Successful organizations consider branding an investment, and they know their brand is a valuable asset. Just look at those considered the strongest global brands: Apple, Adobe, Microsoft, Facebook, and Coca-Cola.
Forbes’s 100 most valuable brands list ranks Apple first with a value of $182 billion. KFC, which ranks 100, is valued at $7.4 billion. Not bad for being last on the list.
These brands ooze success, proving market visibility and exceptional reputations build customer loyalty.
As Michael Eisner, former CEO of Disney, said, “A brand is a living entity — and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.”
From distinctive, memorable logos to delivering on their promises, successful companies know how to develop a brand that increases revenue and profits.
Successful Branding Leads to Increased Revenue
We know there’s a connection between brands and revenue, but let’s get specific.
- Brands with strong reputations offer 31% higher shareholder return.
- Strong brands have more engaged employees who can help their company grow profits 3x faster than competitors.
- In B2B, the top 10 brands with the best customer connections had a 31% greater revenue growth over three years compared to the 10 lowest brands.
Many think that only the “big consumer” companies can realize these profits. They spend more money and time promoting their brand and therefore they realize a higher ROI. But B2B brands now realize the benefit of building a compelling brand. From storytelling and consistent messaging to conveying a mood with relevant visuals, your organization can realize a return from the unification of your brand.
What CEOs Know About Brands
CEOs know a brand must stand the test of time – everything from market changes and shifting consumer attitudes must be considered in order to ensure the brand resonates well with its target audiences.
The concept of “brand” is so powerful that in just a short decade, it’s moved from consumer branding and B2B branding to personal branding.
Just look at Twitter and Instagram and how many companies and individuals are profiting by “trumpeting” and living their brands. For example, pharma companies – newer to the social media space – use these vehicles to educate consumers about different disease states. Although they can’t promote their drug online, they can certainly spread the word about new options for patients who may be suffering from a specific condition or disease state.
Branding helps companies connect with and reach consumers.
Establishing a Brand
Your brand needs to tell your company’s compelling, differentiated story. It requires everything from visual elements (logo, fonts, colors, etc.) that represent the brand to the mission and values that serve as the company’s foundation.
The chart below shows the steps needed to ensure you develop a brand that will resonate with your audiences.
To ensure differentiation for a brand, we follow a proprietary process that ensures success, from naming your company to positioning and developing the messaging and visuals. But we also test to ensure the brand is “ownable,” and we develop launch plans to engage audiences – especially internal stakeholders who will represent the brand to all of your customers.
Nothing should begin without a thorough competitive analysis. It is at the core of best-practice brand development. You cannot differentiate without looking at how your competitors are positioning, messaging, and branding. They help you establish your benchmarks.
If you are considering a firm that claims you don’t need competitive analysis, walk away. Even if you decide to do this internally, make sure your brand firm is part of the process. It cannot do a good job for you without this crucial information.
If you don’t know exactly what your competitors are saying, doing, living, or marketing – you can’t develop a differentiated platform.
Who are you as a company? This doesn't mean just your mission and vision. What do you stand for, and above all, why should anyone care?
If you can’t answer these questions and you can’t convert it to key messaging that resonates with all of your stakeholders, you have a serious brand problem. It’s not an easy process, but the rewards are immense.
Personification provides a more personal platform that both internal and external audiences can relate to. It converts the “abstract” qualities your organization stands for and makes them more human – and therefore more relatable.
Whether personification is handled through the words you choose to use or the visuals you select to convey your brand, it will make you more understandable more quickly.
Make your story informative and emotive. Do this by talking to your employees and customers. Find out what messages inspire them to connect with your brand.
What are your goals? What do you deliver? Why do your customers care? Find out why they prefer your company, what you are doing right, and what differentiates you.
This is the foundation of your story. And remember while your messaging should be consistent – there are a myriad of channels available to you – it’s important speak well via each channel.
Make sure the length and content are effective per the medium. The shorter the story, the better your message will be conveyed. While print allows you “more words” to tell your story, remember the attention spans of audiences today are much, much shorter.
So, keep print storytelling succinct and short, and ensure digital messages are even briefer.
How Brand Standards Have Changed
A brand needs research, defined strategy, distinctive messaging, compelling creative, and guidelines to ensure consistent application across all media.
As branding has changed, so have brand standards. While brands still give stakeholders information with regard to process, they are much more integrated with the “who and why” businesses exist.
Briefly consider some of these best practices:
- Convey your culture: While prescriptive to ensure continuity, the standards should convey the culture of the company. Why do you exist? Tell this story in the standards with creativity and ingenuity.
- Project your persona: As most brand standards live on the web, use this medium to project your persona. Engage your employees. Help them “live the brand” with innovative visuals and inspired storytelling that encourages excitement and compliance.
- Organize your design with simple contents and specs: Ensure the content flows from the basics to the more complex applications in a structured format that is easy to understand and follow. Develop content that is easy to visualize without a lot of copy and specifications. Show as many samples as possible. Keep the design clean and inviting.
- Consider everything: It’s not just about the logo, fonts, and colors. Create innovative infographics and iconography to show how these elements can convey the brand.
- Develop innovative illustrations and inspiring photography: Don’t fall into the stock photography and/or illustration trap; if budget is limited, develop an innovative way to use stock with graphics you own.
- Use appropriate media: Use what works best for your target audience globally. Make the standards easy to access, understand, and download. Create ready-to-use templates. The easier everything is to access and use, the better compliance you will have.
- Above all, launch this in a fun, inspiring way. Don’t just post the standards and drive employees to the site. Create an event that generates excitement and engagement. Make it an experience that employees can relate to, so they are driven to live the brand.
Branding has become an integral part of every business.
An Example of Compelling ROI Results
Navigant Consulting grew its company by a series of acquisitions. With each acquisition came a different corporate identity, brand, and culture. The confusion was impacting its brand and process.
Navigant Consulting hired Paragraphs to help unify a multi-divisional corporation and present a cohesive message, brand platform, and corporate identity.
The brand strategy began with qualitative research. The results of the research drove an entire reorganization by marketing groups and service sectors.
This created both culture change and cross-selling. The research was also instrumental in guiding the creative, and we developed a new brand that personified innovation, creativity, and professionalism.
Navigant Consulting’s CEO found that its ROI was measurable and impactful – within 18 months of the new brand launch, the stock price tripled, the year-over-year (YOY) revenue increased by 55%, and the company realized a 96% earnings before interest and taxes (EBITA) increase.
A new cohesive brand bettered Navigant Consulting’s business.
Develop a Strong Brand
You now have all the tools you need to develop a powerful brand.
Take the time to think about who you are, why you matter, and why customers should do business with you.
If you can answer these questions, you’re off to a great beginning of building a brand that matters.
About the Author
Robin is the CEO and founder of Paragraphs LLC. A specialist in marketing, branding, corporate identity and organizational optimization, Robin has led her firm to over 1,500 awards. Her ability to create unique business strategy solutions and align them with a solid brand architecture and process has been the foundation for 30+ years of successful brand and corporate identity development initiatives.