How do you know if your branding works? The answer is simple: it attracts real engagements, generates demand for your products and services, and enables a profound connection between your company and it’s customers.
What if your brand does not work? You will see increasing marketing and advertising costs to maintain results, poor engagement, lack of interest for your company, and little to no organic growth.
The most common issue behind a brand that does not work, is that it was not aligned well to fit the sensitive reality of its target audience and potential customers. Let’s face it: most SME and personal brands are designed based on assumptions, with little to no research regarding the target market, customer personas, their values, expectations and psychological attributes.
In this article, we will discover how to manage a brand purposefully, beautifully – optimizing for commercial success.
The dilemma between creative and business professionals
Before we get started, let’s talk about an issue that is present in most brand management situations. Creatives, marketing leaders and commercial decision-makers tend to have disagreements when it comes to design, branding and brand management. On a smaller scale, solopreneurs and marketing managers often have the same dilemma: how to optimize brand management between creativity and business purpose?
As a marketing consultant for various hotel and travel brands, hospitality and travel tech startups during the past 10 years, I have been involved in heated debates between brand managers and commercial teams in almost all companies. The main reason for these conflicts has been always the fundamentally different perspectives of creative and business-minded people.
In my experience, the best solution for such questions is to define what branding should do from a business perspective, then get creative to make it fulfill its purpose in a beautiful, artistic way. In a business environment, commercial interests come first.
First things first: know what you need to communicate with your brand and marketing efforts
Before designing or updating your brand guidelines, it is utmost important to be familiar with what your potential customers like, ignore or dislike from your company. To develop a solid understanding of this, collecting opinions is the best way to collect information.
Before conceptualizing your brand image and marketing strategy, you need to be able to answer the following questions:
- What value our products, services or solutions will bring to our customers?
- What difficulties our customers might face that our company can solve?
- What traits and characteristics would our customers expect from a solution provider?
- What competences and proof they would expect from a solution provider?
- What are the top qualities you need to demonstrate to build trust?
- What tone of voice would your customers find comfortable?
- And many more depending on your industry, or line of business
As you see, these questions are all about your customers, not about your company or brand. To build a successful business, its brand will need to align with what customers will perceive positively.
To maximize your chances of success, you need to conceptualize your brand to fit customer expectations. Design, colours, typography, visual assets and everything else are just tools to serve this core purpose.
Collect feedback from your target audience
It is a no-brainer to go through the research and conceptualization process in cases of creating a new brand, or rebranding an existing company – but collecting feedback periodically to answer the same questions is also important to keep a brand aligned with changing trends.
Today, we have an abundance of marketing metrics available to us. Clicks, conversion rates, engagement statistics and so on. These are very useful, except that these metrics cannot answer the most important marketing questions, like why the vast majority of our target audience did not engage with your brand.
If your marketing campaign had one million views, 10,000 clicks and 1,000 purchases, then what happened to that 99% of people who have seen your ad but refused to engage with it? Optimizing on the 1% of information that you could record will not solve your 99% problem, so commonly used digital marketing metrics are not suitable to answer brand management questions.
To find meaningful answers to questions related to brand management, the best solution is to do an external brand audit. There are industry-standard solutions available from companies like Brand Auditor, based on big data acquired from various data brokers benchmarked with survey responses targeted to your potential customers, asking specifically about how they perceive your brand and marketing communication.
External audits should not be done internally as personal biases and opinions can dilute the outcome of the research. Ideally, external audits should be based on quantitative data collected from your target market and qualitative information from various external expert sources.
Doing an external brand audit will give accurate information about the strengths and weaknesses of your brand management, based on how your target audience perceives it. It will provide information about what specifically people like and dislike about your brand. An external audit is the most helpful tool to enable brand and marketing managers to make informed decisions about adjustments and optimization.
Optimize for commercial KPIs, based on feedback insights
The purpose of any business optimization is to increase revenue, profitability or cost efficiency of the company. When it comes to sales and marketing, where brand management belongs to, the main goal is to acquire and retain customers more effectively.
Typically, this is achieved by optimizing for the following:
- Improved positioning
- Improved marketing communications
- Improved presentation of unique values of products and services
- Improved demonstration of benefits associated with the company
Changing colours and typography will not solve the underlying marketing problems, neither any business problems resulting from inadequate brand management.
Optimizing for the above points, the company will benefit from the following improvements:
- Lower customer acquisition costs
- Increased organic business growth
- Reduced efforts required to close sales
- Improved ROI across all marketing efforts
- Higher customer satisfaction
A successful brand marketing optimization strategy starts with identifying any shortcomings based on the external brand audit results. Prioritize issues that have a significant impact on commercial results. Do not optimize elements of your brand marketing mix that perform well.
Bring in artistic qualities to create a beautiful finish to your purposeful brand adjustments
Last, but not least, we have arrived at the point when the artistic aspects of branding are required. Artistic brand personality elements like colours, illustrations, photography and the tone of voice are the manifestation of the underlying brand marketing strategy.
These visual elements will be seen by your potential customers, so the importance of getting these elements right is mission-critical.
To bring all the previously mentioned brand marketing strategy into life, the creative team will need to ensure that their work efficiently communicates all the values that the marketing team identified to be important:
- Clear demonstration of brand, product and service values
- Clear communication of associated benefits
- Clear demonstration of how the company can solve problems
- Clear demonstration of brand characteristics and competencies that customers expect
- … and further industry-specific aspects