Another year has come and gone. Many of you have worked diligently to ensure that all branding efforts helped your brand increase its value, connect with all stakeholders and retain its competitive edge. As we look back, we can applaud our efforts, bask in our successes and learn from our challenges. We can also ask ourselves if there were anything we would have done better or even differently? With a new year right around the corner, we have an entirely new set of 365 days of opportunity where we can continue to make brand performance improvements.
Here are five questions you can ask yourself and your answers will help to determine the areas requiring the most brand focus over the next 12 months:
1. Did your brand achieve its highest value?
Every brand has equity. It can be something tangible such as its actual financial worth and brand equity value, which we define as the impact of brand on financial performance expressed as the percentage of market capitalization directly attributable to brand.
Do you know how much of your brand actually contributes to corporate value and/or stock price? Brand equity can also mean something more emotional such as having a strong association to specific core values that are rooted in a trusted brand heritage (i.e. Johnson’s baby) or in customer service (i.e. Amazon, JetBlue). Perhaps your brand is strongly associated with certain visual attributes such as color, typography and imagery (i.e. Coca-Cola, Harley Davidson). Do these still apply to your brand? Are there specific strategies you should be employing to increase your brand’s financial and emotional equity?
2. Is your brand’s strategic platform still providing a unique point of difference?
While you know who your competition is, when was the last time you conducted a thorough strategic analysis of not only your brand’s positioning, but also those of its peers? Competition is increasing across all industries and product categories, with mergers and acquisitions resulting in powerhouse brands and with the influx of new brands launched each year. Where your brand may have once dominated a certain white space, you may find that you are no longer alone and that the competition is infringing upon your territory and causing confusion among your target audience. While your core promise might still apply, perhaps there is some aspect about your brand’s personality and/or positioning that need to be updated.
A simple “gut check” on your brand platform may indicate the need to make adjustments. Some times minor enhancements can result in significant increases in brand performance, especially in further differentiating from the competition.
3. Were your employees, customers and investors fully engaged with your brand?
Once you’ve ensured your strategy is on target, your brand must be fully engaged with your audiences. It all starts with your employees. Your employees are your brand! The best of the best brand strategies will not reach true potential until your employees embrace the strategy and live the brand to the fullest. From the mailroom to the c-suite, from the new hire to the most-tenured employee, each person must be engaged in the brand. This causes a positive reaction that enables them to successfully influence and engage customers, making them want to buy. It also will make investors take notice, enticing them to support and invest in your brand.
4. Is your brand still dressed for success?
Your brand’s overall look and feel greatly influences its ability to connect with your customers. Is your corporate or brand identity as strong as it can be? Chances are, when it was initially designed it was developed for traditional media and communications outlets. Have you assessed your brand’s identity and visual platform within the digital space including the web, mobile and social media? Is it responsive in the digital world? Is your brand’s look and feel evolving with the times and keeping itself relevant with your customers? How does your brand look compared to competitors? Does your brand still “own” a particular color, typestyle or icon or does it need to be evolved or even get a facelift? Visual appeal is critical in ensuring your brand stands out from the crowd and avoids getting lost in a sea of sameness.
5. Has your brand been speaking with a consistent voice?
Your brand is at the center of the universe. Its strategic platform is the blueprint that defines your brand and how you do business, your internal culture and your overall communications’ strategy. When doing strategic outreach, your brand’s core messaging must be consistent, yet tailored to each of its target audiences for maximum impact. For example, how you speak to an investor would be different than how you speak to your employees and even a vendor. However, in order to build your reputation effectively, you must have a consistent voice, keeping true to your brand’s essence. While the intended audience may influence individual messages, the core of your brand should ring true throughout everything you communicate.