Latest posts by David Norcross (see all)
Some of the most valuable properties in the world are intellectual properties. When excitement hits a fever pitch for “the new iPhone” or “the next Marvel movie” before the details of it are even released, that is a dream situation for marketers. But it doesn’t happen by accident. There is one way – and one way only – to make such dreams come true.
Browse through Forbes’ list of the world’s most valuable brands, and the similarities will be striking. Even if you don’t use their products, you’ll know nearly all of their logos instantly. You’ll know how they communicate, what tone of voice they use when they advertise, and what they do.
Don’t underestimate that last part; the strength of a brand is measured by how likely people are to think of it when they need a specific type of product or service. Water down your services by offering too many options (“we do everything!”) and you won’t stand out as the company that knows how to do X.
Back to the list: We see Apple, Google, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Facebook, Toyota, IBM and Disney sitting pretty at the top. Many people might see that list and assume the wrong things, such as, “The logos and services are recognizable because we use them all the time. We know their company persona because they are big and they advertise a lot.”
They weren’t always big, though. These companies bested their competitors because their products were accompanied by solid strategic investment in their brand identity. People sought them out when they wanted an easy-to-use computing device, or a precise internet search, or an operating system, or a soft drink, and so on. These winning companies then used their profits to further build their brands, because they were wise enough to see where their success came from, and that their reputation was now their single biggest asset.
How to Build a Winning Brand
Memorable brands all seem to have that certain something that makes them ‘click’ in the mind of the public. But having the right logo, tagline, mascot, jingle, visual approach and social media persona is never a lucky accident.
The effortless and natural-sounding public face of each brand in fact comes from countless brainstorming sessions, dozens of discarded rough drafts and near-misses, market research on both customers and competitors, demographic profiles of target groups, a unique brand personality with its own preferred vocabulary, as well as a company message that encompasses the entire range of products, services and corporate values, and then boils it down to its purest essence.
The crucial question for any company – Who Are We? – must be comprehensively answered before entering any large-scale marketing phase, and that answer must be made crystal clear for customers as well as the company’s own employees. Otherwise, the company may soon find itself without an anchor, and drift off in unwanted directions with no concept of where it is going or who its intended audience should be. Even when a company strikes just the right note, there is an additional danger: The person who struck that note may someday leave the company, and his/her replacement will be unable to recreate it.
These troubling and sometimes fatal outcomes can all be prevented with a single step, which should be completed relatively early in a company’s development timeline. A Brand Book developed by a reputable branding agency in Bangkok can outline and explain a company’s own internal values as well as the market niche it wants to occupy, and gives a focused statement on the organization’s defined aims – in both narrow and broad terms.
Navigating the Information Landscape
A Brand Book summarizes the relevant market research, with a particular eye toward building an essential demographic profile of its potential customer base. This profile will include basic identifying characteristics (age, sex, location) as well as personal interests and hobbies, income range, job titles, social media habits, and psychological insights for prototypical customers within the company’s target market.
In generations past, such a level of detail may have seemed like overkill; today it is indispensable. The new world of digital marketing makes even the smallest of details actionable. Knowing that your target audience reads Business Insider, for example, allows you to design your online content around similar themes, and see impressive ROI when advertising specifically to Facebook users who follow Business Insider. Failing to make that connection, on the other hand, means you are leaving business on the table which one of your competitors is likely to profit from instead.
Having your entire staff on the same page vis-à-vis your corporate values, and developing a good understanding of your audience’s interests and inclinations, allows you to develop a truly effective public identity. The personality of your spokesperson, narrator or mascot – nearly impossible to effectively develop otherwise – will soon begin to suggest itself. The vocabulary and tone of voice it uses will be an outgrowth of how you (as a company) like to talk, and how your audience likes to talk as well.
Visual design and website content should also grow from this insight, as should your social media presence. Does your company want to project unimpeachable authority, or conversational good humor? Does it comment on current events, or cheer for the local sports team? Does its brand represent a single product or service, or is it selling a lifestyle choice? The social marketing agency producing its content, visual design and social media output must be in perfect unity on these types of questions, or the brand image will wobble and deteriorate.
Digital Marketing, a.k.a. Tinder for Companies
The discomfiting effect of a confused brand image is often enough, particularly in this age of gratuitous choices and easy distractions, to push potential customers away. If it takes them more than 5 seconds to figure out who you are and what you’re all about, they’ll swipe left and move on to the next potential suitor.
You will only really ‘click’ with your audience when you have your entire brand image looking clean and instantly attractive. When you can really engage with your users at first glance, they’ll swipe right and then you’re in.
For consumers, there’s nothing more eye-catching than a marketing department running beautifully on all cylinders. But just as in the world of dating, those ‘natural and effortless’ good looks only come after a thorough foundation that includes a few big choices as well as plenty of fine-tuning. In this metaphor, a company’s Brand Book represents the best approach to personal grooming available today.
Making Your Own Luck
They say that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. The Forbes list of top brands brings together hugely successful companies that had to make their own opportunity, but in the digital age, the marketing world is open, affordable and accessible to all. Luck now boils down to simple preparation, and preparation starts with a comprehensive Brand Book.
When done well, a Brand Book will teach the company many things it didn’t know about itself. Companies often start on assumptions (e.g., about their intended audience, marketing approach, or ideal company persona), and occasionally those assumptions are wrong. Companies also need to have a standardized approach to all communications, including visual ones. What colors and fonts should be used? How and where should the logo be presented?
After a key person resigns, can their replacement pick up from where the old one left off? Can an outsource partner, such as a graphic design agency in Bangkok, quickly adapt to your company’s unique style? With a Brand Book as a guide, they can; when codified and compiled, insights will remain within the company even after those making them have left. Otherwise the company will shake its head at its bad “luck” and have to rebuild its knowledge from scratch.
What kind of luck does your company have? Is it more like Apple’s or Google’s, or does it instead seem to miss opportunities to connect with the right audience? Does it have the right look, and speak with confidence … or are mixed messages getting out, resulting in poor ROI?
The brands on Forbes’ top 100 list would all answer these questions in the same way. Each is valued well into the billions of dollars, with Apple setting the high mark at over $150 billion. That’s not a valuation of the companies, incidentally. It’s the worth of the brands themselves.
A complete Brand Book will put your company squarely on the right track, setting a course for effective and long-lasting audience engagement. A Brand Book can take a meandering company and, like a compass, align its private and public identities toward realistic and achievable goals for success. By answering the question, “Who are we?”, a Brand Book also allows you to have your company ask itself: Where do you want to go today?
If you’d like some help developing your own brand book, contact us today. Lexicon’s design, branding, content writing, research and marketing teams will work in unison to provide your company with its own brand bible.
Lexicon is a full-service digital marketing agency in Bangkok, Thailand. We specialize in corporate storytelling and produce all of our content in-house, including branding, copywriting, video production and graphic design. Lexicon’s social media marketing services start from just 25,000 THB per month.
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