As a business owner – or someone taking the important decisions on behalf of one – your brand is one of the most important resources you have. A strong brand acts as a signal, more powerful than any individual marketing campaign, telling your customers that your business is the right one to spend their money with. Rather than the dry facts about the cost and value of your products, your brand allows customers to relate to your business on the level of a human.
It’s hard for people to get excited about or feel loyalty to the collection of legal and financial instruments that constitute a business. Brand building imparts the dry reality of your business with personality and values, allowing customers to feel that vital sense of loyalty, to experience shopping as an interaction that affirms their values and makes them feel good, which they can recommend to others. This means that the work you put into building a strong brand is some of the most important work you will do for your business.
It is, sad to say, easier to damage your brand than to build it. Maintaining a strong, favourable brand is vital, and to do that you need to understand the most important secret behind brand success: consistency.
Brands are built by customers, out of every interaction they have with your business. The conscious branding exercises you do are a big part of that, but not the only part of it: customers are also constructing your identity based on experiences friends have had instore, what happens when they pick up the phone to your helpline, not just what your adverts look like but where they see them: the same ad creates a different impression if it’s in the Daily Telegraph rather than Mail, Croydon rather than Knightsbridge, or Facebook rather than Instagram.
You need to identify your core brand values and make sure every decision you take is consistent with them. An inconsistent experience for customers undermines your brand integrityand exposes the artifice with which brands are built and businesses are done.
The best way to avoid exposing a hollow experience behind the facade of your brand is to make sure it isn’t a facade! Ensure your business is built on values that you truly hold and can embody at every level and you won’t be facing difficult choices about how to project your values through your business decisions: you’ll be living them every day without artifice.