Top 10 Best Practices for Communicating Organizational Identity and Brand
Posted by arwenmccaffrey
Technology has completely transformed the way we interact. We read breaking news headlines on Twitter, see what others ate for breakfast on Instagram, and bookmark endless DIY ideas on Pinterest. People on the other side of the world become our ‘friends’ on Facebook, often without ever having met them in person. The digital world is always on, and we are almost always connected to it. This interconnected dynamic extends to the business world and our consumption practices. Most of us have marveled at Amazon’s seemingly endless product line and pouted when the item we needed wasn’t available with Prime shipping, but our options are hardly limited to major retailers. The internet is a virtual revolving door of merchants from across the globe, clamoring for our attention and our business. With so many options, what is it about certain brands that attracts attention and wins the loyalties of these ever-connected consumers? How can a brand make itself stand out in the endless sea of choices? I offer these ten suggestions for elevating your brand.
- Be authentic.
Call it essence. Soul. Ethos. What is it that you do? What are you driven by? What do you stand for, and hope to provide to your customers? Who *are* you? Researchers Sung and Kim (2010) call this brand personality. Much like people, brands can embody certain qualities that endear customers to them – the more authentically these qualities are demonstrated, the more trust you will engender from consumers. Furguson (2010) states that authenticity appears once a brand convinces its customer base that profit-making is merely secondary to its core value system. Of course financial growth is important, but in order to achieve that growth, a brand needs to gain a loyal following of customers who are willing to pay for that brand’s experience in the face of competition. Establish what you want to promise your customers, and deliver on that promise.
- Be consistent.
Chahal (2013) states that consistency underscores a brand’s authenticity and credibility. If a customer has a great experience making a purchase in store and decides to buy online, but the website experience doesn’t line up with the in-store experience, that customer is going to question your authenticity. If your brand claims to value fair labor practices and living wages but utilizes sweatshop labor, your brand’s credibility is brought into question. Digital analyst Brian Solis (2013) refers to fragmented brand experiences as brand dilution. If each aspect of the brand experience is not carefully crafted in accordance with your brand’s personality, then these inconsistencies will work against it. During World Cup 2014, FIFA received a lot of criticism for mandating that host country Brazil change its laws forbidding alcohol sales (which was implemented due to alcohol-related deaths during soccer games) so that FIFA’s corporate partner, Budweiser, could reap the financial benefits. This was in clear contradiction of FIFA’s official mission statement, “to improve the lives of young people and their surrounding communities” and “to reduce the negative impact of our activities” (FIFA, “Our Mission”, 1994-2015). By saying one thing and doing another, you are telling your customers that your bottom line is more important than anything else – including them. Customers who don’t feel valued will take their business elsewhere.
(Watch John Oliver mock FIFA’s inconsistencies starting at about 4:30.)
- Write it down.
The vision of your brand can be executed consistently if everybody is literally on the same page. Branding consultant Denise Lee Yohn (2014) suggests that brands create a Brand Toolbox: documents that explain your brand strategy, provide outlines for delivering your brand personality, and guides that walk your employees through making decisions that are congruent with your value system. In other words, it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. And if every aspect and employee of your brand is saying the same thing, then it’s easy for customers to feel confident doing business with you.
- Know your audience.
Both Yohn (2014) and author Scott Davis (2014) discuss the importance of not just talking to your consumers about your brand, but opening a genuine dialogue with them. The goal is to understand your customers’ wants and needs and to design your brand experience accordingly. In order to appeal to your target audience, you need to understand what motivates them. Yohn describes how Pampers effectively put this into effect. In the late 1990s, Pampers was losing significant market share to competitor Huggies, despite its superior product. Pampers conducted focus groups with moms, quickly realizing that while they were satisfied with the product itself, they were more concerned with their babies’ healthy development. Pampers broadened its approach to include mindfulness of babies’ developmental stages, tailoring every aspect of the brand experience accordingly. As a result of their changes, Pampers saw a dramatic increase in global revenue. While negative feedback can be hard to receive, own up to mistakes and learn from them. Strive to improve. If your audience sees that your efforts are genuine, they’ll feel valued and respond in kind.
. (An example of Pampers reconfigured developmental stages approach.)
- Make them swoon.
Ample research exists suggesting that the relationship consumers develop with brands is very similar to relationships they develop with other people. Dunn and Hoegg (2014) have demonstrated that when consumers aren’t able to affiliate with other people, they will turn to brands, which can successfully fill their psychological, interpersonal needs. Sung and Kim’s (2010) whole concept of brand personality, in fact, imbues brands with human-like qualities. And researchers Maxian, Bradley, Wise, and Toulouse (2013) state that brands must build emotional relationships with consumers, because emotion – especially love – evokes consumer loyalty. Put simply, if you want to establish long-term relationships with your consumers, give them what they want – make them fall in love with you.
- Engage frequently.
Just as in a person-to-person relationship, communication of all kinds is necessary to ensure long-term success. The more a brand converses with its customers, the stronger the relationship will become. Dunn and Hoegg (2014) suggest that brand attachment results from consumers having repeated brand experiences. Therefore, the more you engage your customers, the more likely they are to continue to give you their business. Additionally, Sung and Kim (2010) state that every brand interaction that a consumer has over time contributes to the brand’s personality. So not only will frequent engagement earn you customers, they will subsequently reinforce your brand identity. It’s a win-win.
- Don’t spread yourself too thin.
Part of authenticity is knowing what you’re good at – and what you’re not. In order to be great at something, it needs to remain the primary focus of your attention. If a brand tries to do too many things, the quality of the brand experiences it creates will likely suffer. Consumers are far more likely to remember one amazing brand experience over a few mediocre ones. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay often chastises failing restaurants for trying to diversify their menu too much, often at the expense of the food quality and the customer experience. This same concept can be applied to all aspects of your brand personality – product line, store locations, advertising campaigns, etc.
- Use technology – wisely.
Digital marketing analyst Brett Relander (2014) cautions that while social media is a useful engagement tool, too much of it can backfire. High quality content serves a purpose for both brand and consumer, but simply posting on social media for the sake of posting only adds clutter and noise to a consumer’s digital experience. Give the same level of thoughtful attention to your social media strategy as you would to all other brand experiences. Cultivate relevant content. Media that works on Facebook might not work on Snapchat; teens love YouTube but avoid Twitter. Do research into your audience’s media preferences to help you determine the best strategy for your brand.
- Be willing to adapt.
While Facebook seems ubiquitous, it was in its fledgling state only ten years ago. Today, you will be hard pressed to find a modern day business without some sort of social media presence. Technology has developed incredibly fast, and businesses have to be willing to adapt in order to keep up. But that doesn’t mean that you should utilize technology if it won’t contribute to your brand. Solis (2013) cautions against taking technology at face value; it is a valuable tool for engagement, but not the only tool. New apps for sharing content and staying connected appear all the time. Not all of them will stand the test of time, and not all of the ones that do will be right for your business. Filofax, a well-established, UK-based company that makes high quality leather planners – not a modern or technologically-centered product, per se – continues to produce its core product, but has slowly introduced folios of similar quality for tablet users. They also manage a modest social media presence on Facebook and Instagram – platforms which can contribute to Filofax’s narrative and brand authenticity. Video sharing app Vine, successfully used by some companies, would be a poor fit for Filofax’s brand personality. Be open to change, but do so mindfully.
(Filofax’s Pennybridge organizer.)
- Enjoy it!
Passion is contagious. If you’re excited and motivated about what you do, others will notice – especially your customers. It will shine through everything you do, turning every brand experience into a positive encounter that your customers will want to share with each other. A few years back, I had a Kindle from Amazon which suddenly wouldn’t charge. It turns out it was a loose USB port within the Kindle. I called Amazon to inquire, and although it was at least a year old, they shipped me a replacement instantly – no questions asked. I was blown away. Amazon prides itself on catering to the customer, and they fulfill this promise with remarkable efficiency.
Chahal, M. (2013, May 29). Consistent branding: Don’t mess with it. Marketing Week. Retrieved from https://mycourses.queens.edu/learn/pluginfile.php/176438/mod_page/content/16/Consistent%20branding-Dont%20mess%20with%20it.pdf
Davis, S. (2014, May 27). Burberry’s blurred lines: The integrated customer experience. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottdavis/2014/03/27/burberrys-blurred-lines-the-integrated-customer-experience/
Dunn, L., & Hoegg, J. (2014). The impact of fear on emotional brand attachment. Journal of Consumer Research, 41(1), 152-168. doi:10.1086/675377
FIFA. (1994-2015). Our Mission. Retrieved from http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/organisation/mission.html
Furguson, J. (2010, April 28). Brand authenticity – keeping it real, honest, genuine and true [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.brandinsightblog.com/2010/04/28/brand-authenticity-%E2%80%94-keeping-it-real-honest-genuine-and-true/
Maxian, W., Bradley, S. D., Wise, W., & Toulouse, E. N. (2013). Brand love is in the heart: Physiological responding to advertised brands. Psychology & Marketing, 30(6), 469-478. doi:10.1002/mar.20620
Relander, B. (2014, December 9). Too much social media can drive away your customers. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/240350
Sung, Y., & Kim, J. (2010). Effects of brand personality on brand trust and brand affect. Psychology & Marketing, 27(7), 639-661.
Solis, B. (2013). What’s the future of business? Changing the way businesses create experiences. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Yohn, D. L. (2014). What great brands do: The seven brand-building principles that separate the best from the rest. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
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Posted on February 7, 2015, in COMM 664 and tagged brand authenticity, branding, consumer engagement, marketing, organizational identity, social media strategy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.