At one time, you were the living embodiment of your brand. The brand was you and you were it. Things were a bit simpler then. It was a one-to-one relationship.
Since those humble days in the trenches, struggling for growth every day from your home office and at networking events, you've built a successful business, an enterprise, if you will, with dozens of employees, multiple departments and a service offering that continues to grow to meet your client's needs.
Your organization is more than just you, now. It's a complex, living ecosystem experienced in different ways by different people at different times.
Your brand has taken on a bit of a life of it's own, which is both good and bad. Good in that your company has grown; not so good in that your current brand identity might be stuck in the past and has stopped evolving to showcase what your business does today.
With everything on your plate, how can you tell if you need a brand refresh and professional help from a brand expert? We present the top four warning signs that your brand needs professional help:
Four: Your Business Appears Disjointed
Your brand needs to reflect the current state of your company's capabilities, breadth of services and most recent track record of success. If you have updated your website and materials sporadically and without a clear brand strategy, it's very likely what potential clients see is only a fragmented picture of what your organization actually does.
In essence, you don't want your brand to oversell your capabilities or undersell what you can do. If your brand posits an inaccurate perception of your organization, that can not only hurt the generation of new business opportunities, but it also can impact your relationship with existing customers.
Decision-makers want to know what they're buying. Your brand needs to tell that story accurately. If it does not, your operation will look disorganized, or even worse, unfocused.
Three: Your Branded Materials Are Inconsistent
When you put your home page on the big screen conference room, and fan out your promotional materials in all their glory, what do you see?
Take 30 minutes to do this exercise, and we'll bet you'll instantly be able to get an initial diagnoses of your brand's health.
If you've tweaked your website in a reactive way for years and you've produced print materials in house on a need only basis, what you'll see is a batch of materials that look like they're from very different companies. Here's what you might see if you brand needs professional help from a branding & marketing agency:
- Business cards leftover from ten years ago and some that are more updated
- Logo treatments that look one way on your website, another way on your brochure and perhaps are not used at all when they should be
- Inconsistent use of color across all your materials
- Messaging in your copy and headers that reflect the current state of your brand in some places but not in others
- Scope of services lists that are inconsistent across your promotional materials and digital footprint
You might have a sense that your branding is off, but do this quick exercise to confirm your suspicion. It will also give you a sense of the scope of branding work you might need.
Two: Your Team Doesn't Understand Your Brand
Promotional materials aside, your team is by far the most important shepherd of your brand identity. If your team cannot communicate what makes your business different, what benefits it delivers or what its core competencies and values are, the greatest website and branded materials in history will fail.
If you have not engaged branding as a useful tool to grow your business, and things have just rolled forward without much intent, your staff can only project what it knows.
So, John in accounting that's been with you for 20 years, communicates the brand one way, and Sarah that's been on board for a year delivers your brand messaging in another way. That's not good. Regardless of tenure, experience or area of expertise, key elements of your brand need to be delivered consistently by your team.
What you might have on your hands is a two-headed monster: your materials don't tell your brand story accurately and your team cannot deliver your brand to the public in a cohesive way since there has been no plan in place.
Here's a way (similar to spreading out your branding materials on the table) to check your staff's brand delivery consistency:
- Interview 3 staff members from each department
- Ask them a set of brand related questions like "What are our core values?"; "What benefits do we provide our customers?"; "What is our mission?"; "What do services do we offer?".
- See what comes back. If you have not engaged in an intentional branding effort, the responses are likely to look much like your branded materials: fragmented, unfocused and inaccurate.
Your brand is only as strong as the people that live it every day. A brand refresh needs to involve your creative materials, your messaging and your entire team, so that everyone is bought in and has a brand tool box they can use to accurately project your brand to the market.
One: Potential Customers and Existing Clients Don't Really Know What You Do
If you have potential customers and existing clients saying, "I didn't know you guys did that!", again and again, it's a very clear indication that your branding needs to be refreshed.
The core services of your business are the very essence of what you do. If a potential customer or client can't easily understand your capabilities and scope of services, this is a significant problem and one that can seriously undermine your efforts to win new business and generate new opportunities from your existing customer base.
We've seen very successful businesses with very poor branding. But there comes a tipping point for every organization where what some call the "soft stuff"- i.e. branding- becomes as critical as the "hard stuff"- i.e. project and value delivery- to the health and growth of your business.
If you're struggling with brand inconsistency, reach out to us. We've helped many businesses audit their brands and reshape them to better represent their organizations. We'd love to hear your thoughts and help you take the next steps to realigning your brand with your business as it stands today.