The perils of neglecting your brand and how to recover
Why is branding important for your business? And how you can start building up your brand now?
When you hear the word “brand,” which companies come to mind? Are you thinking of the huge global brands that can be identified by only their logo?
These companies have spent millions – and continue to spend – to maintain their brands, so that people aren’t just buying a functional product or service, they’re buying into an idea, a purpose. Using an Apple product says something about you as a person, not using an Apple product also says something about you as a person.
So you’re a small-to-medium business. You don’t have millions of pounds to spend maintaining or building a brand. You’re running your business and perhaps your best return on investment comes from PPC, Facebook Ads, or SEO – measurable marketing channels where you can see the sales/leads you’re getting directly.
Let’s take a closer look at why brand is important for your business and how you can start building up your brand now.
What makes a brand?
There are numerous ways to describe what makes a brand. Thomas Gad’s 4-D Branding model breaks down brand into four key components.
This is just one explanation of brand, but it gives you an idea into all the different elements. It also shows why companies spend so much money using specialist brand consultants, copywriters, designers, testing, and tweaking to get everything just right.
- The functional dimension – this is all about the function of your product or service. What does it actually do? And does it do it well?
- The social dimension – this is all about the social connotations attached with using your brand or service. Think about eating out as an example – how does society view people eating in an expensive restaurant compared to those eating in a fast food outlet?
- The mental dimension – this is about how your brand hits people’s thoughts and minds. It could be that they feel a sense of safety and trust when they use your products or services.
- The spiritual dimension – this is about how what your brand stands for aligns with your products and services and your customer’s values. Maybe it’s a pledge to only use recycled materials, or the approach your company takes with an internal staff matter like parental leave.
(For further reading on the spiritual dimension, we blogged about companies using their “brand purpose” for marketing.)
The perils of neglecting your brand
Let’s dial it back to you. You don’t have the resource for all of that right now. Perhaps your business is thriving without you taking into consideration your brand.
Here’s a look at what can happen when you don’t put some love into maintaining and growing your brand.
What was the name of that company again?
You want your customers to remember your company, to buy from you again, and to recommend you to their friends. If your brand isn’t very strong or defined, then it’s easy for customers to forget you.
Think about all the brands and products you come into contact with on an everyday basis. Could you name all the brands of items you have in your home? What toothpaste do you use? Which teabags? What brand is your microwave? How about your smoke alarms? Which company did you get your carpets from? What was the name of that trader who came to connect your TV aerial?
If people can’t remember who you are, it makes it difficult for them to use your products or services again or recommend you to their friends.
You could struggle to grow
Your brand, or lack thereof, could be working wonders for you right now, but it could be a barrier to your growth in the future.
Whether you intend to or not, the people that do remember your company will form an opinion of your brand. This unintentional brand perception could limit your growth because people only see you in one light. Supermarket Aldi for example have spent years working on their brand perception and actively using their “cheap” perception to become one of the UK’s biggest grocers.
Similarly, if you’re not monitoring your brand perception or have a low awareness of how people perceive your company, it’s harder to predict what new product is going to fly off the shelves.
Brand consistency is also important. Without some brand guidelines or tone of voice guidance, your company message could get lost as you grow and employ different people and teams.
Expectation vs Reality
Unintentional brand perception could also hit your conversion rates and cause a headache for your customer service department. What if people perceive your brand as a luxury product, but in reality your product is budget or mid-level? Your budget customers will think you’re too expensive and won’t consider you, and your luxury customers will be disappointed with what they receive.
This could also work in reverse. You may have a luxury product, but the brand perception from your website and the keywords you’re targeting could make you seem like a budget product – so people could feel your products aren’t worth what you’re charging.
Making brand work for you without spending a fortune
So you now know what could go wrong if you don’t put some love into your brand. What can you do now to get your brand working for you?
1. Check your brand perception
Not sure what your brand perception is? Here’s how you can find out: the first option is to hire a brand consultant to research this for you; if that’s not within your budget, option two is to do the research yourself.
Put together a panel of “mystery shoppers” – people within your target audience who are unfamiliar with your brand and ask them what they think when they see your website, your products, and your communications.
For some tips on what to ask and how, Qualtrics has a great article on questions to include in your brand perception survey.
2. Define what you want your brand *to* be
Ok, so your mystery shopping exercise will show you what people think of your brand. But what do you want to be?
To answer this question, again you can get a brand consultant to do this exercise in your company – they’re worth every penny. But if you’re a small brand then that’s not always viable.
3. How different is your external brand perception compared to what you want it to be?
Now it’s time to look at the gap between your external brand perception and how you want to be perceived. It may be a small gap and you can manage with your brand as is for now, carry on your marketing activities as before as long as you keep it consistent.
But if the research exercise shows a concerning gap, then it’s time to look at ways you can remedy the situation.
So the DIY option is to start by speaking to key stakeholders, like the founders of the company and the directors. But don’t just speak to people at the top. Speak to your employees at all levels. What does the company mean to them? How do they feel about the service/products offered? What are the company’s aspirations?
4. List your brand touchpoints
Make a list of all the ways customer interact with you, from your website, to your social channels, the items you send out in the post, emails, calls with your customer service team, everything! Don’t forget the external places too, like your listing on Google Maps.
This list of brand touchpoints shows the areas that you need to work on.
5. Prioritise your list
In an ideal world, you’d have the resource to update all your brand touchpoints at the same time. Meaning your brand is working for you and helping your marketing and sales efforts.
However, for most businesses, there isn’t always resource to update everything at the same time. If you’re in this position, prioritising is key here.
Which are the most important touchpoints? How many people visit your website compared to the number of people who visit in person? Which items on the list can be updated quickly and easily and which will require copy and design resource?
6. Implement your updates in phases
Work through the priority order of your list, updating each touchpoint to ensure your brand message is true to you and consistent.
Consistency is important, and there will be a time when there’s some inconsistency as you’re working your way through the list. But as long as the top priority areas are tackled first, then that’s the best you can do.