Successful Brands Align Inside Reality with Outside Perceptions

April 15, 2021

People don’t buy cars. They buy Nissan Altimas. 

People don’t buy smartphones. They buy Apple iPhones. 

People don’t buy shoes. They buy Nike Air Jordans. 

People don’t buy products. They buy brands. 

What Is a Brand?

A brand distinguishes you from your competitors. It is your identity. It affects everything your organization does. It builds trust, loyalty and advocacy. And, if done successfully, integrates into every business practice. 

In short, a brand is how you make people feel.

Why Should I Care?

Successful brands 

  • Build positive perceptions;
  • Improve image awareness;
  • Allow you to charge more, a premium, for a service or product;
  • Attract more attention, interest, and customers;
  • Stand out in a cluttered marketplace, and;
  • Most importantly, increase your bottom line.

Leaders Start Internal

To create a successful brand, successful leaders start internally. 

First, they identify the most powerful players who help breathe life into a brand. You got it. We’re talking employees. Treat them as brand ambassadors. As you begin to develop a brand campaign, make them feel special and a true stakeholder by rolling it out first to them before going public. 

Ask them relevant questions:

  • Tell us what you think about our organization.
  • What makes us “truly” different?
  • What “ownable” characteristics define us?
  • What type of store would we be?
  • What type of vehicle would we be?

Next, share with them the results of the comprehensive marketing research, planning and analysis. Bring them into focus groups and one-on-one interviews. Collect, analyze and choose which employee suggestions are most helpful. Thank employees for their thoughts and share with them those recommendations that have been accepted and will help shape the campaign. This goodwill gesture will help increase internal buy in, confidence, support, awareness, and increase overall internal positive image and brand perceptions. 

Here’s the deal: Successfully aligning employee perceptions about your brand means your customer perceptions will be supported and reinforced by what they hear and see from employees. Branding has a cascading affect.

It’s that simple.

It Takes a Village

You’ve gathered loads of feedback from your internal marketing communications team and your employees.

Now you are ready to launch your brand.

Well, almost.

Before you do, it’s time to test.

Take the brand on the road.

Identify a diverse group of current and potential customers to continue the review and critique process. Again, this will provide valuable and critical feedback and recommendations to make sure the brand is on track and will resonate with current and potential customers and the public. Make necessary changes along the way. An added bonus is this process will likely inspire those participating to also become brand ambassadors.

Stick with It. Live with It. Add to It Along the Way.

At some point, organizations go through “boardroom burnout”. Internal leaders grow bored of a brand from repetition well before the public has seen it as much as they have because they live it everyday.

The worst mistake you can make is to change a brand too early in its life cycle and, in the process, lose valuable brand equity, the trust of your brand ambassadors and critical investment because you simply grew bored. 

Resist that feeling.

Stick with your brand.

Nurture it. Embrace it. Grow it. Love it. Live with it.

To help evolve and freshen it, add secondary messages and new stories along the way. Regularly test your brand with selected internal and external stakeholders. If brand perceptions continue to align with reality, you have done your job well as leaders. If not, adjust the brand campaign accordingly.

Stay the course, my friends.

And continue to reap the benefits of a successful brand.

Ted Coutilish

Ted Coutilish is an award-winning, seasoned marketing communication executive. He lives in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan. Currently, he is in a marketing communication leadership role for the University of Michigan College of Engineering in Ann Arbor. Previously, he worked in marketing communication leadership positions at Oakland Community College, Eastern Michigan University and Wayne State University.

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