Is Your Brand a Fixer-Upper? Three Steps to Branding or Re-branding Your Business or Product

youre-as-useful-as-the-second-page-of-a-google-search-a0658Many businesses suffer from the same issue: “Our brand (look and feel) is old/tired/no longer relevant,” or, “I’m not sure what our brand really says about us.”

Here are three ways to brand or re-brand your company, product or service.

What is a brand, anyway? It’s your promise to your customers about what they should experience from your company. In other words, It’s what people say about you behind your back.  When done well, your customers believe what you are communicating about your brand and reflect that through sales, repeat business, referrals, social media commentary and tweets.

You may be a start-up in pre-launch or early adopter mode, or a more mature company whose image needs refreshing, or you may simply be trying to move into new markets and looking for a way to stand apart from the competition and get noticed. Whatever your goal is, here are three secrets to an effective brand refresh or full re-branding campaign:

#1. Gather key decision makers together to discuss and agree on what you want your company brand to mean. This may be an executive team comprised of Sales, Marketing and C-levels, or simply you and the CEO.  Without this conversation, branding efforts may take off in the wrong direction, even with the best of intentions.

Example: One partner I worked with was hot into auto racing. The leadership team believed the brand should reflect fun, bold, pioneering products that always delivered a “WOW” factor the end user could get excited about. The CEO’s brand perception for our software company was one of excitement, winning, high-risk/high-reward performance. His idea of sponsoring race cars to gain exposure and associate our brand with this type of sport was not entirely bought into by Sales, Marketing, and particularly Finance. Ultimately, after appeasing the CEO with limited but expensive exposure within the auto racing world, the plug was pulled, as we all learned that our target audience was not going to these races.

#2. Build a one-sentence brand description that reflects your organization’s image. Be ready to back up your statement with facts. Generic boasts are seen as a smokescreen for unsubstantiated success, such as saying you are an “industry leader” without offering neutral third party proof. However, it can be powerful if the proof is there. Proof can come in the way of industry quotes by reputable leaders or authors, testimonials, awards, editorial comparisons, and many other ways. When utilizing proof, be sure to include your source.

Example: A technology company I worked for had a 12-year-old web site that gave off an “old” vibe. This was the antithesis of the cutting edge, uniquely positioned product we were offering. To rebrand, we executed a web site and collateral redesign and logo refresh to create a fresh, contemporary feel. New web site tools, social media and a more robust video demo better supported the product’s high tech branding and positioning. Key speaking opportunities, social media chats and participation, educational outreach, trade shows and email marketing all combined to build on the messaging and establish thought leadership within our target market. The result was a bolder presence that amplified our company brand and positioned key executives as national subject matter experts, a reputation already established within our existing customer base.

#3. Develop an overall look and feel that reflects your key message as well as the company’s voice and “personality” you want to create.

Example: A custom baby stroller I created was spotlighted on a national morning television show, with the presenter dubbing it the “Rolls Royce of strollers.” This statement was then continually quoted and became the brand identity for this particular stroller, with a link to the video endorsement to back it up. In this case, we branded the product line and showed all the celebrities who purchased the stroller. I was able to establish a product brand associated with Hollywood and glamour, increasing the perceived value and resulting in a frenzied auction for the last stroller, which garnered the highest amount ever paid for a stroller at that time.

Be sure to set expectations for tactics, timing, resources and budget. Once you have these priorities outlined, get everyone on the same page with a brief meeting outlining the goals. Without open communication across key departments (or better yet, the entire organization), results are destined to be fractured. Marketing and sales may agree on one description, but customer service may have a different perspective. Even accounting should understand what your company brand is about (yes, branding can be affected by your billing process!).

Once in place, measuring branding ROI can be tricky, and sometimes it’s nothing more than a lot of little things over time that tells you something has changed for the better. One way is to track changes in web site conversions, bounce rates and time on site, as well as lead and sales origins. Sales should be talking to customers and prospects about why they considered your solution over others. Customer-facing opportunities such as industry events, webinars and the like, offer unique platforms to garner perceptions and comments from your marketplace.

Having everyone on board provides multiple points of data collection for analyzing the effectiveness of your branding campaign. If you have done things well, it will show up the form of new sales, better customer retention, higher customer acquisition, customer comments and testimonials, and your bottom line.