Branding is an integrated part of marketing. In order to have effective marketing communications, your brand needs to be on point. The who you are, why you are, what you are, and how you do it is your brand. It should be clearly apparent to anyone interacting with you or one of your marketing pieces.
Sometimes it can be difficult to create concise brand messaging. A common mistake I encounter is brands that have let the platform dictate their brand messaging i.e. having a vastly different brand message on Instagram than on their website or Facebook. While you do want to change your tone slightly based on platform when it is appropriate for your audience, your brand should not be diluted, muddled, or confused just because the delivery method is different.
So how do you create clear brand messaging?
Branding should not be overly complicated. People have short attention spans. They need to encounter your brand and know exactly who you are and what you stand for so, here’s how to start: keep it simple. Who are you? If you’re not entirely sure how to answer that, how do you figure it out?
What is a Brand Audit
If you’re not “brand new” (sorry for the pun, I couldn’t help myself), then your brand probably has already started to take shape. Do you know what that is? It’s best to begin with a brand audit – figuring out what has been said about your brand already. Once you’re aware of the perception of your current brand, you can decide what to maintain, what to change, and the methods you’ll use for doing so.
Tips for conducting a brand audit:
Where to look:
Start with your employees – ask who are we? What do we do? How do we do it? You need to know if your perception is the same as your employees. If it isn’t, your branding likely needs improvement. If your employees don’t answer quickly with the same answer, there’s branding work to be done!
Collateral already in existence – Check the marketing pieces you’ve distributed throughout the years including printed pieces (flyers, brochures, business cards…etc.), social media, news releases, videos, SWAG, branded items, and podcasts. Try to find as much as you can and see what could still be out there in the universe.
Your current website – really take the time and look at your website. Look at all the pages, the structure, pay attention to where your brand exists logo, verbiage – try to think of it from the end-user perspective, especially that of a person who’s first interaction with you might be your site. What message is your site sending?
Social conversations – Monitor social conversations that you aren’t moderating. While it’s great to look at your Facebook page, be sure to check sites that you might not normally be monitoring as closely – Yelp, Glassdoor…etc. (And once you check them out, if you aren’t regularly monitoring them, be sure to add that to your normal routine!) See what the conversation is from the public’s perspective.
AnswerThePublic.com – I touched on this tool in my last blog post, but it’s a great way to see the questions and searches that are related to you. Run a query for your company name and do it for your industry as well to see what people are interested in. This will help you understand not only your particular brand but could be inspirational if you’re thinking about rebranding. Remember, the goal for every company and organization should be to serve others. To be helpful in the ways they need you to be.
Ask your customers directly. This is a great way that should definitely be explored! Ask your current customers via email surveys (SurveyMonkey and Google Forms are both free options you can use!), via social networks like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook (all of which have built in question-asking tools), and in person! Customers can tell you who they think you are, what they think you do, and the feelings they have associated with your company.
Focus group – if you’re looking for a more formal setting of feedback, you can put together a focus group. This wouldn’t be my first go-to method because the validity of the feedback you can get from focus groups varies on a lot of factors (if they are getting paid, how you find them, the way you phrase questions…etc.) but it’s still a good avenue to pursue. You can get member of the public who aren’t your customers and see how well you are penetrating your target market and what their perception is of your company.
Competitors – look at your competitors. What is their brand? How do they express it? What sets you apart – look for the points of difference and think of ways you’ll be able to use your brand to distinguish yourself from others in your industry.
What to look for:
Images – what images are you using to represent yourself across different mediums? What types of people? What styles of fonts? What color scheme? Everything you put out there contributes to the messaging of your brand.
Language – what words are you using? What tone of voice? How long is the copy you write? Do you translate into other languages or incorporate words from other languages? Pay attention to the way you’re expressing your brand.
Tone – what tone of voice do you use? Is it consistent? Where, when, and why does it change? Who is deciding the tone of your company?
Purpose – does everything you do have a purpose? Does it correspond with your vision and strategic direction? Your brand should contribute to your overall purpose.
Analytics – Dive deep into your analytics. Which pages are people looking at? Where do they go? Where do they spend most of their time? This will tell you where people are finding value in you and you can develop your brand around that.
That’s a lot of analysis. But it’s worth it. In order to develop your brand, you need to know what it is and how it’s been communicated. You can’t change a perception that you’re not aware of. You need the knowledge and the way to gain that knowledge is to do your homework (or have either your employees do it or outsource it to professionals). Once you are finished with the brand audit, it should be clear who you are, what’s been said about you, how it’s been said, and you should be pretty motivated and inspired to either continue down the branding path you’re on or to switch gears and put forth the effort to make change happen.
Have you ever had to rebrand? What steps did you take? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!
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Thanks for reading!