How To Create a Contagious, Viral and Unforgettable Brand
By John Welch on March 18, 2020
What’s With All the Hype?
“Branding” has been a hot topic for a while now. The problem is that it’s all bark and no bite. Plenty of companies are touting “branding” as the super important one thing you must do, but few of them actually have any idea what that means or how to accomplish it.
For the past 10 years or so, the marketing world has been alive with the POWER of BRANDING.
That’s because (when it’s done right) branding can truly revolutionize your business. Good branding impacts your business on multiple levels:
- It attracts new customers and retains current customers.
- It unifies your company culture and turns every member of your company into a salesperson.
- It creates differentiation and mind-share in your market.
- Finally, it makes your sales team’s job EASY.
Why Is Everyone Branding Wrong?
Before we can talk about doing it correctly, let’s discuss a little bit about how most companies are branding wrong.
There are some very common pitfalls that businesses and marketing agencies fall into when they’re working on creating a brand. Here’s a list of no-no’s when it comes to branding:
(1) Making your own company the focus of your branding efforts. This sounds counter-intuitive, but is the biggest reason why most businesses get their branding wrong.
(2) Focusing branding efforts on messaging only. There is much more to branding than messaging. Words are important, but they’re not the whole picture.
(3) On the flip side of that is focusing branding efforts on visuals only. Similar to messaging, but just as common. Your logo and graphics have a place, but they matter much less than most people would imagine.
(4) Assuming that your website is your biggest branding asset. When you spend most of your marketing budget on your website, it leaves you incapable of accessing other branding avenues that are vital to success.
These are the main areas where we see businesses and agencies fail in their branding efforts. There are other ways to mess up your branding, but most of the time it will be one of these mistakes. Compare your own branding strategy against this no-no list to see where you might be off-base in your own branding.
So What’s the “Secret Sauce” for Creating an Unforgettable Brand?
Like most things in business, everyone is looking for the “secret sauce.” They want to know that one thing they can do to “elevate” their brand and “go viral.” This attitude is the result of so many online marketers constantly trying to sell courses and programs that give you “the one thing you need to know to build your brand,” or things like that.
In reality, branding is not what most people think it is. It’s not sexy, it’s not some magical collection of words that will melt the heart of the most hardened hater. It’s not what Hollywood tries to tell you it is.
If we were going to pick one word that best describes the concept of branding it would be: “consistency.”
Consistency is the backbone of unforgettable branding. In a way, it is a bit of a secret sauce—one thing you need to ensure that your branding efforts do not go to waste. (Although there are plenty of other ingredients in the branding burger.)
Consistency in Branding Application
All the major examples that you’ll ever hear of branding done right, Apple, Southwest Airlines, Nike, etc. have consistency in spades. It’s the piece that no one talks about and the only part that actually matters.
Your message is important, but if it changes every year, it’s useless for your brand. Your visuals are powerful, but if they’re constantly getting updated and “re-vamped” you’ll never form a connection with your audience.
Think of Coca-Cola. You cannot get more consistent than their brand. Coca-Cola was founded in 1886, that’s over 125 years ago! Their brand has remained largely unchanged during that time. Coca-Cola’s brand is consistent and absolutely unforgettable.
Consistency is by no means the only piece of unforgettable branding, (we’re going to dive into all the aspects that are usually ignored) but it is the foundation. There is no brand without consistency. You cannot create a branding plan for the next 5 years. Your brand is something you are picking for the long haul.
The Building Blocks of Amazing Branding
If consistency is the foundation, then what are the building blocks? Again, they’re not what you would ordinarily assume based on the average person’s idea of branding. Let’s dig into the 5 major building blocks of branding!
Branding Building Block #1 - Experience Is Everything
The first building block of branding is customer experience. This is universally true. The first story, as it were, of your brand is your customer experience. This is because the foundation of marketing is actually your own customers—though most businesses do not behave this way.
Here’s how it works. Your brand, at its core, is really just your reputation. That starts with the people that are currently doing business with you. The better their experience, the better their perception of your business. Perception is 9/10’s of reality. Hence, your customer experience is the first building block of your brand.
How To Create An Amazing Customer Experience
Make It Easy: Customer experience is an elusive idea. Simply put, customer experience is the way you make your customers FEEL. This is why customer experience starts with one thing: how easy do you make it for your customer to do business with you? That’s the reality of customer experience.
🔑 Simplicity is key to customer interactions.
When you ponder how you interact with customers look at every area of your customer interaction. This includes the sales process, customer service, ongoing support, help desk, and any other touch points between you and your customer.
Do It Right: Once you’re making it easy for them, you need to make sure you’re doing the work right. (This is not as important as having a simple process to do business with your customers, though as most consumers prefer simple steps to the difficulties of searching for the best quality.)
Doing things right means that you understand your craft. You know how to do it right and you get it right the first time (saving you and the customer headaches, time, and money).
Make It Right: This is the last piece of an amazing customer experience. You will inevitably run into situations with unhappy customers or poorly delivered services. It’s important to make things right for your customers. This also means that sometimes you must swallow your pride when you know something is not your fault. It’s still your responsibility to make it right.
Notes on Customer Experience
Customer experience is largely how your customers feel about you. You must approach customer experience with both eyes open.
Customers are fickle, unreasonable, and often wrong. If you want to create an amazing experience, you need to minimize opportunities for misunderstandings and mistakes and also take extreme ownership of customer outcomes (simplicity!).
Whether or not it’s your fault that something didn’t work out or your customers didn’t get the results they wanted, you are ultimately responsible for your business’s customer experience. When you take responsibility like this, it shows in your reviews and reputation.
Branding Building Block #2 - Unforgettable Branding Starts On The Inside
I’m sure you can think of some companies where the outside perception did not match the internal reality of the company. Maybe the outside perception is that the business owner is a great leader, but in reality, she is a jerk. Maybe the outside perception is that the company has really great credentials, but it is really just making things up on the fly.
Here’s the simple truth:
You can’t fake it till everyone thinks you’ve made it, but still fake it. No matter what short-term results you may see, eventually, the marketplace will learn that their perception of you is incorrect.
At that point, not only will they see the truth and not trust you, but they will feel betrayed and share their experience with others. Nothing is more toxic to a brand than a misalignment between internal reality and external perception.
The Inner Glow
If your own employees don’t understand and believe in your brand, how on earth are your customers supposed to? A winning brand must start with your own employees and disseminate from there.
This is where clarity is incredibly important. One of the biggest pitfalls that companies experience is a lack of clarity in the message of the organization. HR has one way of interpreting the company brand while sales has another. Even worse, your sales team is telling customers one thing and your marketing team is telling them something different!
You have to put your own house in order before you can expect to share your message with the world. The good news is that when you start from the inside, your entire company culture will be transformed. Once your house is cleaned up, it won’t just be your sales and marketing teams doing the selling. At every point of contact with your company, the customer will receive the full, unforgettable experience of your brand. Customer service, hiring, vendor relationships, etc. will all exude your brand!
It All Starts With Intentionality
So few companies actually succeed in getting their internal branding right because it is really difficult. Most business leaders only think of branding as an external thing.
It’s difficult to create internal branding because it requires you to understand how your brand applies to parts of a company that are normally left out of the branding equation.
For example, understanding how your brand applies to your customer service reps is not super intuitive. Most people are trained only to think of branding as it applies to sales and marketing.
Here are 2 specific ways that you can put your internal branding efforts on the right track:
(1) Apply the Principles. If your brand is worth anything at all, then you are likely to have at least a “why” statement of some sort behind your company.
Here at Skymouse Studios, our “why” is “to make marketing more human.”
This “why” underpins every part of our company. If you understand our “why,” then you and our customers will experience how that applies to more than just external parts of the company.
Take our customer service, for example. Based on our “why,” we have a chatbot on our website that runs directly to a customer service rep’s cellphone. That way anytime someone is on our site, they can simply message the chatbot and receive an immediate reply.
If it’s something that can be handled at that moment over chat it will be, if not, it will be directed to the appropriate person. The point is, it would be pretty incongruent with our brand (our “why”) if we only had a [email protected] email address and the customer received an auto-reply answer.
(2) Set Metrics. Whatever gets measured gets improved. If you want to see your internal branding improve, start measuring it. Set 3 specific metrics for each department. Relate your brand to their daily tasks and find ways to reward them for reaching goals.
If you intentionally align your brand with the day-to-day operations of your company, your brand will begin to shine through to your customers from every department.
Branding Building Block #3 - Dress For the Job You Want
Now, we’re finally getting into the territory that most people think of when they think “branding.” It’s time to talk about visuals.
A lot of branding consultants or logo designers will try to convince you that you want your graphics and visual brand to be as pristine and high-quality as possible. In reality, this conventional wisdom has led to a lot of companies making it really difficult for potential customers to work with them.
Think about it this way. If you’re a used car mechanic, you don’t show up for work in a suit and tie. If you’re a high-end divorce lawyer, you don’t come to court dressed in golf shorts. Yet, there are businesses that sell cheap IT, but their visual brand looks like they’re a Salesforce competitor. Conversely, there are companies that work exclusively with $10M/yr clients that look like a “budget” vendor.
There’s a reason that government websites often appear lackluster, even hard to use at times. Have you ever logged onto a government website and thought “man, this is really slick?” Probably not. The reason is not because the government doesn’t have the money. It’s because they don’t want citizens to feel like they blew a ton of taxpayer money on the website. It’s all about perception.
This is true for any business: your visual brand is the fastest way to communicate to your potential customers “you’re in the right place.” If you show up for what you thought was a cocktail party and everyone is wearing board shorts and Hawaiian shirts, you know you’re in the wrong place. If your customers show up to your website expecting a high-end consulting experience, but your website looks like it was built in 2005, they’re going to know they’re in the wrong place. If your company sells VOIP phone systems for small business, but your website looks like you’re the next Tesla, your ideal customers are going to think they’re in the wrong place.
I think that is enough examples to get the point across!
Dress for the job you want. This is sound advice in personal apparel, as well as B2B marketing. You should not be creating a visual brand around what you want it to look like. You should be building your brand around the customers you want to attract.
Don’t look like you think you should look. Look like your customer EXPECTS you to look. Don’t be a mechanic in a tux or a lawyer in golf shorts!
Branding Building Block #4 - Get Comfortable
Getting comfortable entails two things:
(1) First, you need to find your brand voice. Your language is a reflection of your brand. Just like your dress illustrates your company’s vibe and product, so too should the way you speak to your customers articulate what they will get from your business.
Your voice is a fingerprint, so to speak. You should strive for your customers to know it’s you speaking, even if there is no visual message attached at all.
Think of a company like Chick-Fil-A. You’ve been seeing their billboards for years. Imagine you see a billboard that is completely plain with plain text on it. There’s no font, no logo, no graphics of any kind. Just the words “eat more chik’n.” You would immediately know that you were seeing a Chick-Fil-A ad. This is because Chick-Fil-A is really comfortable. They have a voice that are comfortable utilizing!
(2) Second, getting comfortable means that you expect to look and sound the same way for a long time. Think back to the Coca-Cola example. Coca-Cola would not have the brand that they do if they kept changing things. This is made clear by their #1 competitor, Pepsi, who is constantly making adjustments to their brand. They change their can colors, they add all sorts of new flavors, their advertising is varied. Pepsi, as a consequence, does not share a fraction of the renown and recognition that Coke does. All you have to see is Coke’s shade of red and you immediately know what it is at which you are looking. Coke advertising is often nothing more than a polar bear playing with its cub, but we immediately know that it’s Coca-Cola!
This is the power of getting comfortable with your brand.
Understand that you could spend the rest of your life chasing some “perfect brand.” Really all that a perfect brand is is a brand that knows who it is and stays that way (remember, consistency!!). Constantly making adjustments to your logo, your colors, your advertising, your messaging, etc. is only going to confuse potential customers and reset your branding clock.
Branding Building Block #5 - Give It Time
This block is last because you can add it only once you’ve accomplished the other 4 blocks.
It’s pretty simple: time is an ingredient.
Sponge cakes only have a few ingredients. The two main ingredients are egg yolks and egg whites. You beat the egg yolks for about 10 minutes straight. When you do that, they go from being two little egg yolks to half a bowl of custard. The only difference between the runny yolks and the fluffy custard is the application of beaters and time (and air).
Time is an ingredient. In marketing, strategies and tactics are only pieces of the puzzle. When it’s all said and done, time is necessary to see results. Most businesses give up or switch strategies before they’ve even given enough time to get real results! Understand that when you’re creating a brand strategy, you must include time as a step in the process. You put in the work, you take all the steps, and then you give it time.
Without time, your branding efforts are doomed to fail. 12 months is literally just the beginning. Many companies will go through a re-brand, only to re-re-brand 18 months later. That is a mistake. Your brand needs time to connect with your audience. You need time to get to know your brand.
Go Forth and Brand Thyself
At this point, you’ve got what you need to get started with crafting your own Coca-Cola-esque, unforgettable brand. Branding is an interesting combination of practical application and creativity.
If you understand that branding is primarily a reflection of how the marketplace sees your company, you can use that to your advantage and build an intentional, consistent brand. You must be honest with yourself about the current state of your brand so you can make the right adjustments and put in the work necessary to create an unforgettable brand!Back to the blog