If you’re a homeowner, you understand the importance of equity. Your home is an investment and the value it brings you grows with time. Because of this, you protect it and take care of it – maintaining it, insuring it and fixing things that break.
Your brand is the same way. You’ve probably heard the term “brand equity,” but are you actively stewarding and protecting it?
Great brands take time to build, and they are fragile. Confusion, inconsistency and negative publicity can break down your brand’s value and disconnect your audience. However, you can take steps – such as the six below – to control, steward and actually increase the value of your brand.
1. Develop Brand Guidelines
Protecting your brand begins inside your organization. With many different people – designers, copywriters, agencies and vendors – creating marketing pieces, you have to be able to provide a guide that ensures everything stays consistent. Plus, having it in writing keeps people accountable and honest, rather than having each department create their own interpretation of the brand.
2. Create a Social Media Policy
With today’s technology, things spread faster than ever, and with everyone having a platform on social media, it is becoming increasingly difficult to control who speaks on behalf of your brand. While you can’t control what’s said about you on external social media platforms, you can control what is said on your platforms and those of employees who represent you. Create a policy and clear permissions for what and who can post to branded social media platforms (more controlled) as well as a policy for what people say about your organization on personal platforms (less controlled). Check out our social media policy checklist for more information about what yours should include!
3. Say It Over…and Over…and Over
When you spend a lot of time around your brand, things can start to feel a bit monotonous. You’re using the same language in all your copy. Each collateral piece shares a look and feel. Your social media graphics are even all starting to look alike. While it can be tempting to want to switch things up, that’s probably the point where your audience is finally starting to get it. While your brand is your world, your audience is bombarded with messages from hundreds of different brands. It takes simplicity and consistency over time to reinforce who are you and make your branding immediately recognizable. This means everything from using your logo correctly to the way you treat photos.
4. Don’t Forget the Essence
There’s more to a brand than meets the eye. Behind every logo, color palette and line of copy is an emotion or essence that makes you who you are. Truly great brands know how to weave this essence through every experience with their brand.
For example, Southwest sells airline tickets, but what they really sell is relationship, fun and freedom. Free People sells women’s clothing, but they’re really selling a spirit of adventure. Whole Foods sells a sense of health and environmental conscious. Nike sells achievement and perseverance. You get the picture.
While people might appreciate your logo and tagline, they ultimately connect with the emotions of your brand. When you can make them feel a certain way or advocate a lifestyle they aspire to, you become about much more than just the product you’re selling.
Spend some time brainstorming your brand essence. Write it down. Memorize it. While you might never publish a piece with it clearly stated, it should be the filter that you run your marketing campaigns and even your business decisions through.
5. Provide Resources to Advocates
Hopefully you have lots of fans who love to talk about you. This is the ultimate form of brand engagement, but it also means more people – many who might not be privy to internal brand guidelines – speaking on your behalf. The more branded resources you can provide advocates, the easier it will be for them to share AND the easier it will be for you to preserve your brand. Make logo files, collateral, social media graphics and sample social media posts easily accessible online. We love how Charity Water has a whole page dedicated to downloadable marketing materials and even their brand guidelines.
6. Respond Quickly (and Have a PR Firm On Hand)
Sometimes bad things happen to good brands. Whether it’s a bad review online or getting mixed up in a public news debate, there IS such a thing as bad publicity. Trust is difficult to build and easy to lose, so it’s critical to have a plan in place if and when something negative happens. While some things should just be ignored (haters gonna hate), respond quickly and kindly to negative feedback, whether that’s smoothing things over with an unhappy customer or releasing a statement about a public issue. People tend to fill in the parts of the conversation that remain unspoken and it’s better to directly address an issue – even something where you might be at fault – than to let others fill in the blanks. And for the big ones, don’t be afraid to hire a PR firm. These trained communications experts know how to navigate crises and get in touch with the right media outlets to smooth things over.
By keeping your brand (and the emotions behind it) consistent, actively communicating and having a plan to protect against damage, you can establish the value of your brand and build trust and engagement for the long-term.