Are you influenced by brands?
Is a story just a vehicle to carry a lesson, or is it a compelling narrative that shifts the way you think by appealing to your emotional and logical reasoning? Decisions, decisions. I think it’s both because stories carry lessons in both explicit and implicit ways. Explicitly, stories capture our attention and keep us hooked until we find the answer that we have been looking for. Implicitly, stories become a part of our lives because they relate to events, moments, and interactions that perhaps we’ve experienced in one way or another. And in fact, these stories often serve as the very foundation of a brand: a story and a purpose. Quite simply, these stories are the foundation of a brand’s DNA.
It is my firm belief that beginning with a purpose is essential not only for employees or business owners to buy into a concept, but also for creating an identity that your prospects and customers can identify, connect with, and relate to. Most of us tend to think of a brand as just a logo, an image, or something static. However, the practice of branding and the implementation of strategic brand management is much more than just a logo, words, or a sleek visual. In fact, effective brand management begins with placing an emphasis on a long-term customer-centered process. This process may even make you question the effectiveness of your business and marketing strategy at times, but nonetheless, fostering a brand identity that your customers can connect with begins by placing your customers first. Why, you might ask? And the reason is because your business strategy lays the foundation for the organization, while on the other hand, your marketing strategy is composed of the mechanisms to capture and nurture prospects.
Customer-Centric Business Processes
It is a customer-centered process because whether you do marketing in an inbound or outbound way, it is all about creating a meaningful relationship with a prospect. So, what is a customer-centered process? This fascinating article by Harvard Business Review dives into the notion of customer-centered brand management, and how the value of a brand can struggle to mean the same thing to a mass of people. Brands are highly individualized; meaning that what it means to you is different from what it means to me. Thus, with this in mind, we must focus on growing the customer’s lifetime value of remaining loyal to your unique brand. In order to do this, we must proactively configure ways to build loyalty through not only meeting the needs of our customers, but also exceeding them and targeting all of their pain points with thoughtful solutions.
Sales & Marketing
This is precisely where sales and marketing can come into play. Sales and marketing strategies serve as the channels for carrying your brand identity and meaning by expanding it through various avenues like personal selling, marketing collateral, and social media marketing, amongst others. No matter which method we choose to undertake, it is absolutely essential that you use the very same words of the customer to present your solution to their problems. The language that you use to showcase your brand identity is going to be what resonates with your customers after every interaction, transaction, and experience with your business.
Unfortunately, sales and marketing have been long thought of as an immediate process; you place an irresistible offer, prospects jump on the opportunity, and then you move on to the next one. BUT, the real work begins once the sale has closed. Any prospect will feel short-changed if you limit or cut off communication after a sale is completed. It can be as simple as a quick phone call after a certain amount of time has elapsed since their purchase, sharing an article related to a conversation that you had with them, or even stopping by their office to let them know of a new development, product, or service that your company is offering. While it may seem like a slow process, it’s important to remember that these moments add up. Ultimately, they’ll allow you to continue to expand your customer equity, which is an aggregation of the lifetime value of your customer. Customer equity and brand equity work hand-in-hand, and although they may differ at times, each works to elevate the other. And now, this concept ultimately brings us to the heart of this post; what does a brand mean and what is its story? As mentioned previously, brands are not static; they mean a whole array of things depending on each individual customer. However, brand identities contain the elements in which these consumers find a common meaning.
Brand associations serve as the visual and emotional connections that we make to bring meaning to a brand’s identity. Associations can include positive elements such as charitable, inspiring, and motivating initiatives, or negative elements such as bad customer service, non-responsiveness, or even expensive products or services. For these reasons, every detail is critical to ensuring that your customers can distinguish between the visual and the notvisual.
Visual elements include your logo across all the platforms that you maintain a presence on, in addition to your messaging, and your sales and marketing collateral. However, it is my belief that these visual elements merely serve as the entry point into the mind of your prospect or consumer. You can have the sharpest logo in the world, but if you do not follow-through on your promise, which is usually not explicitly visible, then there is no way that you will ever succeed.
The Visual Vs. The Not Visual
Let’s discover what I mean by using my own logo and brand as a case study; Master Marketing Strategy. When we think of logos, the ones that have stood tall throughout time show simplicity, an icon, a symbol, typically nothing more. My logo, on a large scale, stands for motion and movement – forward and onward to elevate success. And by reading this post, you have already taken that first step towards enhancing your marketing arsenal.
The story of my logo is that it’s constantly progressing and moving forward, propelling and promoting future agile thinking and mindsets within my company and across my customer-base. When you read this blog, I want to take you on a journey, one that has a beginning and no end, because what is digital is never forever; but it is always evolving. This is where the arrow comes in, and it was an intentional decision for it to be dynamic and visually representative. Master Marketing Strategy takes the puzzles and challenges out of marketing to deliver you, the reader, an unparalleled experience.
The reason for me telling you the meaning of my brand is because I want to drive the brand associations that you are making. Brands are owned by you, the reader, or in other cases, the consumers. As mentioned by Doug Stayman, Associate Dean for MBA Programs, Associate Professor of Marketing, Cornell University Johnson Graduate School of Management, “brands are extremely valuable, but they exist not in the halls of a company, but in the minds of consumers. Brands are not something that we own. They are things that we can only influence by developing a consistent strategy, set of messages and brand contacts in the minds of the consumers.”
Are you influenced by brands? Do you own a brand that influences? Tell me more about it below!