Four Branding Basics to Build Loyal Customers and Employees

Setting, living and sharing your corporate brand doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. But, the time you invest can pay dividends in customer loyalty, assist in recruiting employees whose values are in sync with your organization, and help guide your company through opportunities and challenges.

Start with these four basics. Commit to doing them well. Live them every day, and you’ll be strengthening and growing your brand with every single interaction you have.

The Fundamentals

Have a clear mission statement. Your mission should be simple enough to be understandable and short enough to be memorized. That means one or two sentences. Any longer, and you are most likely getting too far into the weeds. Your goal is for people to easily remember what drives the heart of your organization. Avoid industry terms unfamiliar to the public and the temptation to be overly clever. Even big, well-known companies struggle with ensuring the wording is concise and reflective of the company’s driving purpose, as @MindaZetlin wrote in 2013 Inc. Magazine’s The 9 Worst Mission Statements of All Time.

This aspect will take the longest amount of time. Your mission is something that is long-lasting. Only when organizations change the big-picture focus of what they do are mission statements refined.  Create a small team who understands the organization’s goals and future aspirations. When I was the communications director at a large regional hunger-relief charity, the team included myself, the VP of Philanthropy and two board members.

Like any writing, work on it, set it aside, reflect on it again. When you think you have accurately summed up the purpose and objectives of your organization, be sure to garner feedback from a handful of key stakeholders – employees, volunteers, and those board members who are providing visionary guidance. Their input can ensure you are ready to present the mission statement to management or your board for approval.

Establish core values for your organization and display them.  A handful of meaningful values establishes employee and customer expectations for the service and quality your brand delivers. These core values should be explained to employees, displayed as reminders, and lived by example from the entry level employee to the top manager.

To reinforce your organization’s core values, tie your employee recognition program to them. Recognize employees who have exhibited exemplary performance in a core value, and share their story to motivate other employees to strive for such excellence.

Often core values take the form of bulleted items, such as respect and quality. It may be easier for staff to remember when your core values are single words, but if the word is obscure or could be achieved in multiple ways, it’s best to either have a one-sentence description, or, as many organizations are now doing, having two or three subtopics under each core value. For example, if your core value is “Diversity,” you might underscore that with “People” and “Ideas,” or a sentence clarifier, “ABC Company strives for diversity in our workforce, and encourages our staff to seek out ideas from a variety of viewpoints and experiences.”

Deliver Key Messages. Consistency in message is paramount to building your brand. If everyone is saying something different, there’s no branding. Key messages are useful in so many instances, from general organizational messaging, to selling program specifics, to media relations.  The key is simplicity and consistency.

To start, create three key messages, each a sentence long, that highlight the most important aspects of your company. These are the three things you want everyone to know about your brand. Use your mission statement as the initial guide. For a nonprofit, this may include a sentence that highlights your mission, a sentence that speaks to how donations are used or to your fiscal responsibility, and a sentence about how easy it is for the public to get involved with your organization. Keeping it to three messages is key, as this is the information you want people to remember and share in their own conversations, and research has indicted it is difficult to recall any more than three points.

Share with employees. Encourage them to incorporate the messages into their own conversations and written correspondence when talking about your company. It’s OK for them to put the messages into their own words. Encourage your teams to share personal stories that relate to that key message in their conversations. The passion and real-life examples your colleagues share will bring personality and believability to your message.

Your conversations with friends and family are the perfect place to practice implementing key messages and core values into your everyday engagements.

 Visual Image: Logo. Colors. Font. Your corporate brand is also reflected in your visual image. Creating an impactful logo warrants its own discussion, but let’s assume you have one.  Ensure your logo is used effectively by making it easy for your team to incorporate into their work.

Outlining guidelines for how the logo should be used allows teams to work independently and frees up communications department staff time from proofreading and approvals. Are their size limitations? Include the Pantone, RBG and CMYK color specifications for any colors in your logo, and indicate whether the logo can also be printed in black or reverse. It helps to show examples of correct use and incorrect use so that your colleagues can easily identify when something looks out of place. Incorrect use can include things like changing the color, or stretching or resizing the logo.

Likewise, your customers will be more likely to notice your mailings and emails if you set a theme for colors, fonts and sizes for newsletters and direct mail pieces. Create a guidebook or a check-list for internal staff and your vendors to use when creating artwork. Include items like: your corporate font(s); sizes for headlines vs. subheads vs. text; your corporate colors, and how they apply to design schemes. For example, are all headlines in blue and subheads in green? Is the paragraph font different from the headline font?

Putting it all together

When your employees live your mission and values, your organization builds the consistency that leads to loyal customers or donors. Set the compass for your organization by having a strong mission statement and sharing that with your employees. Let your mission statement be your organization’s conscience for requests and opportunities. Lead employees to incorporate your organization’s core values and key messages into every interaction they have, be it with customers or colleagues.

Remind staff that every correspondence, whether through email, conversation, publications, direct mail or volunteer engagement, is an opportunity to demonstrate core values, and thus build brand awareness and loyalty.

The time you invest in integrating these brand fundamentals into your company’s culture will pay dividends in faithful customers and committed employees.

What tips do you have for establishing and reinforcing a brand?

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