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your brand identity is not your logo

Brand marketing

Where your brand is your essence and your logo merely window dressing

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Your brand is not your logo 

Over the years, our brand marketing agency has worked with a number of businesses and we’re always surprised how many people believe that a company’s brand is its logo and colors. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, your brand is your business’ identity. It’s the personality that your organization puts out to the world and never strays from.

Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room

Two different brands selling the same products

Let’s look at a couple of examples that everyone will be familiar with:

  • IKEA
  • Restoration Hardware (RH)

Both brands sell home decor but with completely different missions: and these missions are authentic to their brands.

IKEA is a Sweden-based company that designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture, kitchen goods and home accessories. It has 433 stores in 52 countries and posted $45.4 billion dollars of revenue in 2019. IKEA’s success is largely credited to its very recognizable mission and brand marketing strategy: to provide low-cost, sustainable home decor products in a wide range of modern designs that everyone can enjoy.

IKEA square logo

IKEA solidified its mission by creating large stores capable of holding a large number of styles and assembly-based products that keep costs low and therefore make the products more available to more people.They also continue to grow the number of sustainable and recycled products as part of the wide array of product SKUs.

Restoration Hardware (RH), which is known for its sophisticated, classy buying experience and high-quality home decor, with long-lasting value both in product longevity and design. Their stores are not just for buying home decor products, they aim to provide you with the experience of luxury.

Restoration Hardware Square logo

Restoration Hardware has redesigned its stores to include a full bar, offering customers the chance to enjoy a glass of wine while browsing floors of beautifully presented rooms that help you imagine each set like it’s your own home. This very deliberate staging reflects the kind of buying experience that appeals to customers who want luxury, classic design, and an individuality that you won’t find in IKEA.

Both brands have made very conscious choices when it comes to products and the retail environment. Because IKEA maintains its personality and mission, its customer base, success, and profits continue to grow. If IKEA suddenly came out with a line of luxury, highly-priced items, customers would be confused by the lack of alignment with the brand’s mission. The chances are that the line would fail as this kind of high-end purchase is not what customers come to IKEA to buy.

The bottom line is that your business must be authentic to your purpose and goals, whether it’s providing low-cost solutions or a top-of-the-line experience.

So what is brand marketing?

Let’s start with what brand marketing is not: you can’t just create an eye-catching logo and think you have a successful brand. It doesn’t work that way.

Brand marketing is marketing for your story not your products or services. Selling who you are and what you stand for. It’s the communication of your company’s unique purpose and drive to an audience that is likely to benefit from your products or services. Your brand is what makes you different.

Brand marketing is also about finding your tribe, the right fit of customers for what you have to sell. It’s not about tricking people into buying from you because you have celebrity endorsement. Such trickery or having a ‘fad’ aspect to your business cannot last and is therefore not a true part of your brand. Your business must have a genuine purpose for existing, which is with you forevermore.

Brand marketing vs. transactional marketing

We’ve explored what brand marketing is and what it isn’t. Authenticity and staying true to what your company stands for are critical elements to brand marketing and phrases we’ll return to. Let’s take an example:

A marketing consultancy has a mission to help small businesses display their message more maturely. The marketing director gives a speech at a marketing conference with easy-to-implement tips on how small businesses can start working toward brand maturity right now.

This is staying true to the company’s ethos. It makes sense. It’s brand marketing.

No matter what you do, your job is to tell your story

Transaction marketing, on the other hand, centers around appearing in places where people are looking for a specific product or service, like selling a widget on Amazon. This form of marketing is about quick, efficient volume sales with absolutely no relationship at all with the customer.

Is one method of marketing better than the other? That depends on what you’re looking to achieve.

The issues with transactional marketing:

  • It doesn’t support brand loyalty
  • You’re competing against a number of other businesses
  • Your message doesn’t come through
  • Growth becomes less predictable

Why do so many people focus on transactional marketing?

  • It’s easier for people to understand
  • You can see some results quicker
  • It’s easier to create clear ROI metrics
  • Brand marketing is a true leap of faith and takes time to develop as you need to build a community of customers to grow sustainably: but all your favorite brands have taken this approach where few businesses have excelled with a purely transactional approach

The problem is that transactional marketing doesn’t promote long-term sustainability, it’s mostly about that first sale. Lots of transactional brands don’t get repeat purchases because there are no barriers to competitors coming in and stealing their competitive advantage, usually price or availability.

zig zigler quote

Loyal customers demand an emotional connection to a brand, to feel that a brand understands their needs: is almost an extension of the way they see themselves. Such a loyal customer base doesn’t just offer consistent sales, but the kind of invaluable advocacy where customers will shout your name from the rooftops and recommend your business to everyone they know. And that’s the kind of loyalty you just can’t buy, no matter how cheap your product or how quickly you can deliver.

When you cater to your core audience and build an emotional connection such that your customers care about your brand, your brand marketing strategy will pay dividends.

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What services does a brand marketing agency offer?

Does your organization have a brand or just a logo? If you do have a brand, does it convey what your business stands for? Don’t panic if not – the purpose and drive of your company does exist, it can just take time and a well-crafted process to figure it out.

As a brand marketing agency, we run a number of workshops to help clients understand:

  1. Why they got into their business in the first place
  2. The unique perspective it provides to a given market

By honestly assessing your goals and vision for a business, you’ll be able to understand your company’s true purpose and start to ascertain its brand identity. This is an organic process that should be constantly evaluated and refined. This does not mean you have to throw away your past work. It’s about consistently building off your current purpose as you continue to learn about the needs of your clients in a given economy, and how you are uniquely positioned to help.

Take the Stairs Why Statement

Our team of brand marketers is ready to guide you through our Find your why workshop, where we uncover your business’ authentic purpose. Through a series of exercises you will be able to uncover themes that made you understand why you started your business in the first place.

Style guidelines are the overall rules and standards on how your business assets should be displayed on any source of media (commercials, social media, radio, website, etc.). They include information on your logo design and visuals, typography, straplines and tone of voice, and color palettes: everything that impacts how your brand is used in any given situation.

Take the Stairs brand typography

Share your style guidelines with your partners and vendors to ensure consistency: if you never want your brand on a pink background, make it clear in your guidelines from the outset. Brand consistency in your assets shows your new and existing customers a level of professionalism and attitude toward doing things in the right way.

Take the Stairs Color Palette

It has traditionally been important that your style guidelines relate to your brand identity, particularly where colors are involved. Historically, if you had a royal or luxury brand, purples would have been more likely to be used. Rebel or outsider brands might choose darker colors and anything that wanted to indicate freshness, like detergent brands, usually went with white or green palettes. As our world turns ever more digital, such traditions are less observed but logo color choice is still an important step in your company’s branding process.

Ideal Customer Profile is a segment of the customer base that works really well for your business. We often ask, “What does your ideal customer look like?”

There are many characteristics that can define a quality prospect to your business. This doesn’t mean you won’t accept business from people outside of your ICPs, but it does mean that you can choose to target your advertising dollars to people who are more likely to buy.

Bringing ICPs to life: a couple of examples

  • Think about a cosmetics company and how you might decide to spend your advertising budget. Wouldn’t it be smarter to just promote your products to women? Can you go even further? Maybe your products are for anti-aging, meaning you could easily focus on the over 40s market for those products. Yes, you might miss out on the small demographic of male makeup wearers or women in their 30s that have sun-spoiled skin. However, the chances are good that you’re solidly hitting your chosen demographic if you segment your audience.

Think about a company that sells flowers. In American society, it is very common and acceptable for women to receive flowers as gifts for holidays such as Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day or their birthday, but consider: who actually buys the flowers? More likely than not it’s the men in their lives meaning that in this example, it’s vital to target the buyer, not the end-user. A successful ICP created in this case would likely be ‘men buying gifts for women’. Although this isn’t going to capture every single person that buys flowers, it could be a successful subset.

Continuing the flower example, after deciding that men buying gifts are an ICP, then you need to understand their general pain-point. Is it cost? Ease of use? Or receiving recommendations because they don’t know what flowers are best?

Then you present your ICPs with messaging that solves their unique problems. Say we’re focused on men who don’t know what flowers to buy. A relevant ad would be one that shows the top 5 flower arrangements for Valentine’s Day with a link to purchase. You’ve just killed two birds with one stone: you’ve narrowed their search down to 5 flower options and the buy button is within a mouse click. All this makes the buyer’s life easier.

One of the hardest questions for businesses to answer is,

“Why should I hire you over your competitors?”

This needs to be one of your easiest questions to answer.

You and your sales teams must understand the unique value your products or services have over any other competitor out there in order to win repeat business. In today’s world, you can’t just be “the Lawyer” or “the General Contractor”. With the rise of the internet and search engines, your buyer will find 20 products and services similar to yours in seconds. It’s not enough to just offer a product of service, you have to go that one, HUGE step further.

It’s important to note that not everyone is going to appreciate your value differentiators and that’s okay. Think back to IKEA and RH.

Is everyone going to want a $12,000 floral silk couch or care about a glass of wine while browsing the store? Nope.

Is everyone going to want to spend the time assembling their own furniture to save a few bucks? Also, a big fat no.

Customers are not homogenous in their outlook, needs or pocketbook. It’s vital to find your tribe and outline your audience or ICPs to know who to target.

What happens in the workshop?

Our brand marketing consultants walk you through a number of exercises to uncover and create value differentiators authentic to your brand that you can use to uniquely position your business. It’s important that whatever is created as your differentiators are TANGIBLE. It’s not enough to say you have “better customer service” or a “better quality product”. It’s virtually meaningless in itself and people can smell that BS a mile away.

You have to back up what you say with evidence or cold hard facts:

  • “We strive to have the best customer service in the industry by ensuring we make contact with you within 24 hours of every request”
  • “Our products are never made from plastics, only sustainable stainless steel”

You must practice what you preach. If you decide on a value differentiator, then it’s crucial that it be fulfilled all the time or customers will become frustrated and disenfranchised with your brand.

Let’s take a look at some well-known brands where their brand marketing strategy didn’t quite go to plan…

  • Wells Fargo‘s slogan was “Together We’ll Go Far” before their account sign up scheme that got them in hot water. The messaging backfired when people realized that the company wasn’t there to help people’s personal growth.
  • Applebee’s slogan, “Eating good in the neighborhood”. The popular chain pretended to be “the local watering hole” but in reality, the company is the largest sit-down chain restaurant. The slogan was miles apart from Applebee’s reality and it didn’t play well.

And then there’s the opposite example – where a brand changes its slogan or brand to reflect its evolving values:

  • A popular US fitness center and non-profit organization has rebranded twice. It went from being known as the Youth Men’s Christian Association to the YMCA, as it changed to a focus on all males, rather than those of the Christian variety. Since the new millennium, the YMCA has rebranded to “the Y” to be more inclusive of female members.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it?” It’s no different in marketing.

You should focus on a number of variables to best communicate your message to your different audiences. Once you’ve established your business purpose, your ideal customers and what makes you different, it’s time to address messaging.

What do you want to say?

Your messaging should generally contain your value differentiators as these are the things that help you stand out from your competition. The message format should relate to which platform will display your message and also consider your customers’ or ICPs’ preferences.

The first rollout will never be your best work, but it should be a highly educated guess. From there you’ll need to constantly refine your messaging for tighter relevance and greater impact.

Learn how to get started with a brand marketing company

Do you see your company as more than just a logo? Do you have a brand that is authentic and means something to your customers? Do you see brand marketing strategy as part of your path to success?

If so, call us at Take the Stairs to learn how to get started. We’ll set a discovery meeting to hear your story and where you want your brand and company to go. We’ll develop a proposal on how we can help you that includes ideas for ICPs, value differentiators, and messaging: it’s up to you whether you ask us to implement it all for you or choose to do it on your own.

Either way is fine. It’s always been our mission to take the “con” out of consulting; we are here to help businesses of all types reach their goals.

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