For most entrepreneurs, the idea of having their own business is a primary objective. But for some, building a brand is the ultimate goal.
However, building a brand is very different than building a company. One could even say brand building requires an entirely different sub-set of skills that only a few have ever mastered.
The truth is, you don’t need a company to build a brand: What you need are followers.
Today’s world is very different than yesterday’s. Many personal brands are built on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, some intentionally and some unintentionally. A brand could be a company (AOL), a product (Rubik’s Cube) or even an individual (Kim Kardashian).
No matter how a brand is built there are common elements to successful brands. Some of these elements are created by your marketing team while others are created by employees or followers.
Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, wrote: “Mass advertising can help build brands, but authenticity is what makes them last. If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”
This is one of the greatest quotes about branding and is true today as much as it was when he wrote it in 1997. Why? Because it sums up that great brands are built not just by ads, but from the total experience.
How many times have great brands been tarnished by poor customer service or luxury brands cheapened trying to appeal too widely? And how many times have we fallen in love with a brand, creating a relationship that has stood the test of time?
Building a great brand is not easy. It’s likely the hardest challenge any company has. But when you do it successfully, the rewards are plentiful.
According to Brand Finance®, Apple is the most valuable brand in the world. What is even more interesting is that most consumers will likely feel certain emotions about, and some kind of connection to, almost every brand on this page before thinking about their product. Companies without high brand value do not have this consumer connection.
Having a great product and customers is just not enough. There are several things every brand owner should ask themselves :
Is Your Brand Authentic?
People are collectively smart (excluding those nominees for the Darwin Awards) and authenticity is a key element for a successful brand. Whether it’s a luxury good, an honest review or a promise of a low-cost, high-quality alternative, what people want to know more than anything else is if you’re authentic. No fakes have stood the test of time.
Do You Have Shared Values?
A key extraction from Howard Schulz’s quote is: “If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” We would like to dissect this a bit deeper and define “people” as all people involved with a company and not just customers. From employees to vendors to competitors—the more a brand authentically shares value with all people, the greater the emotions invoked for the brand.
Are You Integrating Completely?
Having a person at hello is not enough. The greatest brands in the world incorporate their brand into everything, from product packaging to logo silhouettes to a single font. From an outside perspective, what looks relatively simple is often the result of countless hours spent planning a brand’s integration.
Do You Have a Single Voice
Great brands understand the value of a single voice. They also understand how to minimize damage control by not having too many people tell the same story. It’s very rare to hear Google employees discussing the search engine’s future, or Home Depot employees describing the store culture.
A single voice is critical. Otherwise, your brand may never be consistent and this, in turn, will undermine your authenticity.
Are You Consistent?
Consistency is crucial. Imagine if Starbucks baristas didn’t wear green and everyone could choose a different uniform color. Imagine if Apple stopped paying attention to design. What if Tesla tried to sell regular fuel cars at the same time?
Any of these actions would likely result in only negative consequences for the brand. Consistency and Authenticity go hand in hand, and many times the only way to be authentic is to be consistent.
Branding (in theory) is pretty straight forward but in reality, it is far more difficult. After all, the ultimate goal is to earn the love of others and that is something even the best world leaders find hard to do.
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