“The times, they are a-changin’”… and so is marketing. The social web is much more than people spending large amounts of time on Facebook or Twitter; it showcases communities of people with strong opinions and fierce loyalties. This global community of digital socialites represents a democratic ethos that demands a marketing approach of humility, persona, and confidence. In this context, organizations that ignore their audience’s praise or criticism will lose those audiences to organizations who are willing and quick to respond.
Creating a sense of authenticity and trust is more urgent than ever, but creating that sense is impossible without self-understanding. Today, trust is created when people perceive that their needs are being responded to. So, with that in mind, how does your brand hold up? Are you meeting these new demands of responsiveness and transparency with vigor or timidity? Here is my solution for that gnawing fear of “I don’t know if I’m doing this right”… take your organization through a rigorous rebranding process. Here is why: when you know exactly who you are and who your audience is, you know who to listen to, and who not to listen to. You know the key people among your clients would make a perfect evangelist for your cause, and you reach out to them. They trust you because you know exactly who you are, but you are willing to listen to their input.
We actually charge a pretty penny to take organizations through this process, and I think it is highly valuable to bring in outside, professional oversight. However, these 8 steps can help you see what areas need work. It is helpful to write down the ‘answers’ to each step as you think through them, or put question marks where you are unsure. Enjoy.
The (re)Branding Process
8 Steps to Creating a Consistent Brand Image
- Find your unique value: this is what your brand really is at its most basic level. Identifying the one thing that separates you from your market and making that your primary identity is one of the most important things any organization can do. If you don’t know it off the top of your head, you have not finished this step.
- Assess your core audience: Knowing and understanding your audience should be a natural conclusion of your unique value, because your uniqueness lies in meeting needs nobody else can meet (at least, not the way you do!). Considering the people your brand is built on is essential before creating your logo, message, website, and everything else. If you can’t describe your target audience in one sentence, you have not finished this step.
- Craft the core message: Keeping your audience in mind, create (or recreate) a core message, one that says who you are and what you need you meet. For example, ours is branding you for the social web… these six words are meant to describe who we are and what need we meet. Memorize it, and say it to everyone you talk to about your organization.
- Use the right voice: A voice is the tone you use in speaking to different people. Like most organizations, you probably have a few different types of “customers”. Make sure you are using the right voice to reach each of them. This can be a challenging process but also extremely rewarding and fun.
- Eliminate the unnecessary: Go through the “pruning” process of trimming unnecessary ventures and messages to establish which ones should receive the most resources. It is usually one simple idea that makes the connection with people, and clutter can confuse your audience.
- Make a plan: Take what survived the cutting room, and create a strategy to create the right impression on your audience. It is always creative ideas that stick with people, so get creative. Think practically: “What will communicate our message and make people remember it?”
- Implement it: Steps 1 through 6 are the thinking parts. Step 7 and 8 are the doing parts. Usually, it’s not wise to put all your eggs in one basket, but with a rebranding effort, you want to be clear what the new brand image is. So, make sure that you implement it with gusto, and that it doesn’t look like a sideshow. Much of this can be done through a new visual look, but often it demands a new way of speaking, doing events, and even sometimes how you dress! The important thing is that it all supports your core identity… hype dies like a sugar high.
- Measure the impact: Theoretically, Steps 1-7 should make a big impact if done well, but you will never know if you do not set up measurement tools. Make sure that you are set up to measure the effectiveness of your strategy. Organizations that succeed long term are always fine tuning their voice, adjusting their visual identity, and finding better ways to build community both within and without the organization.
Remember, rebranding is a normal part of every organization’s life-cycle. This is a constant effort, with some seasons more devoted to it than others.