The small branding fixes you need to make to take your marketing skyrocketing to the next level
Most people and companies are still using the word ‘brand’ in reference to their logo and color palette, but it’s much more than that. Marketing becomes better when you have a strong brand, with a good story and voice. A winning brand also back its up with an excellent product, customer service and everything else that brand stands for. But how can your brand stand for anything if you have no clue what it is?
For almost 20 years, I have worked as a sales manager, brand manager and marketing manager with a variety of companies and in the past decade, I have helped literally hundreds of companies improve their marketing. From coffee shops, to restaurants, to some of the most famous names you could imagine, they all have something in common: they do the best they can and not necessarily the best they should. Let me explain.
Companies have a brand, including a logo some other distinguishing attributes, but they rely on sales or marketing people to find clients instead of attracting the right clients by building a brand that is attractive.
Why? Because most of them are not consistent. Why? Because they do not have all the information they need. Why? Because their brand book is lacking.
At my agency, Streetwise, we offer outsourced marketing services. Basically, we have the unique ability to onboard a client and within 14 days (give or take), we can launch their entire marketing department. But to do that in the best possible way, we need to know what we are expected to do and how. So, we start with KPI, a plan, the platforms, the budget and anything else you can think of. Most startups will have some knowledge of these factors.
The tricky part is when we ask for their brand identity, like how it speaks, dresses and operates. You see, when we build a marketing plan, we are expected to wear the brand’s suit, like an actor – to learn and mimic everything about the visual and textual brand, their USP and the small ins and outs. In most cases however, the script still has to be written.
When a brand asks us to scream to the world they have arrived, we need to know what to say, how to sound and how to look. If not, consistency is lacking. The marketing manager and CEO are likely to have a different opinion about the brand’s marketing materials.
In meetings, when someone says, “I personally don’t like it,” or, “I would never click on it,” we know we have a problem. The world is subjective, and a coherent brand should be the only thing that matters. If the content is on brand and the message is relevant to the audience, who cares if a CMO would like or click. Most of the time, they are not the client.
When an issue arises, we ask the clients what their brand would do in that situation. Usually they have no clue, look at their CMO or CEO for decision, passing on the responsibility. If you make the right decision, it’s a brand decision. You will know you made the right call.
A potential client reached out to us asking for a meeting to see if we could help build their brand identity. During the call he asked if I am not making a mistake about the connection between story, brand and marketing. He kept going, explaining he was told these are separate things. I agreed, but….
Marketing can not survive a long successful run without a good brand and a strong story. The story includes all the answers that create a solid, well-rounded character that is the brand, like why it does certain things, how it makes decisions and what will happen when bad times hit, which they will at some point. Sorry, but that’s how the world works. Yes, a brand might have an amazing run for a long time, years even, but at some point, challenges will determine how the brand or management steers through the storm. Without a good brand we have nothing, like walking in the dark and guessing where the target audience might be.
When we have a good brand it’s like reading a story. We imagine how it might be, what it could be and we keep testing and improving. When we go out and start telling people about the brand, we are consistent and confident. We know why we should tweak small things, what should be fought for and what could be dropped. We become the brand ambassadors because we know the brand, we care about it and we are looking for the right audience, one that will feel the same as we feel.
In storytelling (this has become a washed-out word that means very little) a well-rounded character has history and attributes, skills and everything else it needs to be a complete person. This allows writers to push the plot using the character rather than just inventing stuff. When things have logic, we can enjoy the story as it’s consistent for us, the audience. As marketers, this helps us add content and know where the brand should go and how it will behave.
A book or a movie are pieces of art (I have written two novels and always wish I could fix some small things, but I can’t) but a brand is an evolving piece of art. It can grow, change, add new value and become a life force of its own.
Here are some tips that might help you improve your marketing today without having to do an extensive rebrand:
1. Your brand is a round character, so write it down. To make this easier for you I suggest you start with these:
2. What is your brand’s story? How did you come to meet, how did it all start?
3. What does your brand stand for?
4. If you met your brand in the street today, how would it be dressed? How would it behave?
5. How would your brand speak? What kind of words would it choose? How would it greet a new client coming into the office? Create your language. Make sure it’s consistent with everything you have written before. If the brand wears a suit, I doubt it would have the jargon of a surfer dude.
6. Pick 3 different dilemmas or decisions you had to make in the last few months. Look at what you wrote before. Would the brand behave the same? Would it be consistent? Sit with your team to debate these issues and to achieve a consensus on how the brand behaves and why. Some of these will serve you as a guide later, becoming your brand values.
Things change. Life is still happening while you work on your brand. Try being open to laying down the foundations. If you want to run a marathon, you need to have the right gear, training and help before you just go.
Every small tweak will help your marketing, sales and recruitment.