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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   September 2015

Build a Better Brand

A different skill than marketing, branding creates lasting customer impressions

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When you think of notable brands — such as Apple, Microsoft, Coca-Cola and General Electric — it’s clear they live up to their brand promises because of their loyal customer following.

Many people confuse branding with marketing. Unless you work in that space, it’s easy to do. But knowing the difference can help set your company apart by ensuring customers know exactly who you are and what you represent.

What is branding? 

Branding is a promise or commitment to your client that assures every time they interact with your organization they will get the same experience or impression. You can’t be all things to all people, so you will need to differentiate your mortgage business through branding. Be clear about who you are and how people perceive you and fulfill that expectation.

In today’s ever-changing business environment, for example, someone may ask what your company is doing to be “edgy.” If you have a long-standing, well-respected business, you may not want to be edgy, and that is fine. By knowing your brand, you also know what you’re not, and avoid sending mixed messages to potential clients.

If branding is the long-term “why,” marketing must be the short-term “how.” Marketing is the vehicle to deliver your branding message to your target audience to create product awareness, sales and referrals.

Branding and marketing are definitely different, but they’re both essential. Much like peanut butter and jelly, they work hand-in-hand to make something better together.

The effort to convey a consistent brand is ongoing and should constantly be evaluated.

Customers choose brands for many reasons. Some customers are attracted to low prices, whereas others are focused on quality. It’s all about the experience, how they choose one brand over another and their perception of what that means.

Apple is a good example. Its products create a buzz over a user experience that often costs more than Android-based products, but customers are willing to pay for that value perception. This kind of long-term relationship-building with customers really pays off for strong brands.

Consistent branding helps images such as Nike’s swoosh logo become instantly recognizable. Nike is a big company that has spent a lot of time and effort using the swoosh on every single product and marketing message. Over time, these efforts result in unaided brand recall from loyal customers. Successful companies put much thought into logo design, because the logo is the foundation of the brand. Logos must be easily recognized and generate an expectation for customers when they interact with your brand.

In 2010, The Gap tried to revamp its logo, only to see immediate pushback from customers. Within a week, the clothing retailer switched back to the original logo. This is a good example of not trying to change things just for the sake of change. Despite doing its research, the company assuredly didn’t anticipate such a strong customer reaction.

How to build a brand

The first step in building a brand is research. It’s hard to build a brand without qualitative research, which means talking with customers, referral partners and prospects and gathering information about how they feel about your existing brand.

Marketing executives use this research and demographic information to understand a brand, to formulate brand strategies and to gain insight into how competitors are reacting to it. If you are receiving negative feedback, there could be internal areas that need to be addressed. The information also may point to the need to create different experiences for your customers. This is an opportunity to address customer concerns and help rebuild the brand.

Next, you need to define what you’re great at — not what you’re good at. You have to figure out the one thing you do the best and sets your company apart from the competition. Fill a need, fill a hole and be the best.

Then, it’s important to appeal to the right audience with your brand. If you have an edgy product that appeals to young people, you want to be appealing and learn how to hit those audiences. You have to have a platform, a story and a history behind it.

Finally, you need to ensure that customers have a positive impression from every touch point, no matter if they’re talking to your receptionist or your chief operating officer. Consistency throughout the entire organization is critical.

Stay consistent

How do you maintain consistency throughout the company? Many companies make sure that everything goes through marketing and compliance departments to ensure consistent messaging. A brand-standard guide may be helpful, featuring items such as approved type styles and colors to which every employee has access. This can help ensure consistency in your brand, from advertising to employees’ e-mail signature blocks.

The effort to convey a consistent brand is ongoing and should constantly be evaluated. Companies should always be evaluating new trends — such as those happening in social media — and learning how to incorporate them while staying true to their brand.

Great brands have this in common: They’re authentic, don’t treat people like they’re a number or a sale, and genuinely want to connect to the customers. Stay true to your brand and these intentions, and you’ll always be on the right track. 


 


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