25th February 2020

It’s not you, it’s your brand – have you outgrown your company branding?

This blog entry is about a five-minute read, so maybe get out your Pret Crayfish and Avocado? This might be the time for that bar of Dairy Milk you’ve been stashing in your desk drawer too. You may even want to nip across the road for a Costa, to enjoy reading more. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

I’m not being judgmental about your lunch choices. I’d happily consume all three of those. What I’m getting at is this – to even eat your lunch, you’ve engaged in three transactions with brands you trust. Not just financial transactions either, I’m talking about transactions of the head and the heart.

You might argue that your choice of sandwich, coffee and chocolaty treat comes down to habit, or having no time. But even if that’s true, at some point, however long ago, they won you over – and you kept coming back.

Branding keeps getting bigger

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say that every day you interact with thousands of companies. With TV, social media and even the blunt instrument of billboard adverts, you can’t fail to notice that brands are in our faces 24/7. Even those you think you’ve filtered out along the way will likely come calling somewhere down the line.

Branding, and standing out, can feel like an arms race. And it is. In 1984 you’d see an average of 2,000 ads per day. By 2014, you’d see 5,000. Between 2017 and 2018 spending on advertising in the UK went up 6.3% across all media.

But there’s more to branding than how much you spend on shouting indiscriminately at the population, or infiltrating their inbox. Getting branding right is about working hard, and spending money, but it’s also about working smart.

What does working smart mean?

Think about what your brand is for. It’s there to provide clarity about your product or service, it helps you communicate with your ideal clients and ideally, it provokes emotions that lead to repeat business.

It’s a well-reported statistic that there’ll normally be five to seven brand interactions before a consumer remembers a brand. That would make sense, McDonald’s spent a long time getting us to associate “I’m loving it” with a little melody, so that eventually we’d hear five whistled notes and think ‘Big Mac’.

Buyers aren’t fools, they take convincing. But for a brand to ring true to them, we have to believe in ourselves. We have to create a brand, the sum of whose parts add up to something that’s not a fabrication, but an embodiment, an amplification, of who we are and what we stand for. That means for all the outward facing work, it’s important to turn it inward, to build a brand we’re happy with and content to show to the world.

Authenticity and consistency

What we’re talking about here is authenticity. It’s often spoken about and notoriously hard to pin down. But it’s important, up to 91% of consumers would rather buy from an authentic brand. What does ‘authentic’ mean though? Isn’t it one of those words like ‘charisma’ or the dreaded ‘pizazz’?. Not really, and it doesn’t need to be that hard. Authenticity comes from sitting down and working out who you are, what your company is in business to achieve and how you’d like your customers to see you.

That’s the way round to approach it, because branding comes from within. Start with ‘branding’ and you’ll achieve artifice, start with understanding your angle then build a brand around it, and you’ll get authenticity.

Once you have authenticity in the bag, it needs to be followed up by its partner, consistency. According to Forbes, consistent brand presentation across all platforms increases revenue by up to 23%. As they point out, it’s more than just your logo. Every piece of collateral that goes out of the door, social media, printed media, signage, it should all maintain a similar aesthetic and communicate the same message that fits your brand identity and core values.

Why? Because familiarity builds trust and trust builds business. If you’ve landed your messaging well in the authenticity space, people want to deal with you. If you then show them with every communication, every transaction that it’s still you, still your voice, still your way of working, still you, standing for all the things you stand for, they’ll keep coming back.

So what happens if you’ve outgrown your brand?

Despite what I’ve set out above, not everyone is getting it right. According to Source, 77% of marketing leaders say a strong brand is critical to their growth plans. But only 60% of marketers think their brand is well aligned with their long-term goals.

That may be because the opportunity to really get your branding right from the very beginning wasn’t taken, but it can just as easily be because the brand that once suited you down to the ground is now something you’ve outgrown. Businesses change, their direction can shift, their demographic can evolve and somewhere along the line branding that used to reliably hit the nail on the head can begin to miss.

It’s not a disaster and it’s easy to put right, but it’s important to do it. A changing audience or shifting goals are to be expected, but you need to retain that trust, those transactions of the head and the heart. To labour the metaphor, if you’ve outgrown your brand, you need to take some new measurements to make sure it’s the right fit – for you and for them.

Brand, not bland!

In truth, I could throw slogans like that at you all day or quote high numbers and eye-popping statistics that demonstrate the benefits of getting branding right. The truth is, you already know it’s important and if your branding is off target, reading too many of those statistics can actually cause despondency rather than inspiration.

The key to remember is that branding is all about you and your ideals, it always was and always will be. It’s not a guessing game – yes, you have to compete, but it’s not about throwing more and more at the wall and hoping it sticks, it’s about rooting out what you stand for, then communicating that to your audience.

And if it’s gone off track, or its just not connecting, don’t worry, you can get it back. Businesses should revisit their branding regularly, like we should file our bank statements regularly. We don’t of course, but it’s never too late to get things in good shape. A thorough branding review will retain what’s good, jettison what isn’t working and help you find your way back to an approach that really speaks to your audience. Because in the end that’s all you’re doing – somewhere amid all the colours, the money and the social media, you’re just talking to your audience. You as a professional can provide what they as consumers need, you just need to show them.

If your branding is feeling a bit tight around the middle, or the shoulders have gone baggy, maybe it’s time for a review to find the right fit.