The 411 on Brand Identity

Why is it so critical?

Whether you’re a newly found company or looking to re-brand an existing business, a strong brand identity can position a company above its competition all by itself. But having a brand that’s strong takes time, money, and effort to develop. It’s not as easy as redesigning a logo or rewriting a tagline. Brand identity may be developed and monitored within the marketing department, however when in full effect, it crosses all departments, job descriptions, product launches, customer service reps, and beyond. In fact, it should involve everyone within the company, getting them to understand the evolution, and to be your most enthusiastic ambassadors.

An existing brand identity (and how to re-work it)

Successful re-branding involves “evolution”, not “revolution”. A perfect example would be Aesop’s Fable “The Tortoise and the Hare”. The story concerns a hare who ridicules a slow-moving tortoise and is challenged by him to a race. The hare soon leaves the tortoise behind and, confident of winning, decides to take a nap midway through the course. When he awakes, however, he finds that his competitor, crawling slowly but steadily, has arrived before him. It’s important to not get too crazy with a re-branding effort because you could end up destroying fragile emotional ties / customer loyalty / and ultimately, sales. One step at a time is almost always much more effective for both the company internally, and externally, for your customers.

Brand identity – it’s WAY more than marketing!

Oftentimes, during a re-branding, other people and departments outside of marketing are not involved in the evolution. In fact, your internal stakeholders should understand the re-branding, believe in it, have a vested stake in its success, so they can then communicate better with each other and with customers.

A company that nails this is Zappos.com. Zappos places great emphasis on company culture and core values. The Zappos’ CEO, Tony Hsieh believes “if we get the culture right, then everything else, including the customer service, will fall into place”. Zappos has a list of core values, listed here on their website, that every employee sees and hears on a routine basis, not to mention being transparent to their customers via their website. The company also publishes an annual 480-page “Culture Book,” which is composed of two to three paragraph entries from employees describing Zappos’ company culture. The entries are unedited, and a copy of the Culture Book is given to all employees (although anyone can receive a copy of the book upon request).

Your employees will ultimately determine your success or failure. That’s why it’s so important to have them buy into your company’s brand identity. However, that’s not something that can be forced. It must be earned…but, once it is, watch out! You’ll have a company that is full of happy, motivated successful brand ambassadors and the company’s direction will move upwards.

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