Creating a “Brand”

Understanding branding is critical to the success of any company or organization. And too many CEOs fail to see that this is not just a burden for the marketing team or president—it’s something that has to be internalized by every top and mid-level executive, because where there’s a weak link, a company’s reputation is compromised.

A “brand” can be thought of as the general recognition and impression that a company has among the public, and more importantly, its potential customers. It can be weak or strong, and positive or negative. And it entirely depends on three things: the frequency, the message and the delivery.

In order for people to get to know a company—the same as with individuals—they first have to engage with them on some level, and in order to make a lasting impression, communication has to have some frequency. At the most basic level, this is the point of advertising. But too many companies take it only this far without the more important next step: messaging.

An 1890s advertisement showing model Hilda Cla...
1890s Coca-cola ad

To formulate a message, a company has to know its own identity. What do you do? Why do you do it? What edge do you have over your competitors? Whether you build cabinets or engineer for oil exploration, it’s not enough to tell customers or investors what you do—they need to know why you do it better. And what else can you expect? We all want to make sure our money is used in the best possible way.

Once you know what you want to say, the medium has to carry that message effectively, so it’s usually worth the expense to hire a reputable marketing or design professional, for consulting if nothing else. But not everyone has a budget for that. And even in day-to-day communications, the integrity of the core message and quality of the company has to be maintained. Here are a few quick tips for the layman designer:

1. Stay on point. Convey one strong idea, not twenty weak ones
2. Know the audience you wish to attract and cater to them
3. Keep it simple; the fewer words the better
4. For a classy look, use simple and limited fonts, include breathing room, and try to keep visual balance
5. If affordability is your key message, ignore #4
6. When showing your work, don’t show everything you’ve done, show the best.
7. Be consistent. There’s a reason that major companies like Ford, Apple, Coca-cola and Nike have been using the same logo for decades.

They say “image is everything,” and there’s a lot of truth to that. When it comes to having a successful company, it matters less what you are and more what people think you are. But even if you do everything right—your logo is slick, your webpage is engaging, and customers are flocking to your doorstep—it all means nothing if you can’t deliver.

Long-term reputations are built on customer satisfaction, which means quality results and a pleasant overall experience. A company’s “image” will be tarnished if it does not have the goods to back it up, and will be seen as hypocritical and too dependent on advertising and PR tricks. The public doesn’t want to be tricked into spending money, and sooner or later, they’ll pick up on it. At that point, you’ve lost them—and their potential referrals—for good.

To recap: know what makes you competitive, communicate that consistently and effectively, and do the very best work you’re capable of doing. Any company or organization that can nail these down is in a far greater position to build a reputation for quality and attract loyal customers, donors and investors.

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