When I think about businesses and branding businesses usually fit into one of two categories: (1) those that have recently updated their brand, and (2) those that need to do so.
While that might seem to be overly simplistic to some it is the reality of today. If your business is evolving with the future of business it should be changing. And as your business changes so should your brand.
As international branding expert Floortje Lopes tells us “your brand is a representation of who you are.” And all of us should be changing and evolving over time.
This isn’t to say that we should become fake or have a brand that represents something we are not. Just the opposite. Your brand needs to show who you are.
And guess what?
If you haven’t updated your brand, recently, your brand is actually showing who you used to be. And that’s inauthentic in it’s own way.
So let’s take a few minutes and think about your brand, when it’s time to update, and how to do so. We’ll make this as painless as possible.
What Is Your Brand?
We start with examining “what is your brand?” There are a lot of definitions of brand out there but our working purposes we’ll consider your brand to be what people associate with you when they hear your name.
So what is that? Do you know?
It’s OK if you don’t. Most people don’t know what their brand is. So whether you are an individual or company you can do this simple test to find out what others think your brand is: ask them! A simple survey asking others what they think your brand is will tell you what your brand actually is.
Now your brand is actually derived from a combination of things. Mostly your brand comes from what others see. But you have a lot of control over what others see. You don’t want to be fake about who you or your company are but you do want to think about what others see. It’s no different than what Disney does at their parks where they are very careful about what you see to keep their brand/experience consistent.
So we need to start with where your brand is now — whether intentional or unintentional — so that we can build from there.
How Are You Changing?
The next question that naturally flows from where is your brand is how are you changing? When we update brands we want them to portrey, acturately, where you are now. But we also want them to indicate where you are going.
Even the biggests of brands do this. Watch some of the biggest names in business, the Fortune 500 companies, and you can see they use their brands to both show who they are and what they think their future is going to be. We need to do the same.
So think about where your company is headed so it can be integrated into your brand.
What Is Your Promise?
Another big part of your brand is your promise. This is what you deliver to your customers or clients that is valuable to them. It’s why they give you money.
This may, of course, change over time. Many of the largest and most successful companies have changed their products and offerings over time. And yours will probably change too.
In update your brand we want to understand that your promise is now. Focus in on what you are doing to add value to your customers. Some businesses aren’t even sure exactly how they are adding value and what promise they are fulfilling. If this is you don’t worry. Just go back the the advice above and ask your customers/clients.
Implementing Periodic Reviews Of Your Brand
If you are working through this article and know you are in need of an updated brand you might be saying WOW. You might be wondering how you got so out of touch. If you are a luckier reader you might be feeling more alignment.
Regardless of which side of the equation you are on we don’t want you to end up there again. So we need to implement periodic reviews of your brand to make sure it is updated and aligned.
Most of the time brand changes can be done incrementally. Update the wording of your mission and promise. Change your positioning to new clients. Keep moving forward.
But times do change. Sometimes your business will need a new alignment and your brand will have to shift significantly.
Regardless of which category you are in now you want to make this process intentional and not reactionary. Your brand should be the center of your business and what everything connects to.
To make sure your brand stays current, and meaningful, you’ll want to make sure that you, and your team, are meeting and discussing your brand, delivery and promise regularly. Reviewing your brand should get significant time and attention at management meetings at least once per quarter.
The Update Process
Updates to your brand should connect to your entire businesses. The first step in any update is to communicate the changes internally and work through any needed realignments. Depending on the extent of the brand changes you may need to change products, processes or procedures. This means everyone needs to know what is happening and how it affects them.
Communicate internally early and often and make sure everyone with your team, internal and external, can make the changes needed in the timeline developed.
One the internal team is ready for the new brand you and start to communicate about it externally and put the new brand to work.
When To Bring In Outside Help
If you are reading this article you likely see that updating your brand is big work. There are a lot of moving pieces.
How do you know whether to do it on your own or with outside help? Here’s some ideas to keep you moving the right direction and to keep you from wasting hard earned money.
The general rule is that tweaks and adjustments to existing offerings can usually be done internally. Brands naturally adjust over time. If most of your internal infrastructure remains in alignment there is no need to think more.
If you want to make bigger shifts you should bring in outside help. I don’t say this to line consultants pockets. But it is a recognition of the importance of brands, generally. Your brand will define you and help your customers find you. It’s worth the extra rigor to get outside ideas to make sure you won’t waste time, money and effort.
Additionally the big changes need more communication and follow-up to keep your business moving forward. That’s a time when you definitely want someone that’s been there, done that.
Keeping The Momentum
One of the trickiest things with branding is keeping momemtum. You don’t want to get stuck in the past. But you also don’t want to be known for constantly changing your brand.
Most of your changes to brand, over time, should be subtle. They should be big to you and your team but small to your customers.
Bigger changes require bigger shifts but should happen less often.
If you are constantly monitoring your brand you should be able to keep your customers happy and not scare them off.
Branding isn’t scary. It’s actually much easier to manage as part of your business as an ongoing process rather than a fire drill every few years.
By: The Our Shawn McBride, is the business nerd that gets businesses ready for the future of business through keynotes, training and personalized solutions to get your business ready for The Future of Business. He’s the host of The Future Done Right(TM) Show and a long-time business attorney. If you want regular content on the future of business subscribe to get new blog posts from us here.
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