Here’s a marketing truth that bears repeating: Your brand is one of the most powerful weapons you have in your quest not only to attract the widest possible audience, but to differentiate yourself from the competition in a meaningful way. While the type of brand you’re trying to build may vary as your company grows and evolves, the steps you’ll use to create and cultivate that brand won’t. Here are four key steps to successful branding that are just as useful today as they will be tomorrow, a year from now, and beyond.
1. Make Marketing Decisions with Your Customers in Mind
Just as you wouldn’t attempt to offer a service or release a product your target audience wouldn’t want, try to keep this same thought in mind when planning your marketing campaigns and branding strategy. Do your target customers respond well to direct mail materials? Are they the type of people who like "larger than life" materials like print billboards? These are all questions you’ll need to continually address and re-address moving forward.
2. Simple, Simple, Simple
One of the keys to building a successful brand is the ability to communicate the company’s core values clearly and concisely. Keep it simple. Never use ten words when five will do. If you can communicate the idea behind what your brand stands for in an image, you may not even need to use words at all. Communicate your branding message in the simplest possible way for the best results.
3. Your Brand is Your Brand is Your Brand
Though your brand may naturally evolve as your business changes, it’s important to take things slowly. If all of your marketing materials reflect one version of your brand in Quarter 1 and a completely different version in Quarter 4, you’re going to develop a bit of a schizophrenic reputation among the people you’re trying to reach. If you make changes that are too drastic too quickly, you run the risk of confusing your brand with itself and creating the image that you’re actually two different companies. For an example of this idea in action, consider the mess Netflix went through when it attempted to split off its DVD-by-mail and Internet streaming components into two separate entities in 2011.
4. Consistency in Language and Intention
Every piece of marketing you put out into the world needs to feel like it’s coming from the same company. Start by developing a "style guide" that you’ll use moving forward. For example, if you write your direct mail materials at a specific reading level, include that in your style guide. Provide a list of acceptable fonts, color palettes, and guidelines for proper logo usage. Consistency is a key way to show people your brand knows what it’s doing without actually saying those words.
As your company ages, it’s naturally going to change and evolve over time. The products and services you’re releasing today will scarcely resemble the ones you offer ten years down the line. One thing, however, will never change, and that’s the power of your brand. No matter what the future holds, the four key steps to successful branding outlined above will never go out of style.