Have you ever walked into an Abercrombie & Fitch?
If so, you probably noticed a few things like: Blaring pop music, dimly lit rooms, the stench of overly-priced cologne and the smiling faces of American teenagers covering the walls.
Love them or loathe them, the clothing retailer succeeded in creating a level of brand recognition most of their peers never will. You pretty much know you have made it when Mad TV finds you relevant enough to parody! Abercrombie's unique brand identity allowed them to charge premium prices and dominate the teenage apparel sector, during the late 90s and early 00s.
After which, the company completely lost touch with their evolving Buyer Persona, resulting in plummeting sales figures and, eventually, a complete rebrand (a cautionary tale). You may not have a storefront, but you do have a brand.
Is it strong enough?
4 Benefits of a Strong Brand Identity
Too many people overlook their brand identity and go straight to promotion. They promote, promote, promote without giving much thought to how the identify of what they are promoting impacts the final outcome.
We live in a world of "me too" marketing, where we just want to be noticed. Most brands don't care if you compare them with the competitor, and pricing is usually the only differentiator a prospective customer can decipher.
That's why brands need to start adopting a growth marketing mindset. Marketing is not just about attention, it's about changing beliefs in the target audience.
It's not about promoting your brand. It's about promoting how your brand is different.
One of the most helpful definitions of brand we've come across is from social entrepreneur Dan Pallotta.
Ultimately, brand is about caring about your business at every level and in every detail, from the big things like mission and vision, to your people, your customers, and every interaction anyone is ever going to have with you, no matter how small. Whether you know it or not, whether you have a swanky logo or not, you do have a brand. The question is whether or not it’s the brand you really want.
A clearly defined brand identity is like a North Star: It guides you in making a variety of important decisions that create a consistent company experience for customers, employees and key stakeholders alike.
1. Strong Branding Makes You Memorable
While many consumers take the time to research and compare options, others choose whatever they happen to recognize. It is for this reason, established companies like Coca-Cola, Starbucks and KFC spend billions a year on advertising.
They are capitalizing on the concept of brand recognition.
While you might not have the budget of a Fortune 500, you can still employ the same tactics in your online marketing. And, honestly, it doesn't even have to be a tactic -- making yourself recognizable to customers is just good common sense. A solid brand identity consists of standardized font, color and logo choices that are used to represent your business in all marketing materials.
2. Brand Recognition Builds Trust
Another less obvious benefit of perfecting brand identity? A smartly designed website can make your company appear stronger and bigger than competitors. Customers tend to place greater trust in more established companies.
A strong brand identity says, "We won't take your money, and run away to Aruba."
As a bonus, people also expect to pay more for established products and services. Send them the link to a janky Wordpress site, or a poorly designed promotional offer, and they may say to themselves: Do these people really know what they are doing?
Of course, there will always be independent thinkers who won't judge a book by its cover. However, those types of buyers are far and few between. Going the extra mile with a professionally branded site fosters trust.
3. Strong Branding Filters Out Bad Leads
Next, curating a strong brand identity filters leads on your behalf. The reality is you don't want to do business with everyone; you want to do business with the people who are most aligned with your core values. The reason being? Those individuals will be your best customers.
For example, say you sell a premium coffee subscription service. Your ideal customer isn't Mike who gladly pays 79 cents a cup at 7 Eleven every morning. Your ideal customer is Susan who considers coffee an affordable luxury and has been eyeing slow drips on Amazon since last Monday.
A thoughtfully curated brand identity will simultaneously attract Susan and detract Mike, thus making it easier for you to close sales and develop long-term customer relationships.
4. Brand Identity Supports Product Launches
No matter your vertical, opportunities to introduce new products and services to the marketplace will always exist. Listening to customers, anticipating their wants and creating innovative solutions is good business. The question is always: Can we afford to introduce something new right now?
Businesses with established strong brands, and loyal customer followings, have a leg up here. It's easier and less expensive to introduce beta products to customers who already trust you, than to convince strangers to try something different. Consistent inbound marketing coupled with strong brand identity work together to create enthusiastic followings who want to hear from you.
How to Strengthen Your Brand Identity
There are several things you can do to support a cohesive brand identity. If you're unsure where to begin, start with these quick tips:
- Take a Visual Inventory: Are you using the same logo version across all platforms? How about your fonts, color schemes, photography and other design elements? Are they consistent and are they accurately representing the prices you charge?
- Analyze Messaging: Is your website's content an accurate representation of who you are as a company? Does your messaging have a clear point of view, and is it consistent across all platforms? Are you providing material for each stage of the Buyer's Journey.
- Create a Game Plan: Are there things you can update yourself right now, to at least make it more cohesive? If bigger changes are needed, what is your budget?
- Get Staff On Board: Brand is about more than appearance, it's the experience customers have when interacting with any facet of your company. Embody your brand values as a team.
Stand Out from The Crowd
As previously discussed, the question isn't whether or not you have a brand -- the question is whether or not it's the one you really want. A strong brand identity can both initially attract customers to you and keep them coming back for more.
Due to increasing online competition, having a distinct identity and message has never been more important. The companies who take the time to really get clear on what they stand for, and communicate it in a way that makes people care, will always have a competitive edge.