Branding is a term that’s used a lot in marketing nowadays, but the truth is that not everyone knows exactly what it is. In fact, sometimes even experts use the term incorrectly, but make no mistake: branding is an essential part of most modern day marketing strategies.
What Is a Brand?
Basically, your brand is what comes to peoples’ minds when they think of your company or product. As a verb, branding really just means what you do to affect the way people think of your product. It sounds simple enough, but rest assured that the steps you need to take to reach the desired brand are many and multifaceted.
If you have a product, you should have a brand.
So where do we start? First of all, we need to understand just how big a part of our lives brands can play. Our habits and decisions as consumers are heavily affected by brands and how we perceive them. But brands can also become stable parts of our lives. Take for example Frisbees. Did you know that the proper name for the item is a flying disc? Frisbee is actually a trademarked brand but it’s become synonymous with the item. Of course, it’s debatable whether it’s really beneficial to a brand to become synonymous with the product, but it’s a clear indication of just how strongly we can come to associate a product with a brand.
Of course it varies, depending on your products and services, just how well-known you need, or want, your brand to be. The general rule is that if you have a product, you should have a brand.
Why is It Important to Work on Branding?
Lately, people seem to be growing a tad weary of the term. In a piece on Medium, writer Jeff Jarvis calls it “an overused … and uncomfortable word.” In some ways, he might be right: treating brands and branding as the beginning and end of all marketing can get tiring, and only tells half the story. However, despite the terms being (perhaps overused) buzzwords, that doesn’t mean that they’re new. Marketers and companies have always been aware of their existence and importance. In a way, the biggest development is simply the fact that we now have the words to describe the concept more accurately.
If you don’t brand your product, it will be left behind.
Branding has always been around to a certain extent, now we simply have the terms and ideology to make it easier. That’s beneficial for everyone and makes the whole branding process more transparent. More importantly, brands and their importance aren’t going away anytime soon. With companies having presence on more platforms than ever (aside from traditional platforms like newspapers, television and billboards, think blogs, social media and more) marketers are continually coming up with more innovative ways to build and expose brands. So if you don’t brand your product, it will be left behind. Or worse yet, someone else will brand it for you and you might not like how they do that. Once that’s happened, it will be very difficult to reverse.
Who Defines Your Brand?
Like we said, if you don’t define your brand, someone else certainly will. But the truth is that even if you are diligent about defining your brand, you only have so much power over it. Roland Barthes, the French philosopher, argued in his essay The Death of the Author that an author, despite the misleading name, has very limited authority over their texts. Once they have written something and released it to the world, the text’s meaning will always be dependent on the reader and the meaning they project onto it. It’s the same with your brand. You define it and design it, but once you release it to the world, it will always be subject to how the audience receives it.
This may sound discouraging, but it shouldn’t. In today’s world, there are more ways than ever to connect with your audience and build and promote your brand.
So how do you successfully build your brand? There is perhaps no one simple answer to that question, but there are a few basic steps you can take to begin with:
Define your brand: even though building your brand is an ongoing process, and the brand itself may evolve through time, it’s important to get it right from the beginning. The stronger your brand is to begin with, the more likely it is to gain momentum and evolve positively.
Consistency is key: a successful brand is consistent on every front both in design and voice. This will require you to invest in good design, but also that you maintain it.
Find your audience: figuring out who your audience is makes it easier to figure out who you are marketing your brand to and where you should be doing it.
Socialise: Regardless of who your audience is, having a strong social media presence will help you establish your brand and to maintain it in real time. You should distinguish which social media platform is the most fitting for you company and industry, but whether it’s LinkedIn or Pinterest, it’s important to be there.
The stronger your brand is to begin with, the more likely it is to gain momentum and evolve positively.
Whatever you do though, be honest and realistic in your branding. When branding your company, you don’t want to appear like a political candidate who promises all things good, but ends up delivering little of it. It’s about being realistic and honest in what you promise your audience. Consistently delivering what you promise is worth more than any grand statement or gesture as it will establish the trustworthiness of your brand.
Whether you’ve just started promoting your brand or you have an entire marketing department working hard, you’ve probably realised by now that building and promoting a brand is hard work. Really hard work. But it doesn’t need to rest all on you or your marketing team: it’s a common misunderstanding that marketing and brand promotion should be in the hands of a select few. Your strongest asset when it comes to promoting your brand is actually your entire workforce.
Get your employees to establish their own personal brand. When they have a strong personal brand, they become stronger advocates of your company and that’s when they become brand ambassadors. Having employees on social media will help greatly with this. Of course, you will have to make sure their presence is the right kind of presence, that is to say, that you know what kind of content they are publishing on their social media profiles is the kind of content you want associated with your brand. Now, this isn’t something that you should worry too much about: chances are that your employees are engaged and ambitious people who will be posting good quality, relevant content. Don’t forget that anything your employees post reflects them as much as it does your company.
Your strongest asset when it comes to promoting your brand is actually your entire workforce.
With that being said, investing in an employee advocacy program will help. An employee advocacy program gives you the platform to encourage your employees to share content and become brand ambassadors. If all your employees are engaging online, your brand exists online in real time. Even if your employees don’t share content constantly, they still create a presence and reach online that is way beyond anything your brand could do on its own. It’s also a much more authentic presence than a professional marketing team could conjure. A good employee advocacy program also makes it easier for you to see what your employees are sharing, allowing you to closely monitor how your brand is being presented by your employees.
Branding from the Inside-Out
Another exciting aspect of having a good employee advocacy platform, is that it becomes infinitely easier to develop your brand from the inside-out. When your employees have access to a good program that allows them to communicate with each other effectively, it becomes more fun to brainstorm and visualise where the company should be heading. Newsio gives its users a clear overview of relevant news, therefore enabling them to follow what’s going on in their industry.
Sometimes the best ideas come from the unlikeliest places.
Furthermore, the channels make it easy to break things into relevant content. Individual teams can even have their own private channels. In these channels, your employees can post articles that they find inspiring, files with important information on what’s going on in the company or even just quick notes with their ideas and visions. When all the employees are better connected and engaging in a dialogue with each other, they instantly become more engaged and get a better idea of what the company’s brand is. And the best part is that you can include every single member of your staff, if you wish. Sometimes the best ideas come from the unlikeliest places, but with an employee advocacy platform, you can open up the possibility for every member of staff to pitch in or at the very least, be able to follow what’s going on.
The more informed and connected your staff is, the easier it becomes to build a brand and promote it with their help, since they’ll know exactly what their company does and what their role in it is.
United We Stand
Branding is here to stay. It’s an old concept and it shows no signs of going anywhere. And why should it, when it’s a tested method that has grown in recent years due to increased opportunities across different platforms. The truth is that with so many different platforms to look after, the task of promoting and preserving the integrity of your brand can seem daunting, but employee advocacy will help immensely in doing so. After all, the only thing that’s better than 10 people promoting your brand online, is a 1000 people promoting your brand online.
Curious to see just how employee advocacy can help you turn your employees into brand ambassadors? Get in touch, we’d be happy to show you how many of our clients have gained from an employee advocacy program and how you could too!