The True Measure of a Brand: How to Raise Awareness and Establish your Image
Let me tell you a story.
It’s about a man who stops by a shopping center every morning for his coffee, choosing between two cafés based on which one has the shorter line at the time. He has no preference of one over another, at least not until one very rainy day, when an employee from one of the cafés recognizes him in his car and offers to share their umbrella to escort him through the rain. That act of kindness earns his loyalty, and from that day on, he only buys his coffee from the one café.
It’s a pleasant little tale, and one that teaches a lesson most people working in brand management seem to forget.
You see, with the sheer amount of competition we face in the marketplace, a successful brand can be the difference between standing out and getting lost in the crowd. Social media has created an atmosphere where everyone, from big businesses to individual employees, need a personal brand to survive. Unfortunately, most people think you need to spend huge amounts of money on graphic design and advertisements in order to attract attention, but that’s not necessarily true.
Ask yourself how often you see flyers and billboards and commercials and web ads in a single day. Alright, now ask yourself how many of them you actually paid attention to. Probably just a handful, right? Even more probably, it was ones for brands you’re already familiar with, ones who have long since earned your trust, ones offering you the kind of special treatment that won your loyalty in the first place.
Like the story I shared demonstrates: Getting your name in front of as many faces as you can is one thing, but building awareness is something else entirely.
Anyone can go on a website and upload a bunch of images with some hashtags and blog posts, but that is not building awareness, that’s just adding to the forgettable mess. To build awareness is to take the time and effort to craft an identity that is not only immediately recognizable, but also readily maintainable. They came to you because you caught their attention, you can’t afford to get sloppy and make mistakes, you’ll risk losing their business forever. It doesn’t matter if you’re a major corporation expanding your customer base or a freelance professional trying to attract more clients, you have to live up to the image you’ve built for yourself, if not exceed it. It doesn’t have to be through grand gestures or expensive promotions, little favors and small kindnesses can make a world of difference, just like they did in the story.
Granted, you can’t escort all your customers through the rain, but by following these three key steps, you can build a successful brand for yourself that will attract and retain loyal followers.
Story: First off, you’ve got to let people know who you are and how you got here. Every business has a tale of how it grew from its roots, and every worker has a collection of experiences under their belt. Show people how you were shaped into what you are, give them something they can relate to, and they’ll take you to a future you could never achieve on your own.
Goals: You can’t tell how far you need to go without having a destination in mind, as well as some fuel to get you there. Set a series of goals for you or your team to meet, then institute a mission statement to inspire you all to get them accomplished. Having an objective to reach for paired with an example to live up to is what turns a chore into a challenge, it makes people eager to do their best, which in turn makes customers eager to return. Like the barista sharing their umbrella with the man from the story shows, this cycle of satisfaction reinforces the awareness of the brand as much as the loyalty customers hold to it.
Consistency: Don’t play loose and fast with an identity people have come to know. Once you’ve built a particular image or set a certain level of performance, stick with it. You can’t expect people to remember you if you keep changing, they’ll have nothing familiar to associate with. If anything, you’ll end up driving people away, customers will be confused and employees will be disappointed.
I just know that if you apply these factors to your business, you’ll be sure to achieve a successful brand. But again, I can’t stress enough that brand success does not have to mean a fanatical cult worshipping your logo. A successful brand is one that inspires loyalty, one that invites people to return to it again and again.
Take my daughter’s pediatrician, for example. It’s a humble office, one of many in my area I have to choose from, and while I can’t quite recall what made me first visit there, I know the precise reason I keep going back. The receptionist there is a kindly old woman, as gracious as she is beautiful, truly the heart and soul of the office. I liked her the moment I met her, and I’m not the only one, many people drop by just to say “hello” to her. Not only has she built a comforting and respectful brand for herself and her office, but she did so without spending a single penny, and you can as well.
Catch their eye, hold their attention, earn their trust. Do that, and perhaps it will be your story people tell when discussing how to build a successful brand.