There are many books and papers on how brands are created but all too often they complicate the issue, leaving the reader with the feeling that the idea of developing a brand is something that is out of reach due to the complexities.
While it’s true that the development of a brand can take lots of money and lots of time, every company, regardless of size, should consider taking up the specific effort of brand-building. And even though you might not have the means to build a nationally-recognized brand at any point in the near future, you can build a brand within your targeted market place.
Think of your brand as your reputation. When using this word instead of brand, you can easily understand how all companies, regardless of size, have reputations. Your reputation might exist only in your local community or it might span the country or even the globe. Either way, you’ve got a reputation whether you like it or not, so put some effort into developing it.
To understand the process of how your brand (reputation) is created, let’s take a look at a very simple formula called See, Hear, Feel.
The first thing that happens in the market place is that your prospects SEE your brand. They see your advertisements, trucks, signage, website, and anything else bearing your company identity. Every visual component should have maximum professionalism and consistency.
Next, your prospects HEAR what you have to say. They hear this in various ways such as the words in your sales collateral, the words on your website, the words used by the person answering the phone, the words used in your advertisements, the words used by sales people and customer service staff, etc. Every message should have maximum consistency.
Stop Right There!
Before we continue to the next part of the formula, it’s important for you to understand what is now happening in your prospect’s mind. At this point they’ve SEEN and HEARD your brand and have developed an expectation of what to expect from your company or what I like to call The Virtual Experience. Remember this as we will return to it.
This is where your prospect becomes a customer and experiences what it is like to do business with your company. This is where your company delivers what was sold (whether immediate delivery as in food or long delivery as in construction). Your customer is now experiencing the delivery process and the product itself (whether simple and short as in eating food or complex and long as in getting up-and-running with a major software solution). I will refer to this as The Actual Experience.
Once the FEEL part is complete, your customer will make a comparison between what they EXPECTED (The Virtual Experience) and what they FELT (The Actual Experience).
If their Actual Experience matches or positively exceeds their Virtual Experience, your company gains a ’1′ in the Brand Equity account. If their Actual Experience falls short of their Virtual Experience, your company loses ’10′ in the Brand Equity account (hey, you don’t get a ton of points for doing what was promised but you sure as hell will get beat up when you DON’T deliver on what was promised!).
Audit Your Brand
To ensure that your efforts are helping to build brand equity, you should audit your brand yearly. An auditing process should include a review of each of the three areas discussed to uncover mishaps and opportunities that could be negatively impacting your brand and, ultimately, your bottom line.