Many new businesses wrongly assume that their brand is used solely to advertise with. As a result, businesses wind up depending on trade dress, the legal term that refers to characteristics of the visual appearance of an item, to push their products. But while trade dress is an important part of branding, it is not the end all, be all to a brand either.
Yes, the ubiquitous golden arches may entice us to avail of the McRib’s annual appearance, but McDonalds’ brand is much more than a yellow M. Their branding has been built upon over the decades, and as with many other brands, has proven an important point – building your brand is a marathon, not a sprint.
If you want a brand that will last, you have to work at instilling confidence and recognition in that brand, and you can do that by doing the following.
Build trust, and never let it go
Branding has a very emotional appeal, meant to drag up all of the goodwill and trust you’ve accumulated over your years in business. Your brand will be how customers instantly recognize your company. Obviously, you want potential customers to associate your company with feelings of positivity, and you will have to work hard to make sure that happens.
When you first start out, and your customer base is relatively small, building trust will be easy. Even if you slip up, it isn’t too hard to redeem yourself to a handful of customers. But as your business grows, you’ll have to work that much harder to keep the trust you’ve built into your brand alive. One misstep could mean having to re-imagine your business and your brand, so it’s important that you always keep your brand in mind when making business decisions.
Make your brand your business
A Steelcase and Corenet branding study found that while 70% of businesses have logos or other forms of advertising in their office, only 50% encourage behavior consistent with that brand. Now, some companies go a bit crazy when it comes to respecting the brand – disparaging or showing a beloved mascot in a negative light is a fireable offense in some corporate offices.
Your branding or mascot shouldn’t become your business’s golden calf, but your work environment should be built to back up the trust you’ve built into your brand.
You should also incorporate your branding into nearly all of the business decisions that impact your customers. As I said before, your brand isn’t just about packaging, it is a representation of all the goodwill you’ve spent years building into your business. When hiring, keep in mind that all of your employees should know your business’s elevator pitch, and they should respect the work you’ve put into building your brand. Now more than ever, you can’t just remain static and expect people to continue to support your company.
Know when to update
Once upon a time, Research In Motion’s CEO Jim Laziridis was asked at an investor’s meeting whether the company would be putting a color screen in their popular BlackBerry phones. He reportedly responded by asking ‘Do I need to read my email in color?’ Now hindsight is 20/20, but Mr. Laziridis’s response sounded stubborn enough, and that aversion to change is what led to BlackBerry’s fall in popularity.
Brand longevity does not mean keeping your business in a state of stasis. Instead of sacrificing progress in the name of your brand, incorporate your brand into updating your business.
Had RIM combined its brand with advancements in technology, it may still be the go-to business phone. So respect your brand, but remember that change can be used to develop, rather than dilute, that brand.
Branding can be a very touchy subject for some businesses. When you first start out, your brand is fluid – you can change whatever you want to on a whim, and your smaller customer base will easily adapt to that change. But as you grow, maintaining that brand becomes much more difficult. If you want your brand to last, you must first build, then support, your customer’s trust of that brand.
Make sure that your branding informs your business decisions, and use it to usher in the types of change that will ensure your company’s relevance. A strong brand means a strong business, which should last a long, long time.