When it comes to social media, we talk a lot about our audience and the conversation. Let’s talk about your brand. Who are you? What do you do? Why do you do it? Long pauses and lengthy answers are a good indicator of one thing: your brand has somehow been lost. That’s too bad, because your brand is your identity. It’s who you are, and what you do. It’s how your customer knows you. Confused brands create confused customers. Confused customers don’t stick around.
The Brand That Was Lost
Brands are easy to lose. They might start on track and with a clear identity, but time, progress, business competition, and poor leadership cause brands to shift and become confusing. Without constant watch, it’s easy to lose our brand. Maintaining your brand is a kind of business art form requiring constant vigilance. There are four ways that your brand might have been lost.
Your brand’s focus might be lost. It might have been in place at one time, crystal clear, but you either passed that benchmark and didn’t set a new one, or leadership failed to keep it raised high above the fray so the team had a common goal. A blurred brand is still visible, but it’s hard to make out and it, like bad eyesight, only gets worse over time. The focus needs to be tightened back up.
Maybe it was the temptation of feature-creep, or the push to continually add new products, but whatever caused it, your brand has become weak. You’re the gift shop that sells gifts, shoes, sandwiches, fresh bread, and spare tires. You don’t make sense to your customer, and they’re suspicious that you’re the jack-of-all-trades but master-of-none. They won’t trust you to do a good job with their sandwich out of fear that you’re too busy selling shoes.
You haven’t lost focus, and you haven’t diluted your brand. You’ve done the opposite instead. You’ve focused inward to the degree that your brand is overworked. Your products have been fussed over too long. You’re not adjusting for changing times, you’ve lost flexibility, and you’re in danger of becoming a dinosaur. You go over and over the same things time after time, never considering something fresh. You’re in the video business, maybe, and are still the proud expert on VCR’s when you should be considering Blu-Ray.
You’ve been doing a good job with maintaining your brand, but somewhere something caused a bit of a smudge and you’re in danger of seeing everything slide in that direction. Maybe a bad customer service issue or a product recall set you back, and you’re still stumbling trying to recover from it and erase that damage to your brand.
Out of fear or a lack of creativity, your brand has fallen into the already-trodden path of another. You find yourself trying feature-match a similar brand, or mimic the products of another. You take your advertising and marketing cues based on what other brands in your industry are doing, and lose your unique identity in the process.
Refresh Your Brand
It is possible to reclaim your brand, and clarify what had been lost.
- Reinvent yourself. In as few words as possible, write down what you do. Start with what you can think of. Edit that down, and try again. Edit that down, and keep fine-tuning it until you finally locate your brand and understand what it is once again. Then, do the same for who you are, and who your customer is.
- Rethink names. Do you have products or slogans that have names that confuse customers? Are you selling books and calling them candles? Consider the words you’ve surrounded your brand with and whether or not they need changing.
- Reconsider trends. Avoid the traps of clever advertising, trendy technology, and anything that isn’t meant to last. When it ages, so does your brand. Build it on solid principles of great design, social marketing, and technology. Have the confidence to stick with what you have and ride out the impractical trends.
- Reassemble the team. Periodically sit down with your team and discuss what’s happening with your brand. Make sure upcoming products are in line with the brand. Ask opinions. Make sure your brand isn’t in the process of being blurred, diluted, overworked, smudged or forged.
A diluted brand means you have a diluted customer base. Being conscious of the problem and actively looking for the first signs of a brand that’s weakening is vital. In a world full of brands, weak brands quickly fade away.