No one knows better than your marketers just how fickle the world is, with new trends showing up, and your consumers’ opinions changing on every turn. No matter how much you wish to have a single, tried-and-tested approach, every business owner knows that a brand needs to adapt with changing times. However, what does need to remain unchanged is your brand identity: the very core values you stand for, your purpose, and your mission and vision.
In this changing ecosystem, the ability to persevere and protect your identity has become the number one challenge most modern brands face. While you should never confuse the need to adapt with the need to change your core identity, these boundaries are often blurred, and it takes a bulletproof strategy to maintain a unified brand identity through the years. For those in need of some guidance on how to best achieve this, let’s go over a handful of actionable pieces of advice that are meant to help you stay the same without losing your ability to change.
Build a guide for all your employees
Most business owners believe that it’s more than enough for them to know and understand the identity of their brand. Sure, that’s truly vital, but not the only part of the equation: your employees and all outside experts need to know your brand identity if they are expected to convey it to others through their role. Whether they work in customer service, social media management, or graphic design, they can only send the right message if they know your language, tone of voice, and your essence.
However, training each and every employee can be a cumbersome task even for the best of brands, so it makes sense from a practical perspective to build and regularly update your brand book. In addition to outlining your vision, mission, purpose, and values, you should also add guidelines on best practices and your vocabulary when posting on various networks, building campaigns, and the like. This will give a sense of direction to every member of your team.
Practice cross-channel consistency
Modern brands focus predominantly on digital aspects of their existence. On the one hand, this makes perfect sense since most of your users are likely shopping, learning, and bonding with brands online most of the time. The physical aspect of your brand, however, remains as relevant in terms of preserving your brand identity, and connecting with your audience through your unique traits.
As a great example, using branded gift cards has always been a brilliant, yet simple practice to help your customers remember your name, and grow their loyalty towards your brand. That is why you should make sure that even in these instances, there are no discrepancies in branding, whether it’s a different color, font, or slogan, so that your customers can recognize you in a split second. The same applies to your printed brochures, catalogues, gift certificates, and other freebies – your brand visuals as well as language need to be consistent across all channels of communication, physical or digital.
Keep learning about your audience
There are two key factors in defining your brand identity to begin with. One is your own purpose and values, which essentially remain the same, but the second one is your audience, the often-changing gang of people who adopt different views, evolve and grow over time, and this is where the flexibility factor becomes pivotal in preserving your brand identity. Use every outlet possible to learn about your target audience, as well as how your competitors are successfully (or less so) approaching them. Define best practices and approaches to avoid, as well as that buyer persona for targeted campaigns.
Data-driven brand building means you can find that gap in the market, recognize how you can fulfill a specific need, and how your brand fits into the market and the hearts and minds of your audience. A once defined plan does not imply a plan that will always deliver the same results, on the contrary. Keep up with monitoring and analyzing the impact of your campaigns, ask for regular feedback and reviews, and allow your brand to evolve without compromising your identity. It’s how you express them that can change to become more approachable and likable in the eyes of your target audience.
Define and refine your “edge”
What makes your brand different? This question is often avoided by many new businesses out of fear that they won’t be able to find something extraordinary to set them apart. The simple truth is: you don’t need to be extraordinary to be different and to stand out. Consider Coca-Cola as one out of many fizzy sodas out there, but with such a powerful brand identity that few brands can match. Their simple slogans and Christmas commercials remain embedded in everyone’s minds, and it’s their emotional appeal and the way they shift focus to the customer that makes their brand so incredibly lovable.
While few can expect to become so wildly popular, you can always find your spot in the market, and an angle that is authentic to yourself. Whether you’re selling toilet paper, complex software development services, or pet food, it’s up to you to answer the question above and find a way to express your authentic self to the world. Keep in mind that you may always find ways to refine how you express that “edge”, but its core should remain consistent, much like your entire brand identity.
The challenge of maintaining your brand identity will always be a cumbersome one, but with these tips in mind, you can tip the scales in your favor and let your business grow with the help of your well-defined, powerful brand identity.