How to Create a Brand Image
In today’s digital marketplace, where your competitors are only a click away, your brand is your most important asset. Your brand image is the first impression that potential customers have of your company and encompasses all the facts and feelings associated with it. It includes your brand’s style, tone of your marketing copy, logo and aesthetic choices, reputation, and other intangible elements that make up a brand.
When you think about Coca-Cola, for example, are you just buying a sugary, caffeinated drink or something more? When you buy an Apple iPhone, are you simply buying a mobile phone, or are you making a statement about how you see yourself and your values? In these cases, customers don’t buy the product (there are many similar products out there); they buy because of its brand. A positive brand image, where people share the values and attitude it represents, attracts them in the first place and keeps them as customers into the future, ensuring a company’s success.
At its simplest, a brand image is a customer’s perception of a product or service based on its identifying name, logo, and the perception of the company that provides it. It encompasses everything a company does and how it does it. It is the ‘face’ of the company and should not only be memorable but represent its authority and credibility in the marketplace. It must reflect the company’s mission and what it stands for: its purpose. This will attract customers that identify with the brand and, if the company meets its brand promise, will give them a sense of belonging and make them both loyal customers and advocates of the brand to others.
Building a successful brand takes time, effort, and a consistent approach. The elements of the process are relatively simple (though implementing them requires some effort to get right) and are outlined below.
Identify Your Audience
The first step is to identify your audience. There are as many desires as there are types of people. You want to target the ideal customer for your product or service and speak specifically to them when creating your brand image. They could be the wider public, partners, industry members, types of employees, and so on. You’ll need to craft a marketing strategy that will speak to their needs and concerns and provide solutions tailored to them. This is a critical phase in deciding the content and tone of your branding efforts.
You need to define what makes your company’s approach unique or better than the competition and to identify what you can offer your customers that others cannot. Differentiating yourself from your competition is a vital aspect of developing a successful brand. Watching what your competitors are doing is a good way of finding which techniques work and making those a part of your offer.
Mission and Goals
You need to answer the question ‘Why does the company exist?’ with a clear and direct mission statement that sets out your goals for being in business. This is particularly important for customers looking for companies that operate ethically and seek to do more than simply make a profit; this can also be a supporting element of your value proposition.
A brand persona should reflect your audience, goals, and value proposition to speak to target customers and set out what differentiates your product and its benefits. The brand persona is the defining element of your brand’s image, so it’s vital to get the tone right and to develop it in a way that accurately represents your business.
It’s also essential to define your key messages and make sure that they align with your audience and potential customers. These messages will be the key facts and impressions you want your target audience to receive when dealing with your brand. They should identify your products or services’ unique features, the way they provide value to the customer, and other information that reflects your brand image and values.
Once you’ve defined your brand image, it’s time to get the message out to your audience. The days of mounting a print and television advertising campaign and hoping for the best (often disparagingly referred to as the ‘Spray and Pray’ method) are well and truly over. A marketing strategy to establish your brand requires using a range of channels and techniques in the digital age. There has been an overall movement towards ‘inbound marketing,’ which, in contrast to the method above, seeks to draw customers to your marketing material by providing content that will interest and delight them or that offers value (such as valuable information or a solution to a problem they may have).
This is done through content marketing, where content can be in a range of media, including informative articles, videos, podcasts, etc. Your website should be the hub of your brand’s image and the content associated with it. Social media sites are one of the best (though not the only) locations for this content since they reach specific customers because of the highly targeted audiences they can provide. Influencers are another effective channel of reaching an audience to define a brand image without necessarily looking like a marketing message. There is a range of other digital marketing approaches, including paid advertising, search engine optimization for websites, email marketing, and so on. The methods you use will depend on your target audience and marketing strategy.
Finally, remember that your brand is everywhere today. In the past, when a customer had a negative impression of your brand, perhaps only the customer’s friends and a few others knew about it. Today, anybody with an internet connection can see negative posts about your brand. Once you’ve established your brand image, don’t neglect to protect it by answering complaints and meeting negative feedback with an appropriate response.