t build you a great brand if you don’t hire smart, friendly, sensible team members.
2. Customer Service Builds and Destroys Brands Much More Effectively than Design
The way customers perceive the service they receive matters big time to the health and success of your brand. While 87 percent of customers who have a good interaction will share it with others, a full 95 percent of customers who have a bad experience will tell someone else. Moreover, while only 33 percent of customers who have a good experience will share with more than five people, 54 percent of those who aren’t happy will.
In other words, the more angry someone is, the more people they’re going to tell. And in the digital age, it is ridiculously easy to tell lots of people. Want a great brand? Get your customer service right.
3. “Rebranding” Requires Much More Than a New Look
It’s not enough simply to coat your products or services in shiny new icing and hope the customers will come a-flocking. People love or hate a brand based on many factors, and while appearance does matter, your look is merely one sliver of the pie.
Take Coke, America’s Sweetheart of pop. Interestingly, this is not due to better flavor: blind taste tests have proven the majority of consumers prefer the taste of Pepsi. Rather, it is because Coke has taken the time and effort to consistently, over years, tug on our heartstrings. Despite all of Pepsi’s attempts to rebrand itself, Coke still reigns supreme.
Why? Consider the Coca-Cola ads that run every holiday season. Adorable polar bears congregate in starry North Pole scenes, sharing old-fashioned bottles of ice-cold soda. People love these ads. They smack of family, love, relaxation, and nostalgia. They’re pretty and fun, and they make us feel something. Your brand should stir emotion, promising customers the right feelings if they use your products and services. Coke is selling an experience. You should too.
4. Social Media Behavior Matters Greatly to Any Brand
According to Neilsen, “60 percent of consumers researching products through multiple online sources learned about a specific brand or retailer through social networking sites.” Moreover, “Social media plays an important role in how consumers discover, research, and share information about brands and products.”
If you don’t have a fully fleshed-out social media plan, then you’re doing your business a disservice. More to the point, you have an incomplete brand. Complete brands are represented everywhere a consumer might look, so no matter where they do their research, you at least have a fighting chance of earning their loyalty. This means you need to utilize multiple social media platforms, the biggest being Facebook, Twitter, Linked, Google+ and (for very visual brands) Instagram and Pinterest.
Once you open your accounts, use them well. Respond to customer queries, give them a chance to share their opinions, take surveys, and account for their desires and beliefs. It will earn you loyalty in ways that choosing the right shade of green never could.
5. First Impressions Still Count
It takes 7 seconds to make a first impression. In that time, you will have enticed a customer to follow you a bit further, or lose them to another brand, so easy to find with the Internet at our fingertips. Use those 7 seconds well. Colors convey emotion, so choose wisely. More importantly, act the way you want customers to view you. Be trustworthy, providing excellent ideas on your blog. Be actionable, helping people find the right product quickly. Be compassionate, sharing an experience with empathy. But whatever you do, do it right out of the gate. You don’t have much time.
A solid brand is crucial to building and maintaining an audience that loves your products and services and cares about what you have to say. This starts with colors and logos because happy customers need something to attach their loyalty and good memories to. In this sense, streamlined visuals provide a very effective home base.
Many businesses get lost, however, when they fail to follow through on the promises their brand makes. If you want to build a brand in an age where stories spread faster than ever and the Internet makes every whisper indelible, you must deliver. Hire the right people, provide excellent service, make a great first impression, and don’t shy away from social media. Brands that get it right will go the distance.