Creative marketers talk about the importance of building brands while business owners and CEOs are focused on growing their businesses. At times, they may feel at odds with each other, but the truth is they’re trying to accomplish the same goal. At Simply180, we believe both concepts (brand and business) are quite connected, and often when we say brand, we actually mean business. We develop holistic marketing strategies that use whatever it takes to accomplish our clients’ goals.
A branding project is more than just a positioning statement, a logo, and a new website – it is a transformation that affects the whole organization. We can think of the brand as a promise that the business must fulfill. The logo is merely a mnemonic device associated with this promise. For example, when you see the Apple logo on a product, you expect clean product design and intuitive/humanized interaction with modern technology. Your positive brand experiences have built a level of trust that results in more business. Thus, better businesses grow bolder brands and vice-versa. The most successful companies set high expectations and keep their promises.
So, what does it take to build a successful brand? The key is to focus on your business goals and figure out what is the thing that your customers want, and you can promise to deliver better than most.
Businesses as Brands
When a holding or an equity firm acquires a company, do they buy the organization or the brand? And if they want to “fix it,” would they focus on the business or its reputation? You may get different answers, depending on the situation and who you ask. From a CMO perspective, an acquisition is an investment in an existing brand’s reputation, while a COO or CFO may say it is all about the tangible performance indicators. Yet, the truth is that these are two sides of the same coin. The reason to build a brand is to grow the business. You’ll often here us say, “when we say brand, we mean business.”
Some people are confused by this concept at first. In business school, many prioritize courses about operations, budgets, managing employees, and product innovation. Creative marketing and branding are often seen as superficial trickery – a pretty but usually fake lure. In reality, marketing and business strategies should always be aligned, working hand in hand. Overpromising and under-delivering may get you some immediate results, but it is a proven recipe for failure in the long run. Your customers’ perception of your organization is as important as the actual state of the business. That’s our approach at Simply180. We aim to grow brands that generate business sustainably.
A brand is a promise that your business keeps.
Sleek logos make you look better, but no one will care about your visual identity if your business fails to offer something meaningful, or worse faulty. A brand is what people keep in mind about a product, service, or the company that provides them. At its core, a brand is a promise you make to customers. It is a pledge to deliver products and services within their price and quality expectations. If you keep your word, people will remember the positive experience. They will recall your brand and come back for more. If they are happy with the brand interactions, they will spread the word, and your business will grow. You can use the “trust capital” you build to attract more customers and survive crises. Companies that understand the business-building value of branding tend to do better.
At Simply180, we can help you define your brand positioning and style. We can create the artwork, craft the messages, and design the experiences that bring your brand to life. The real success of your brand, however, depends on your customer satisfaction interacting with your organization. Any marketing efforts won’t matter if your business products, services, and operations fail to fulfill your brand’s promises.
We believe that the best way to grow brands and businesses is by nurturing fans. Think about successful brands and how their obsessed “evangelists” are ready to stand in line for the latest products, write reviews, and offer referrals. A marketing campaign can generate leads and help convert them to customers. The following brand experiences bring opportunities to convert customers into fans. The key to this process is keeping your promises.
For example, take Zappos, the online shoe retailer that built its business on the promise of seamless fulfillment and 110% customer service. It offered free shipping and returns, which were virtually unheard of at the time. Zappos delivered on their promise, and delighted customers responded to the tune. Zappos followers became fans for life. They spread the word among friends and raved online, expanding the customer base exponentially. All of this was happening back in the early 2000s. Now, social media accelerates this type of chain reaction. Companies build success on loyal followers who shout praises from their rooftops (or keyboards).
Your business is the focus.
At Simply180, we focus on defining your brand’s promise so that we can accelerate your business growth. That means we often go deeper than your immediate marketing objectives – down to the core of your business goals. We strive to improve your business performance in general, not just the marketing.
Most agencies don’t have this mindset. They often take on projects, such as designing new websites, brochures, or ad campaigns without thinking about the purpose of these projects and more effective ways to achieve client goals. We believe it’s critical to think about how your business operates, not just how it looks on the surface. If we see something wrong, we will bring it to your attention. Even the most effective marketing strategy cannot fix all problems of your business. We do not build brands for the brand’s sake. We are in the business of building brands that grow business.
For example, a company selling steel-building kits asked us to redesign their website. We started the process but quickly realized how they classify and offer their products is quite confusing. They would organize the buildings by size, which was not how customers searched for those items. We researched the competition but could not find better practices. Then we expanded our search out of their industry and found many similarities with the automobile industry. We realized we could apply the auto marketing model to the steel building industry. The client agreed that this approach makes more sense, and we restructured the website flow and the way they organize their business. Instead of packaging building specs and sizes, we created a matrix of product brands relevant to their potential customers. We didn’t just make the site look prettier; we developed a whole new user experience that allowed customers to find what they needed based on desired features. What started as a simple design request resulted in a game-changer that dramatically improved their business.
Make it memorable
Once you define your brand’s promise, you must find the best way to express it. In most cases, simply saying it is not enough. You want them to remember it. Therefore, the brands we build usually include a whole system of messaging, tag lines, style guides, visual identity rules, including logos, typography, color schemes, packaging, web and social media experiences. All these assets are essential to help people remember your business and your brand’s promise. They are a system of signals that plant seeds in people’s minds for your brand to grow.
That said, you can also mess up a great promise with the wrong look. For instance, Tropicana once thought it was a good idea to remove the iconic orange image with a straw from its juice carton packaging. They replaced the visual symbol of “real and fresh” with a straightforward verbal claim of the product being “100% orange.” They must have believed that the new concept was more honest and less gimmicky than the original, but the sales plummeted 20%. Did the orange juice taste any different? No, but customers lost the well-established visual cue and maybe the emotional connection with the familiar product.
In summary, building a brand means defining the central promise of your product, service, or organization. It usually involves crafting a system of verbal and visual expressions of this promise. A well-designed brand package can give significant momentum to your business. It helps your customers connect and remember their positive experiences, but it cannot substitute keeping your promises. The actual brand building and business growth come when you deliver on your bold promises and turn your customers into raving fans.