Think of a company, any company. Preferably one you’ve had little to do with on a personal basis. Now, ask yourself: What is my opinion of that organisation? If the answer’s “Yeah, they’re pretty good”, or better still, “I’d recommend those guys any day”, then said company should be high-fiving one another all the way to the next marketing meeting, because they’ve just, despite the odds, won you over. In a market saturated with sales techniques, product offers and all-round mass competition, that’s something to celebrate. Because, simply put, we’ve adapted to believe we’re smarter than the latest marketing technique. As Scott Cook of P&G accurately stated “A brand is no longer what we tell consumers it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” And we trust fellow consumers a hell of a lot more than we do the organisations themselves. This is no truer than in the world of Social Media for business, in which bad tastes, left by bad experiences are shared and on show, indefinitely, for all to see. Tumultuous Tweets and pissed off posts are just the beginning, though. It all boils down to perception, and there are as many turrets to defend, as there are potential points of attack when it comes to brand image.
“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”
– Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon
Whether you’re a new business, trying to make new friends in the proverbial playground of competition, or an established organisation, attempting to keep your loyal entourage on-side, there’s a few things you need to do, to ensure you grow and age like a fine wine, not old grapes.
Figure out what you stand for
Before pen touches paper, or you decide on a colour scheme for your new logo, you need to determine what makes you, you. What makes you so different to the guys down the road offering a similar service at a cheaper price? Find that, develop it and then tell people about it.
Research & Design (No, not just a logo)
A logo is an extension of your brand, not what defines it. It should be a recognisable feature that’s unmistakably you. But it’s far from everything. Develop a tone of voice in all that you write and communicate. Let your business stationery communicate your brand for you. Ask yourself: “Do my business cards scream [Your Business Name Here]?” If you don’t need a Twitter account, don’t have one. Everything that is designed or implemented as part of your brand should serve a purpose and if it doesn’t, lose it. As with most things in life, don’t just do what everyone else is doing — it’s the quickest way to blend in with the crowd, and to lose credibility. Be friendly, be approachable, and most of all, be consistent.
Remember, you’re creating an experience
It’s incredibly easy for the average consumer to regard your company, no matter how large, as a nameless, faceless entity, whose sole purpose is to reel us in, bleed us dry and move onto the next sucker. Make each point of contact exciting and rewarding, and above all, be human. Do what you do, and do it well. Exercising a little empathy could mean the difference between a thumbs ups and a thumbs down which today, could mean the difference between success and failure.
Keep your Promises
Just in general, be honest, open and fair.
It’s a lot more stressful and time consuming to be forever apologising, than it is to deliver the right thing, at the right time. And, if you do cock up, admit it and move on. Don’t bury your head in the sand because you may find, that when you come up for air, you’ve lost your opportunity.
Be consistent, but not predictable. People tend to like (nice) surprises, but not meeting their expectations? Not so much. Consumers need to know that if they choose you, they’ll get what they want, all the time, every time. This is why it is so important to establish brand guidelines and practices that your entire organisation is aware of, so that no matter who your customer happens to deal with, they’ll leave feeling satisfied and more importantly, likely to recommend you to the mother-in-law.