branding strategy

Building a Cohesive Brand Identity

489783302I know companies understand that they need to have a brand, but many miss the mark on creating a cohesive brand identity. Although many may see this as ‘fluff’, creating a strong brand identity can be a complicated process that’s difficult to master.

As I tell many of my clients, brand identity is not just a logo; it’s the entire visual language that your company uses to communicate with its audience. It’s the art of portraying the right message and making a lasting, first impression.

Brand identity answers the questions what do you want your story to be and how do you want to be perceived in the marketplace? I’ve outlined below 7 steps that will I hope will help you in developing a cohesive brand identity:

  1. Review your current brand and your competition: Think about how your brand is being perceived in the marketplace and whether the message you’re delivering is clearly understood and reaching your target audience. It’s not enough to just review your brand; you need to understand what you’re up against. Have you done your market research? If not, now is the time.
  2. Audit your audience: Know your audience! Build a brand around what they want (not what youwant). It’s a competitive world out there. If your customers don’t find what they’re looking for from you, they will find it from someone else.
  3. Choose your theme: Choose your theme wisely. A well-conceived theme creates a powerful and effective communication platform which will deliver a higher ROI. A theme is compelling and engaging because it’s able to communicate your brand identity more effectively. It takes brand identity to a whole new level.
  4. Develop a consistent colour palette: Your colour palette is typically defined by the colours in your logo and is the foundation of your visual brand identity. The colours don’t have to be identical to those in your logo but should complement them. Very important – your colour palette must work well with your website and printed material.
  5. Don’t go overboard with fonts: There are hundreds of fonts to choose from but don’t go overboard using too many fonts that may look creative but are difficult to read. Less is more. You can use a different font for headlines than for body text, but the font must be easy to read, and be consistent across your website and print materials.
  6. Use custom design elements: Looking off-the-shelf isn’t going to help you stand out. Custom design elements can be a huge asset to your brand identity. A professional graphic designer can create your logo and various elements of your website. The images don’t have to be the same throughout your website and print materials but all of the visuals should contribute to a consistent look and feel.
  7. Use a consistent tone of voice: You can’t tell your story without words. It’s important to give a great deal of thought to what style of writing will be consistent with the image that you want to portray in the marketplace and mesh well with your imagery. Consistency is key to a successful brand identity. A professional writer will be able to understand your voice and produce work consistent with it.

Every company needs a cohesive brand identity to compete in the marketplace but many miss the mark because they attempt it on their own. You need a professional marketing agency with strategists, graphic designers and professional writers. CreativeWorks Marketing has over 20 years of experience helping companies like yours build cohesive brand identities. Give us a call today and maximize your return on investment.

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Looking In with Marketing Analysis

ContentImageHandler.ashxWith the last of the fall leaves falling from our trees, this last quarter is one of the best times to review your marketing plan with a tried and true business tool, the SWOT analysis. But let’s focus on a marketing SWOT, which is a great way to review your marketing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It provides insights that can guide you in revisiting your marketing strategy, giving your company a stronger edge in the marketplace.

I have outlined below a few tips on conducting a marketing SWOT analysis, which will enable you to quickly see any missing gaps and revise your resources or plan as needed.

How do I get started with a Marketing SWOT?

Outline or summarize what you have planned for your organization: strategic direction, target audience, what you are known for, sales figures, internal and external resources, and a marketing budget breakdown including web, campaigns, online and media spends.

Strengths:

Here you should make note of significant advertising spends that you may have that your competitors do not, brand name recognition, and a proven, loyal customer base. Also consider your proven brand value as it relates to your customer (engagement of your audience).

Weaknesses:

A company could suffer because it has poor brand recognition or customers regard the company’s products or services as unreliable or overpriced. Weaknesses are important in a SWOT because they suggest how best to position a company against a rival that is stronger overall.

Opportunities:

Here you should illustrate any move your company could make to enhance its position. You might want to list extensive cash resources and financing as a chance for your company to quickly grow market share by spending more money on advertising and promotion. You could also consider any recent expansions or new services/products that could provide a strong future opportunity.

Threats:

These are similar to weaknesses, but show how your company is vulnerable to developments in the marketplace. For example, an established company that has always relied on traditional advertising in its marketing could face threats from new, entrepreneurial companies determined to build market share through social networking.

Once completed, you can review your current strategy against the SWOT and see if there are any gaps that you can address. You can also use the SWOT to help determine how best to use the company’s marketing budget given other factors in the marketplace and the competitive landscape.

Have you ever heard of a marketing SWOT? If so, when was the last time you conducted a one? How did it help you strengthen your marketing strategy? If not, do you see the value in doing a marketing SWOT for your company? I look forward to hearing your stories in the comments below.

Case Study: Red Bull’s Branding Mission

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If you read my blog often, you likely know that I believe there is no better place to start your marketing than with a well-thought out and constructed strategy – no matter what type, or size, of business you own.

I came across this article, written by Twist Image President Mitch Joel, discussing energy drink company Red Bull’s mission to bring their brand beyond the beverage to truly let consumers in. What is great about this article is that it addresses the fact that not all brands are as big as Red Bull or carry as much of a cool factor, but the framework behind their branding initiative is applicable to everyone.

The first step in Red Bull’s branding initiative? A plan. Red Bull built a branding concept that was meticulously planned to the very last detail. Each decision was made with a purpose. Red Bull was able to watch each decision unfold in accordance with their goals. The importance of developing a strategy is invaluable. In order to achieve success, you need to know the how, what, where, when, and whom of your business. Though it takes time, understanding every choice, desired effect, and possible outcome will help your business build a brand that can hold it’s own among clients and consumers.  A strategy ensures marketing consistency and provides a base point for a company’s staff.

As the article states, ”Red Bull provides an amazing case study because the brand moved beyond traditional advertising, beyond content advertising and beyond social media marketing into a realm where consumers could simply touch the brand (or, at the very least, hear about the brand) on their own terms.” Read more beyond just the strategy that Red Bull created, including leveraging the brand as a media channel, advertising, portfolio diversification, and becoming a renegade.

There is much to be taken away from Red Bull’s strategy development and implementation. Has this opened your eyes to a different side of strategic marketing? Let me know your thoughts after reading about Red Bull’s branding initiative. 

Can You Spot the Difference?

branding2When branding your company, not only will you need to communicate how you are different from your competition, but what value(s) are placed on that difference.

Although your logo is essentially the face of your brand, there is a lot more to your brand than your logo.

Your brand is how the public is able to identify with you visually, but it needs to be supported by brand values. In other words, to make the sale, you’ll need to “convince” your consumer that your brand (product or service) is right for them – it needs to resonate with them.

In marketing, we make connections with our consumers by determining your brand values and making sure they accurately reflect your brand.

After you’ve established your brand values, you’ll need to create supportive messaging for your brand. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Put your best foot forward: Determine or develop a positioning strategy that makes your brand a leader in your category.
  2. Make the right colour choice: Establish colour as an icon that represents your brand exclusively. Think UPS.
  3. What they think matters: Talk to your stakeholders to be sure that their perception of your brand accurately reflects the reality of your brand. It is a good opportunity to validate your values as well.
  4. Sync your brand logo and culture:  Your brand logo should reflect your values and also help to differentiate you.

Branding is complex, but if you are able to build these four steps into a cohesive message, you will be well on your way to strengthening your brand and make it easier for you to sell your products or services.

Do you feel if you have a brand that accurately reflects your brand culture? How important do you think it is to have a cohesive brand?  Please share your experience in the comments below.

If it’s a Good Product – Why Don’t I Know It?

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We hear it all the time: “Why haven’t I heard of it if it’s as good as they claim?” The answer could be that the product or new brand is not as good as it claims to be OR, more likely, it is a great brand, but the company lacks the funds to create a branding strategy.

I recently came across an article in a local paper about a fantastic cleaning product that has been able to strip wood and treat it without any toxic chemicals or ingredients. Despite the proven success from various carpenters, the product has only received distribution via two small retail stores.

This is an ideal example of a great product idea that may in fact be the uber wood-refinishing product, but without a strong branding or a strategic marketing plan, the public is just unaware of this product.  In a world of supply and demand, if the public is unaware of a product then there is no demand, and with no demand few retailers are going to carry said product.

Unfortunately, without deep pockets it is difficult to get your brand noticed. Most large “name” brands not only had branding strategies, they had substantial marketing budgets that involved cross platform spending.

As a smaller brand, it is hard to get noticed, particularly by large retailers who need product to fly off their shelves. Though our pockets may not be as deep, the good news is we can all take a page out of the “big brand” approach by taking the initial steps of having a strong brand and a strategic marketing plan.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind to make sure your small brand gets the recognition it deserves. 

  1. Prove validity: Create a strategic plan (include some competitive research, outline your target audience, what makes your brand or product unique, etc.)
  2. Plan in: Create a detailed tactical marketing plan – this is where you outline marketing tactic details and your annual budget to implement said tactics. This would include pricing and finding relevant community events where you can market your product or brand, as well as pricing ads in publications relevant to your audience, the costs for sponsoring a sports team, etc.  You will need to outline a yearly and a month-by-month budget with the details of what can be achieved each month.
  3. Build it: Create consistent messaging, imagery and branding (use the same colours, same tag, same placement, etc.)
  4. Stick to it: Stick to your plan; do not veer from what you have planned
  5. Evaluate: As the monthly activities are completed, assess and evaluate them for ROI. If certain activities had a good ROI, you might want to reinvest or even expand next year. If the activity did not meet the mark, then you may want to consider eliminating it, altering it or replacing it next year.

Without deep pockets, having a strategy and detailed plan will allow you to build a slow and steady brand… and as you may remember from the childhood story The Tortoise and The Hare – “slow and steady wins the race!” With the right amount of determination, your brand can become so well known that you can take your name right off your logo – and still be instantly recognized!

Do you feel if you had a larger marketing budget your brand would be more successful? Do you feel having a solid strategy has helped you build your brand?  Do you have a tactical plan? Please share your experience in the comments below.