6 questions you should ask about your small business brand
If your small business brand isn’t healthy, neither is your business.
That’s because the health of your brand impacts both consumer awareness of your business and your bottom line.
A strong brand is not a luxury to be enjoyed only by companies like Nike or Coca-Cola. It is a key factor in the success and prosperity of all businesses and nonprofits, regardless of their revenues. Your brand health is guaranteed to have a significant impact on the consumer awareness of your brand AND your bottom line. It directly affects your ability to sell, to fundraise, to hire the best employees, and to grow. A healthy brand is the hallmark of a company or nonprofit that is prepared to prosper.
What is brand health?
Brand health is a measure of how well your brand supports your business, how consistent your brand is, and how well your brand connects with your audience.
Brand health can be measured in numerous ways, including brand reputation, brand awareness, brand equity, brand positioning, and brand delivery.
This isn’t an issue you can afford to ignore. You need to know if your brand is thriving or ailing – before it’s too late.
So, here are 6 important questions you should ask to make sure your business brand is on the right track.
1. Does your brand support your business strategy?
Every healthy business should have an overall, forward-looking strategy.
For your brand to be healthy, it must align with and support that strategy.
If your strategy is to sell commonly expensive services at discounted rates, your brand should reflect a focus on price. It would not be in your best interest to cultivate a brand that appears affluent or expensive.
If your business strategy is grounded in creativity and custom work, a brand emphasizing traditional corporate culture would not work well.
A misaligned brand will create cognitive dissonance for your customers and undermine your efforts to succeed.
A brand that undermines your business strategy is not a healthy brand.
Get Your Brand in Shape: Cultivate a brand that supports your business strategy. If you don’t know your business strategy, start there. Know what you want and determine how you plan to get there. Now, make sure the public face your business shares aligns with your goals.
2. Is your brand consistent?
A brand identity starts with the name of the business and the business logo. But a brand is more than the name and logo. It encompasses your brand’s overall visual identity, messaging and execution.
An inconsistent brand is a confusing and unreliable brand. These are traits that drive customers away, not attract them.
Inconsistency is a sign of ill-health in any brand.
If your brand constantly changes, it’s hard for customers or clients to wrap their minds around what it’s about. And, it’s even harder to gain trust, confidence and customer loyalty.
Here are some additional questions to help you evaluate your brand for consistency…
3. Is your brand visually consistent?
Your brand should look the same on every platform.
The colors, visual styles, and fonts on your website should look like your business cards, which should look like your social media accounts, which should look like your business logo, which should look like your… you get the idea.
Visual consistency helps build recognition of your brand.
When Nike debuted their famous “Swoosh” logo, it wasn’t famous – yet. But, they placed it on every ad campaign, every shoe, and every piece of Nike-branded merchandise. Today that logo is shorthand for Nike, “Just do it.” and athleticism in general.
Consistent branding delivered the ultimate prize – instant brand recognition.
A visually consistent brand also allows customers to identify that they’ve found what they’re looking for – your business.
The internet is full of websites; some reputable, some not. Creating a consistent visual brand that clients and customers can easily recognize and using that visual brand everywhere reassures them that they’ve found you.
Whether I walk past a Blaze Pizza, open an email from Blaze Pizza, or visit Blaze Pizza’s website, I immediately know it’s them. Their orange and tan color scheme, unique font and logo are easy to recognize in all of their decor, marketing, and store collateral.
They’ve created a distinctive and consistent visual brand.
Get Your Brand in Shape: Use your logo consistently on all of your branded material. Define a brand style guide that guides how your brand will visually appear on all platforms to create a consistent visual brand identity.
4. Is your brand message consistent?
Your brand needs a cohesive message. And, ideally, that message should come from your business’s core values and strategies.
If your brand tries to be too many things at once, the message becomes scattered and the brand grows diluted.
It’s hard to be known for something (which is really the goal of branding) when you fail to present a consistent message about what your business should be known for.
Or worse, if your brand messaging contradicts itself, you will lose consumer trust and, ultimately, their business.
People don’t like to be lied to. And, consumers are naturally suspicious of businesses as a general rule. After all, businesses want their money.
Contradicting messages serve as proof that your business is not to be trusted.
Inconsistent messaging is a sign of an unhealthy brand.
Get Your Brand in Shape: Develop cohesive brand messages that align with your business’s core brand identity. Make sure that all communication, marketing, and sales endeavors support these messages.
5. Does your brand behave consistently?
Your brand promises must be consistent with the reality of your customers’ brand experience.
If you feature speedy delivery as a central brand message but fail to make good on that promise, people will notice. And, your brand will suffer.
As we explained:
A fabulous logo, expertly deployed and a consistent style guide mean nothing if your business does not follow through on its brand promises in the real world. Remember that your brand should always be true to the reality of your business. Walking the walk is just as important, if not more so, than talking the talk.
Mexican fast-food giant Chipotle has made serving non-GMO foods a key element of their brand promise. However, they’ve repeatedly been spotted serving GMO foods.
Execute a quick Google search for “chipotle admits to using GMOs” and you’ll find a list of critical articles and lawsuits levied against the fast-food mega-chain. They’ve hit on a compelling branding position, but they’re failing to deliver it reliably.
Failure to deliver on a brand promise is a sign of an unhealthy brand.
Get Your Brand in Shape: Create a brand promise that you can truly live by. Use your business’s existing core strategy and values as your guide. When consumers see your business delivering on your claims, you will earn their confidence, their trust, and their business.
6. Does your brand resonate with your intended audience?
A brand is both the public face and the core identity of your business.
No matter how well your brand supports your business strategies, or how consistent it is, if it fails to connect with your audience, then your brand is not doing its job.
But, measuring your brand’s public reception is a bit trickier than examining it for consistency or internal strategy alignment. You’re going to need some brand health metrics to track.
Marketing intelligence experts at Datorama recommend tracking your branded impressions, internet search volume, and the performance of branded keywords.
You may also want to consider measuring social media engagement and keeping an eye on your online reviews. Your customer service team may also be able to offer some useful insight.
Get Your Brand in Shape: Assess how well your brand is resonating with your audience. Track the metrics mentioned above. Hold some focus groups to get direct feedback. Then tweak your brand as necessary to create the connection you need with your customers
Katie Lundin is on the customer support team at crowdspring, one of the world’s leading marketplaces for crowdsourced logo design, web design, graphic design, product design, and company naming services. She helps entrepreneurs, small businesses and agencies with branding, design, and naming, and regularly writes about entrepreneurship, small business and design on crowdspring’s award-winning small business blog.