So, here’s the thing. You may invest time – and a lot of money – into your brand development and marketing strategy. But when it all comes down to it, branding is really in the eyes of the beholder; it’s all about your customers’ and potential customers’ perception of your brand. Like it or not, where many brands are most successful is when they give up a bit of control and allow their brand and marketing efforts to evolve as their audience gets to know them better. So, if you don’t put the right foundational work in and if you don’t listen to what your customers want, your branding and marketing strategies may not be as successful as you like.
That’s the magic. Give up control.
I am not saying you should completely abandon all planning and strategy. I am saying you need to set up the proper foundations to create opportunities for your target audience to discover what is so amazing about you on their own.
LEAN INTO SOCIAL MEDIA CULTURE
I spoke a bit about how customers want stuff and they want it now. It doesn’t mean that customers are more demanding than before, it means that we are so used to the spontaneous conversations and connections we have on social media that it has become a way of life. If you are trying to create a successful marketing strategy to build brand awareness and connection, you need to fully understand that social media culture and incorporate those behaviours into your strategy. Things will evolve and they will do so quickly. You also have the opportunity to have amazing dialogue with your customers that can lead to YOU discovering things about your brand that you hadn’t thought of.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF FEEDBACK… AND CHANGE
It can be scary to get real feedback from people about your business. It can feel like a personal attack if that feedback is negative. However, it can also create exciting growth opportunities for your business and open you up to unexpected, but amazing, change. As you are setting up the foundations of your business make sure you build audience listening into everything you do.
A great example of a brand that wasn’t afraid of change – and maybe stepping out of their comfort zone – is Holy Crap Cereal. This Canadian company used to be called Hapi Food. Over a decade ago, a customer tried the product at a farmer’s market and exclaimed, “Holy crap… this is amazing!” Sales weren’t taking off when the product was called Hapi Food, but after that customer response inspired them to change their brand name, things really exploded.
LET YOUR CUSTOMERS TELL YOUR STORY
One of the best ways for people to hear about you is from your customers (word of mouth marketing). In case you were unsure about that, studies show that 90% of consumers will trust a brand more if it has been recommended by someone else – whether they’re a stranger or not. When your customers talk about your brand and the experience they have with it, it can also result in five times more sales! But what does this mean for you? Well, it means that you need to give your customers the freedom to talk about you and even encourage it. You can encourage this by developing loyalty programs, launching User Generated Content campaigns and contests on social media, and even doing influencer marketing.
TREAT YOUR BRAND GUIDELINES AS JUST THAT
When you develop your brand – logo, name, colours, messaging, goals, all of that – you should have clear guidelines set out in terms of how you want to be presented to the world. Remember that once you put something out there it’s harder to control how it is perceived and sometimes the best thing you can do is evolve. I always like to say that a messaging document is a living, breathing document. You should revisit regularly to ensure it still reflects how you want to be perceived, but also where your brand is today. Sometimes things that made sense five years ago no longer make sense today.
Put the work in. Develop your brand. Develop the foundations of your business. But do it in a way that allows your business to grow and adapt over time. In the long-term, you will be more successful this way.
Candace Huntly is the Founder at SongBird Marketing Communications, an award-winning agency working to take organizational and individual brands to the next level. With a passion for all things related to creativity and strategy, she specializes in media relations, influencer marketing, organic community engagement, content, and adapting strategies for any sized business – large or small. Basically, if you need to put your brand, product, or cause in the public eye, she will find a way to do it, while making the approach unique to you.
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A version of this article was originally posted to the SongBird Marketing Communications blog.