Are you investing in your brand?

By Lynn Manternach / Guest Column

Your brand is your company’s most valuable as­set. Are you treating it that way?

Every brand – large and small – needs to evolve over time to remain relevant. It’s a natu­ral and predictable part of the life of a business. Change is a constant, and if your brand isn’t evolving along with your customers, competition and environment, you risk being left behind.

Branding isn’t just another cost counted against your marketing budget. Your brand is how your company is perceived by your cus­tomers, employees and beyond. Shaping those perceptions is the key to influencing behavior – and that behavior impacts your bottom line. That’s why branding is one of the soundest in­vestments your company can make.

A strong brand can help you attract new busi­ness with less effort, avoid competing on price, reduce marketing costs and more easily launch new products or move into new markets. That’s because strong brands know which types of customers are most closely aligned with their unique culture and purpose. Companies that in­vest in their brand know how to articulate their value propositions and relevant differentiators. When you clearly understand who you’re talking to, what they care about and how that connects to what you’re selling, you are well-positioned for success.

Whether you’ve consciously developed it or not, your company already has a brand. Your brand is the core identity of your company. That identity comes from a lot of different sources, in­cluding your employees, expertise, customer ser­vice, product, facility, name, logo and marketing.

To maximize the value of your brand, start with research. Your customers are making de­cisions in a rapidly-changing world, and you need to understand what they’re thinking and feeling. How is your company perceived? Why do customers choose your company over other options? What brings them back? Would they recommend your brand to others? Why or why not? What is it about the experience that your customers like? What are the emotional connec­tions associated with your brand?

You also need to talk to your employees. They’re a critical part of your brand and custom­er experience. Do they understand and believe in what your brand promises to customers? Do they know what they need to do every day to de­liver on that brand promise? Do they have access to the information they need from across the or­ganization to exceed expectations?

Once you have a clear view of how your brand is experienced and perceived both inside and outside the company, you need to build a plan. Brand development takes strategy, focus and per­severance. And it has to start internally. Aligning employees around a common set of expectations for the consumer experience takes time, but cus­tomers will ultimately feel the difference.

Communicate your brand — clearly and con­sistently — every time a customer has an oppor­tunity to interact with it. You want each brand encounter to be part of a harmonious story that forms an emotional bond with your customers. That means you need consistency in your brand look, tone, personality and messaging.

Your brand is bigger than any advertising, pub­lic relations or direct mail campaign you will ever do. It’s literally the foundation for everything you do. You can’t control every aspect of how your brand is perceived, but you can influence and design a positive and engaging experience every time someone comes in contact with it.

As you dig into your budget planning for 2018, make sure you continue to invest in your brand. It’s a never-ending process. But when you look at the big picture, it’s really a no-brainer… branding is an investment with a clear return.

Lynn Manternach is brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. in Cedar Rapids and Le Claire. Contact her at