Branding: It's Not Just for Cows (Part 1)

Branding: It's Not Just for Cows (Part 1)

Content Writer: Tiffany Ware Tiffany Ware Digital Content Manager

There’s a new face of marketing, and it starts with you. “Traditional” marketing tactics have seen diminishing returns year after year thanks, in large part, to social media and the availability of information. The days of billboards, yellow page ads and word-of-mouth referrals are over. Traditional marketing practices are not enough to attract and retain customers in the competitive marketplace.

Consumers want to connect with your business on an emotional level. With the way the Internet has grown, it is easier to engage your customers in a conversation about who you are and what you do. In the digital age, your business needs to be more than just the day to day operations and interactions with your customers.

It can be easy to think that branding stops with your logo, your website and your name, but it goes way beyond that. You can (and should) think of your brand as its own entity—a separate holistic view of your business that people, specifically your customers, can relate to.
Branding Cow
Your brand needs to be the driving force of your business. Everything that you do can either negatively or positively affect the brand, but ultimately how your brand is perceived depends on the relationship you have with your customer.

Aligning your brand with your customer base can yield far greater returns than simple advertising alone. In a 2012 Gallup Poll, consumers were asked “How would you describe what Brand X represents and what makes it different form it competitors. Not surprisingly, across the six brands listed, the ones with the most alignment were the most successful. Not only this, but for businesses that were aligned with the consumers, they were able to achieve a greater wallet share.

What's your point of view?

So you’ve got your business in full swing and you’ve got your model down. While knowing how your business operates is important, it does very little to communicate to your customers who your business is. Your point of view is the heart of your business, and just like a heart, it should be the strongest muscle in your business “body.” If you don’t keep your POV healthy and strong, it will causes issues for the rest of your body and potentially cause lasting damage to the rest of your business.

Your businesses’ point of view is the combination of its mission and values relative to its customers and to the world at large. What does your company stand for? What causes do you support? What values do you hold in highest regard? Having a well-defined and easily recognizable point of view can be the difference between creating lifelong relationships with customers and just having “regulars.”

For a good example, let’s look at the shoe company TOMS. When the company was founded in 2006, the focus of the business was to sell shoes and benefit those who can’t afford them. If you’re not familiar with TOMS’ charitable giving, for every pair of shoes that a customer buys on its site, TOMS will donate a pair of shoes to a person in need. In this case, TOMS’ POV = help others while helping yourself.

Regardless of whether you support a charitable or social cause, your business needs to stand for something. Edelman, a leading public relations firm, conducted a survey in 2012 on consumer views on brands that support good causes. Year after year the level of consumers who are on board with this idea has grown. In fact, consumers are actually more likely to recommend your business if it stands for something.

The POV of your business is the driving force of what you do as a company. It is the ability to connect with your customers on a higher level. Powerful, lasting connections with your customers things other than just your products and services.

You gotta have personality.

Who are you? What are your quirks, strengths and opportunities? These may seem like odd questions when it comes to business, but these are exactly the types of things that your customers are trying to figure out about your business! Your personality is quite literally the brains of your operation. While your POV is what hooks your customers, your business personality is what draws them into the relationship. It’s ultimately what takes you from being Pinnochio, to being a real boy. As a result, your brand should be a living, breathing extension of your business (and let’s be honest, no one wants to hang out with a boring person).

Figuring out the voice or personality of your business can be tricky. It might share personality traits with you or it might be completely off-the-wall. In either case, once you figure it out it’s critical to maintain it and keep your personality consistent. In other words, you shouldn’t let your business develop a multiple personality disorder. It can be very confusing for customers. Brands that have the highest customer interaction levels on social media and the web are also those brands with very unique but consistent personalities.

If you look at your brand and find that your personality is lacking, it’s not necessarily a bad thing! Consider Old Spice. The company took itself from dated and boring to young, fresh and eccentric in the matter of just a few years thanks to the a reinvented personality for the business. It started with the “Look At Me” campaign and has since morphed into a full-fledged personality for the company.

Old Spice Ads

Having an engaging personality is a way of saying, “Hey, you’re like me, let’s be friends,” to your customers. When you’ve created a relationship with them on this level, it can be easier to get word-of-mouth referrals and advocates for your brand. It also doesn’t hurt that those customers who consider your brand a friend are more likely to forgive any mistakes you make moving forward (to an extent of course)!

When you’re looking at your personality you can ask yourself a few questions to really figure out what your brand looks like. Ironically they are the same questions you might ask to figure out your own personality! 
If my brand were a person what…

  • Kinds of music/art/movies/activities would it like?
  • Communication method and language would it use?
  • People would it hang out with?
  • Kind of friends would it have?

And the list can go on. Once you’ve figured it out, though, make sure to check in with your customers to ensure that your brand personality is being communicated effectively and that alignment still exists. What is most important is that you move away from thinking of your brand as a static object and to view it more as a dynamic and fluid entity that is ultimately the champion of your business.

Enjoyed this? Stay tuned for part two. There's more cow to come.