You can learn a lot by examining the actions and habits of successful people. The same logic can be applied to branding. I’m sure you can think of several standout brands that make a statement and are continually outperforming their competitors, but can you put your finger on one specific thing that sets them apart? Probably not. This is because several elements go into making a brand successful. Just like people, effective brands have shared traits that are regularly communicated in their marketing and contribute to their overall impact.
They have a why.
One of the key differentiators of your brand is rooted in your reason why. Your customers are aware of what you do and how you do it; tell them why to make a strong brand statement. Of course you’re interested in making a profit, but ask yourself why your brand exists. What need or purpose does it fill? Why do you and your employees choose to make your living working for this company?
Ikea makes trendy furniture that is functional and beautiful, and they offer it at an affordable price point. That is what they do, but the why is to create a better life for everyday people. This message is expressed in their brand and marketing materials.
They make a promise.
What does your brand promise to always do? Create a brand promise and hold every aspect of your company to that promise. This is similar to the why, or the purpose, of your brand. This promise doesn’t have to be specific or limiting, but it should speak to the essence of the service you’re offering.
- HyVee: a helpful smile in every aisle. HyVee promises that there will be help when you need it, and it will be friendly help.
- Jimmy John’s: freaky fast. They promise that you’ll never have to wait long for your lunch.
- Buffalo Wild Wings: Wings. Beer. Sports. Buffalo Wild Wings does three things well and uses them as their brand promise. The sports portion of this promise is what they stress the most. They promise that when you come to Buffalo Wild Wings, your team will be on.
- Sprite: quench your thirst. This speaks to what Sprite is, a beverage, and promises that after drinking Sprite, you won’t be thirsty anymore.
They know their target market.
Your target market is not everyone; it is specific and part of your identity as a brand. Your brand should not address everyone—it should speak directly to this target market. The people who buy your products have their own set of common traits that lend themselves to your brand’s personality.
Chevy Silverado has a specific target audience of hard-working, blue-collar men. They’re a tough, get-it-done type of target audience who values tradition and perseverance. Chevy’s messaging and marketing for the product line reflect this.
Consistency is key to building your brand platform. This means keeping your messaging buttoned up and limited to only messages that support and enhance your brand.
Two brands come to mind when we think about consistency. The first is Coca-Cola, which tailors every element of their marketing to be cohesive with their overall message of happiness. The second is Apple; every interaction customers have with the Apple brand has the same high-quality aesthetic. It is blended into all of their marketing and even their in-store experience.
They’ve created employee buy-in.
Your brand should be adopted companywide. The why and promise of your brand should be the living, breathing personality that is portrayed in every interaction that customers have with your company. This includes the interactions your customers have with your employees, as well as the interactions employees have with each other.
Employees of REI are passionate about the outdoors and often share their personal experiences with customers. The employees REI attracts are outdoor enthusiasts who sustain their company culture and attract like-minded employees. To support and grow this culture, REI encourages employees to pursue outdoor activities through what they call Challenge Grants. Employees submit an application for an outdoor pursuit they want to accomplish, such as climbing Mount Rainer or hiking the Appalachian Trail, and if approved, REI donates the equipment needed to complete the challenge to that employee.
They’re aware of their competitors.
Competitive awareness is key to the success of your brand. Use competitive analysis to improve your brand strategy and add greater value to your customers. Observe and note the tactics that competitors use and how they resonate with customers. This also contributes to maintaining your understanding of your industry landscape.
Many brands monitor competitors on social media using social media listening platforms. When customers mention competitors, they often take the opportunity to intervene and reach out. An example is a customer may post a tweet complaining about Comcast’s customer service. Before Comcast can respond, DirecTV tweets back offering help.
They reward loyalty.
If customers are already showing their appreciation for your brand by repeat shopping, posting a nice review or sharing your message on social media, then take every opportunity to thank them. This is easily done through rewards programs like Panera Bread’s My Panera or by utilizing your own social media accounts to reach out.
Marriott Hotels’ rewards program ranks No. 1 among hotel loyalty programs for overall customer satisfaction. Members of the loyalty program receive free Internet service and free nights after a specific number of points are accumulated. Customers of Marriott have expressed that the personal care they experience while staying at the hotels is what keeps them coming back to this specific hotel brand.
The most successful brands have a human element. Lucky for us, we can observe and learn from those human tendencies to improve our own branding and marketing. The key to creating and sustaining a habit is consistency. If you can implement these brand characteristics regularly and stay true to who you are as a company, then your brand can become more effective and valuable to your customers.