At AKC Marketing, we like to talk about the “big brand.” But what is the big brand? Why is a distinctive brand important in today’s marketplace?
Brent Thomsen, Creative Director at AKC Marketing, understands the importance of a brand and how a well-focused, unique brand can enhance the overall customer experience.
According to HubSpot, a brand helps distinguish one organization from another. Typically comprised of a name, tagline, logo, brand voice and more, the brand also refers to the overall customer experience.
“A good brand extends far beyond just a logo and colors,” Brent explained. “A good brand communicates a clear story about the company. A brand that has a clear story is able to elicit an emotion. Making that human connection from company and product to the audience helps move sales and generate return on investment.”
A well-thought-out brand makes a business memorable. For the most part, it’s the face of the company and helps consumers identify a business across multiple mediums.
One of the best ways to approach the mindset of the branding process is to think of the brand as a person. A brand should have an identity (who it is), personality (how it behaves) and experience (how it’s remembered). Additionally, companies should prioritize consistency when it comes to the brand identity, personality and experience. Inconsistency undermines the brand and can confuse customers. When a brand has a unified presence across mediums and platforms, customers can easily get familiar with, recognize and come to prefer the brand over time.
The brand person (identity, personality, experience) is the overall personality of the business and the promise it makes to customers. The overall identity is typically comprised of the company’s values, how the product or service is communicated and what people should feel when interacting with the brand. Overpromising and under-delivering not only makes for a negative customer experience, but it also leads to distrust and confusion. A brand needs to be authentic. It represents a promise being made to customers.
“Customers will buy into a promise because the customers truly believe in both the company and product,” Brent said. “Customers become advocates that will gladly share their experience with others, thereby generating new business through word-of-mouth and helping tell the brand story.”
Strong word-of-mouth advocacy from customers means the brand is delivering on its promises. When a brand and overall company are delivering on promises and the sales and customer service teams are humming, brand trust, or how strongly customers and consumers believe in the brand, is increased.
Building and following a brand strategy
Brand strategy is the plan that encompasses specific, long-term goals that can be achieved with the evolution of a successful brand, as well as the combined components of a company’s character that make it identifiable. A well-defined and executed brand strategy affects all aspects of a business and is directly connected to consumer needs, emotions and competitive environments. While each company and brand may vary, there are several components that go into building a comprehensive brand strategy that will help keep a company around for ages.
- Purpose: While understanding what the overall business is promising is necessary when defining brand positioning, the day-to-day purpose carries more weight. Defining a business’ purpose can go one of two ways: Functional, focusing on the evaluations of success in terms of immediate and commercial reasons, or Intentional, focusing on success as it relates to the ability to make money and do good in the world.
- Consistency: In an effort to give a new brand a platform to stand on, one needs to be sure that all messaging is cohesive. Ultimately, consistency contributes to brand recognition, which fuels customer loyalty.
- Emotion: People have an innate desire to build relationships and feel a sense of belonging. A brand should find a way to connect with the customer on a deeper, more emotional level.
- Flexibility: In a fast-paced, ever-changing world, marketers must remain flexible to stay relevant. While consistency helps set the standard for a brand, flexibility enables adjustments to be made that build interest and distinguish an approach from that of a competitor.
- Employee Involvement: Achieving a sense of consistency is important to build brand recognition, and while a style guide can help achieve a cohesive digital experience, it's equally important for employees to be well-versed in how to properly communicate the brand message with customers. This also helps build a sense of involvement and purpose within the organization itself. If an employee feels like a valued and integral member of the team, they are more likely to work harder and remain loyal to the company.
- Loyalty: Loyalty is a critical part of every brand strategy, especially when supporting sales. At the end of the day, highlighting a positive relationship between a company and existing customers sets the tone for what potential customers can expect if they choose to do business with the brand.
- Competitive Awareness: Competition should be viewed as a challenge to improve strategy and create greater value in the overall brand. Brands in the same industry are going after the same customers, so paying attention to what the competition is doing is crucial. However, while keeping a pulse on a competitor's strategy is important to enhance a brand, don't let the competition dictate each and every move made.
AKC marketing has had the opportunity to work with many great clients, having been on both sides of the brand coin: maintaining already well-established brands and building brands from the ground up. One such brand AKC has worked with is Pivot Bio.
The company has created a solution to consistently feed nitrogen to corn plants throughout the most-vital stages of the growing season. Unlike traditional synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, Pivot Bio PROVEN® is a more sustainable product for growers, delivering a more predictable, productive and weatherproof source of nitrogen.
“Developing a ‘brand voice’ for Pivot Bio PROVEN® was important to help build customer confidence,” Brent explained. “More so since the product’s microbes are microscopic and invisible to the naked eye. We had to make sure we told the story of productivity and the fact that the product does not wash away during rainstorms.”
The trick was to describe, in a distinct way, how Pivot Bio PROVEN® provides nitrogen to the plant, rain or shine. Therefore, the theme “Nitrogen that stays put. Weather or not.™” was developed and used in various marketing materials, including print, digital and video. The imagery not only shows traditional beauty shots of a healthy, productive cornfield on a sunny day, but also that same field under duress during a rainstorm. The simple, yet effective play on imagery and the spin on a well-known phrase resonates with growers who have to deal with Mother Nature on a daily basis and understand you can’t control the weather.
So, what exactly is a “big brand?”
“Simply put, branding is everything,” Brent said. “Good branding improves company recognition and creates customer trust. It tells a story and elicits an emotion. It develops a loyal following and generates new customers. It’s the perception others have of a business.”
Customers are basing their loyalty on price or product less frequently. Instead, they are staying loyal with companies due to the experiences they have received. A staggering 87% of customers think brands should work harder at delivering a consistent experience.
At AKC Marketing, we can help shape that perception and push brands to the next level, rising above the competition while meeting customer expectations and delivering a consistent experience across the board. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you find your brand’s identity, personality and experience so it can really start to take off.