Who Determines Your Brand? Your Customers!
Brand image matters. It’s how consumers see your brand, whether it’s positive or negative, and whether it’s a brand they want to be associated with. What’s your brand image? Hip? Edgy? Socially conscious? Are you the “go-to” destination for people who love adventure?
While the brand image is critical, it isn’t determined by what you sell. It’s determined by what customers, prospects, and others think of you. That’s why you need to be proactive about creating the customer perception you want and differentiating your value. This requires prioritizing brand messaging as much as you do product marketing.
Unlike product marketing, brand messaging isn’t designed to make a sale. It’s designed to influence perception. Often, this requires being a storyteller. For example, a local bar and grill isn’t just a place to eat lunch. It’s a husband and wife team transplanted from the Deep South sharing their mutual love of Southern comfort food (and each other) with the local community. That’s a story—that’s a brand.
One example of a strong brand storyteller is TOMS, the shoe manufacturer that donates a pair of shoes to underprivileged communities for every pair purchased. TOMS has also launched a variety of other initiatives, such as free optical care and clean water. The company offers excellent quality shoes, but its ongoing identification with social justice is a story that its customers can rally around. People feel good about purchasing from TOMS, and that’s good for business.
How can you set the narrative about your brand?
1. Define your story. Whether you are a nonprofit, an IT firm, or a local dentist’s office, you have a story to tell. What is it? That story should be both emotionally engaging and memorable.
2. Tell your story. Use print and email newsletters. Tell stories, not just about products, but about people, initiatives, and the inside scoop. Stay in touch with direct mail on an ongoing basis, not just when you’re selling something. Use digital channels as appropriate, too.
Don’t wait for the marketplace to set the narrative—do it yourself. Invest in brand storytelling. Market you. As your customers become more engaged through your brand story, your profits will follow.