Your brand is a living, breathing thing that grows and changes over time—because of, or in spite of—your best-laid plans. One example is the way you might be tuning how you present your business as the mindset of B2B buyers shifts to include the broader social standing of your organization—its mission and social participation—alongside the value of the services and products your business offers. The challenge is how to subtly reimagine your brand to communicate that broader social value while maintaining the strong presence your brand already has.
So, there’s no such thing as rebranding, but your brand can be strategically reimagined in the minds of your customers. How do you know if you need to take a hard look at your brand? Ask yourself (be honest, it’s important!):
- Does your brand mirror your company’s current vision?
- Do you still stand out from your competitors? Are you succeeding in your category?
- Has your industry, product, or target audience changed? Are you still relevant to your customers?
- Do you feel confident sharing your marketing materials with prospects and peers?
If any of the above left you second-guessing yourself, it’s time to audit your brand presence and start thinking strategically about your company’s vision and opportunities.
The thought of undertaking a branding initiative might sound complex, overwhelming, and messy. Cost, timeline, measurable milestones, and getting internal commitment—not to mention how to prove ROI (and when)—are all valid stressors that can be worrisome and nag at you to postpone (especially if you’re shouldering the internal responsibility).
But you can overcome what seems like a large project by breaking it down into achievable parts: strategic planning, research, and learning from past experience. It’s also important to understand branding best practices and how current misconceptions might be hurting you. Before jumping into reworking your brand, plan to avoid these three common pitfalls:
1. Having an incomplete understanding of what branding means or encompasses
To you, a brand might mean a logo, a particular product, or your company’s website. These are all part of what makes up a brand, but the brand itself is much more than components: It’s an experience.
Jon Gieselman puts it this way: “Branding is the immediate and visceral reaction you have to any product or service, and what you believe it communicates about you as an individual to others.”
In other words, your brand is the overall impression of your business on your audience: It’s not what you think you are, it’s what your customers think you are. It’s that abstract feeling of recognition and trust that steers them to choose you over your competition—and that makes them feel like they made the right choice.
It’s an emotional connection, which in B2B is important to recognize when we so often think that business buyers make primarily rational, unemotional decisions.
So when considering a branding initiative, think about everything that impacts the customer experience with your brand. Your mission, the path to purchase, how your brand is positioned, how you message it, how you serve your customers—these decisions affect the perception of your business and how your brand lives in the world.
2. Not knowing which internal resources should be involved, including who the ultimate decision maker should be
The branding process can be polarizing for a company—everyone will have an opinion on the best way forward. To ensure success and avoid turmoil, establish a few things up front: Who your key stakeholders are, who must be every meeting, and who has the final say on branding decisions.
Run this past your manager, and your manager’s manager—you might be surprised to find out that the CEO wants a say, or that the GM’s aunt designed the original logo.
Be sure to include the ultimate decision maker in all phases of the project, not just the final review. This will help prevent a “ghost stakeholder” from throwing a wrench into the project at the last minute, which usually means additional revision rounds that will cost you in confusion, frustration, time, and money—and likely result in an incoherent brand presence.
3. Not realizing how much your brand perception varies across customer touch points
A brand’s most important element is the story it tells in terms of how your customers experience their surroundings, empathize with your brand, and ultimately choose you (or another option). A confusing story and inconsistent messaging can miscommunicate what you offer, create a frustrating experience for customers and prospects, diminish trust, or ultimately, contribute to a drop in sales.
To gain brand recognition and customer loyalty, you must have consistent messaging, voice, and tone. Your customers should be able to call your customer service line, visit your website, or view your Twitter page and feel like they are hearing the same “you.” Guidelines surrounding your brand’s story, messaging, voice, and tone should be consolidated into a style guide and accessible to all employees and external partners.
Creating a lasting brand can be challenging—it’s an ambitious initiative to be approached with thoughtful strategy. While there’s no way to promise that the journey will always be smooth and straightforward, you can avoid these pitfalls (and others!) by working with partners you trust.