Everything changes – a concept we’ve understood to be true at least as far back as the ancient Greeks and Heraclitus. As far as business goes, markets change, the environment changes, legislation changes, competitors enter (and leave) the market, technology improves, customers' change. More recently, the pandemic has shown us in no uncertain terms that circumstances can rapidly change the way you do business.
Your own company changes too – hopefully, it is growing and expanding, creating new opportunities and new challenges. You will be constantly developing your products or services to stay ahead of your competitors. Your business goals will change over time, along with the resources at your disposal.
Failure to adapt to changing circumstances – to evolve, to develop – will result in decreasing sales, or worse. In the ultra-competitive, rapidly changing markets of today’s world, you have to keep moving, keep innovating, keep developing.
This constant flow of change affects every aspect of your business, including branding. As a business you need to be constantly evaluating your brand’s effectiveness, addressing any issues and making improvements. This process of brand development should be fundamental to your ongoing marketing strategy. Branding is not something you can do once and forget about – you need to think of a brand as a living, breathing thing that needs to be tended and managed.
A strong brand adds real value to your marketing and to your business. It contributes in the following ways:
- Increases the effectiveness of your marketing communications
- Sets you apart from competitors and makes your market position more secure
- Increases customer loyalty
- Allows you to charge more for your products or services giving you greater margins
- Insulates your business from potentially detrimental market events
- Lessens the impact of an increase in price
- Gives you greater influence on the industry
- Opens up opportunities for brand extensions and new ventures
- Gives you more power in relationships with suppliers and collaborators
Every few years you will need to undertake a major re-evaluation of your brand – going back to basics and questioning everything. You will need to be prepared to change or even radically alter your brand. You will also need to be prepared to keep it exactly as it is if that's what your re-evaluation suggests.
Whether you are just starting out, branding a new product range or rebranding, there are several elements to brand development that need to be considered as part of your marketing strategy.
One of the key elements of your marketing strategy will be how you wish to present your business, product or service. It’s a crucial element as your choices will determine your audience’s first impressions of your brand. The colours you choose, the typefaces, the graphics – all create that impression. Your identity needs to perform two main tasks: it needs to attract your target audience and it needs to tell a story – the story of who you are.
Along with an identity, you also need to have a brand personality. This personality is the key to engagement. It needs to be a personality your audience can relate to, empathise with and ultimately want to engage with. You develop your personality initially through your brand design, but more strongly and more effectively through the content you create and publish. The tone of voice, attitude and what you have to say will all combine together to establish a personality – either by intention or default. By being in control and consciously developing a personality that fits your marketing strategy you will attract more customers and convert them to your brand.
In addition to the content you publish and your brand's marketing activity, customers will also read what others say about you. They may hear tales from their peers, from competitors or from industry media. This mix of information and stories will coalesce in the customer's mind forming their perception of your brand and what you stand for. The less effort and time you put into your brand’s development, the less control you will have over this brand perception. In some cases, this could prove to have a severely negative effect on sales. But by nurturing and developing the brand, you can maintain a positive perception in customer’s minds and even form a barrier to protect you if there should ever come a time when negative stories surface or there are serious issues your n business faces – for whatever reason.
As part of your brand development process, you should be targeting particular customers – aiming to acquire just those customers that will help your business grow and be profitable. Without a focus, you run the risk of marketing to people who will never buy your product or gaining customers you can’t satisfy because there are wrong for your business.
Publishing relevant, useful content that is aimed at buyers you have identified is the best way to develop your brand’s awareness, perception, personality and to generate leads. This aspect of brand development should be a significant part of your marketing strategy.
The stories you tell and those that are told about you, create your brand and will determine your success or failure as a business.
Brand development is not an option, nor is it a side issue, it is fundamental to the success of your marketing strategy and should not only form the most significant part of your marketing strategy it should also drive the direction and thrust of the strategy. A marketing strategy with no thought of brand development is a sure-fire recipe for failure. Work out what you are doing with your business and your brand, how you are going to develop your brand to achieve that, and then plan your marketing strategy around that.