Think like a human, not like a company
Think about your closest friend. What comes to mind – the things you do together or the personality/traits that you appreciate about them? In most cases, the basis of a great, lasting friendship isn’t what you do together; it’s who your friends are that motivates you to participate in whatever it is you’re doing together. For example, you can watch a football game with any millions of people, but you don’t. You watch it with a select, small group of people because you have a deeper connection with those people than the others.
When you think of what makes great branding, it helps to consider what you’re doing in these humanizing terms. After all, you’re trying to make a connection with your audience. They could do business with any competitor in your industry, but you want them to do business with you. Just as in the “friend” analogy above, it’s not always your services or products (the things you and your friend do together) that sell someone on your business – plenty of other companies do the same thing – it’s the character and traits you offer that forge the real connection. But with branding, like in life, there are big red flags that can prevent you from making new connections and even sever current ones.
What erodes brand value?
If companies don’t have their proverbial act together, these organizational flaws and missteps could, over time, result in major consequences:
1. Presenting an inconsistent message or image. It’s never good to send mixed signals. This can often result from trying to be too many things at once. If, for example, you try to sound hip and edgy on social media but subdued and executive in tone on your website, you’ll come across as neither. Ensuring brand consistency can be challenging but is essential in building the strength of your brand.
2. Organizational silos. Silos (in a business sense) are bad for business. They hinder communication between departments and have a dividing effect on the organization as a whole. In terms of branding, all departments need to be on the same page so they’re pushing the same message. Sales shouldn’t be trying to sell the product/service one way while marketing is teeing it up another way.
3. Lack of oversight. This should go without saying and ties back to the first two points. Who is responsible for making sure branding is consistent across departments and channels? Is there a go-between for sales and marketing to make sure the brand message isn’t lost in translation between the two? Are sales managers or marketing managers responsible for messaging used by individual sales people? These are questions your business needs to have answers to.
4. Failing to deliver on message. In other words, don’t lie. If your brand says your business delivers something that it doesn’t, that’s obviously going to reflect poorly on you. If you’re a “people-driven company helping people with people problems,” then your customer should get a real person on the other end of the phone when they call for support. That example brings us to our final point…
5. Bad customer service. It’s easy to point out that sales and marketing need to be on the same page, but customer service and support personnel should also know what image and message the brand is promoting. Branding shouldn’t stop once the prospect becomes a client. There will come a time to try to up-sell or, at the very least, retain a client, and it is so easy for your brand image to be compromised by one bad customer service experience.
Preventing brand erosion
Some of these issues present more of a challenge than others, but here are three easy steps you can take to prevent brand erosion:
Marketing technology. There are web-based systems available that give managers oversight of brand message at a campaign and individual level. For example, marketing resource management systems ensure all the marketing resources available to sales agents have been pre-approved by a manager or cannot leave the system until a manager has approved them. This puts brand control back in the hands of managers and helps establish consistency.
Proactive leadership. Managers and executives across the organization need to be willing to reach out to one another and work together to ensure brand messaging is consistent. If leaders aren’t willing to work together, silos will remain and communication will suffer.
Internal education. Management needs to educate their employees about the brand message and what it represents. From marketing to finance, everyone needs to know what the company is all about or is striving to be about. Employees can’t be brand ambassadors if they don’t know what the brand stands for. And, in today’s social-media-driven world, an army of educated brand ambassadors can have a profound business impact, regardless of department or position.
Think of your brand as a person. What prevents people from making connections? Poor communication, inconsistent behavior, lack of self-control all chip away at your ability to connect with people, just as they chip away at your brand’s ability to connect with your audience. But by putting the right people and systems in place, you can reign in your message and build a brand you and your customers can be proud of.