By Lynn Manternach / Guest Editorial
Is 2015 the year you turn up the heat on your brand?
The economy is finally showing signs of warming up, but how’s your brand doing? Does it have the sizzle needed to connect with consumers in a cluttered marketplace? Are you fueling the right brand experience, firing up employee engagement and sparking consumer loyalty?
Here are the top characteristics of hot brands, and how you can use them to help fan the flames of brand loyalty for your company.
Audience knowledge. Do you know enough about your targeted consumers? Do you know which of your brand attributes are most important to them? Do you know how they perceive you when it comes to those most important brand attributes?
Your brand isn’t what you say it is – it’s what they say it is. So, if you want your brand to be relevant to consumers, you need to know what they think.
Putting some science behind your brand strategy allows you to focus on what matters most. When you build your strategy around the aspects of your offering that are most relevant and engaging to customers, you’ll get their attention.
Relevant differentiation. From the customer’s perspective, how are you different from your competitors? A hot brand is clearly differentiated from competitors in ways that are relevant to consumers.
In some industries, differentiation is challenging due to commoditization, but it’s especially important under those circumstances. Bottled water is a great example. For the most part, the product itself is completely undifferentiated – it’s H2O. The brand differentiates it, providing a reason for a consumer to choose one bottle of water over another.
Personality. A brand is a product with a personality. It’s an important part of how a product is differentiated. The brand’s personality is expressed through employees, advertising, packaging and all other brand touch points. Take the time to think about the personality of your brand, and be specific about how you describe it. If everyone who communicates on the company’s behalf really understands the brand personality, you’re much more likely to communicate with a consistent voice.
Cultural buy-in. Your employees are the face of your brand. Do they understand what that means? Can they live the brand in their daily role within your company? Does your leadership team live the brand and demonstrate it in their everyday interactions? Every employee needs to understand their role in delivering the brand experience. Once your brand is part of the culture of your organization, those outside the company will feel it too.
Empowered people. The personality of your company is best expressed though the interactions your employees have with customers and prospects. You may talk about great customer experiences in your marketing, but if customers don’t experience them, it’s simply not true. Treat your front-line employees like your brand depends on them, because it does.
Consistency. A brand helps you stay focused on a unified message. That focus helps you break through the communications clutter and build connections with current and potential customers. If you are communicating your brand consistently across all touch points, you are maximizing your investment and your brand potential.
Exposure. It’s hard to become a hot brand if you’re not in front of consumers. Fortunately, there are more tools and channels than ever before, and it’s possible to connect with consumers without a robust advertising budget. Many brands are finding success with content marketing and targeted social media strategies, instead of relying on traditional marketing and advertising approaches.
Leadership. Branding isn’t just the responsibility of the marketing department – it’s much bigger than that. Because of the focus and effort needed to build and maintain a hot brand, it has to start at the top of the company. If your company’s leadership isn’t committed to living the brand, the branding effort will fail. It has to be integrated across every part of the company internally before it can be experienced outside the company.
Building a hot brand is an ongoing process that requires focus and discipline. Ultimately, the goal is a corporate culture that constantly and consistently reinforces the brand essence, promise and personality. And that will help fan the fires of loyalty.
Lynn Manternach is brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. (MindFireComm.com) in Cedar Rapids and Le Claire. Contact Lynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.