Many people have the misguided impression that branding and marketing can be considered two separate entities. They could not be more incorrect. Both aspects are essential to an effective marketing plan, as one definitely drives the other. Try doing only one facet, however, and you’ll discover it makes the task of marketing your company more difficult than necessary. Like peanut butter without jelly or green eggs without ham. Determine your brand identity from the onset and it will serve as the guidepost in developing the remainder of your marketing strategies.
The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers”. However, your brand is more than just your logo; your brand is the integration of your visual presence, employee representation, customer interaction . . . specifically, your brand is the way you want your customers to think of your company. Additionally, you want your customers to think of your company as the only one out there who can provide the solutions they seek.
In order to achieve a successful brand, you must first understand what your current and prospective customers want and need. Who better to give you that information than the employees who work with your customers each day? Start your brand identity from within your own organization. If your employees don’t deliver your intended brand, the remainder of your marketing plan will be for naught.
Need proof? Visit a travel website, for instance – TripAdvisor.com, Travelocity.com, Expedia.com – and you are likely to find several negative reviews with “poor customer service” as the main downfall. Those employees did not represent their company’s brand successfully, resulting in an unfavorable experience to the customer. On the other hand, employees who consistently uphold the brand can facilitate enormous company growth.
Once you have established your brand identity to your employees, it’s important to back it up. Lead by example; be consistent with your brand guidelines – everything from how your logo is used to your company’s core values. When your customers consistently receive service that mirrors your brand, the next step of your marketing plan will practically write itself.
The purpose of a brand is to differentiate one company from another. Used correctly, a well thought out brand will shape everything from the color combination on your color business cards, to the photos that should be used when printing catalogs, to the type of language you should use when printing booklets for your employees. Strengthen your brand and the strength of your marketing will soon follow suit.