Branding 101: The Importance of Aligning Your Brand

A general search on the internet of private lenders in the state of California brings up over 5 pages of company names that are all vying for your attention in this niche market. What distinguishes one from the rest of the competition? Is it company name? A unique logo? An experience? A customer or client review? A well-designed website? Heavy social media presence? The answer is all of the above, which can be universally labeled as your company’s branding. People want to do business with a company they are familiar with, that they connect with, and that they can relate to – all of which can be achieved through aligning your brand.

Brand Strategy

A strong brand does not become established on its own. Branding requires a marketing strategy that is well thought out, authentic, and consistent across all channels, websites, emails, and so forth. To create a memorable brand, you must provide a positive, emotional experience to your target audience consistently. The more you can establish rapport with your clients through your specific brand strategy, the more people will trust you, return to your business, refer your business to others, and create loyalty within your industry. The perception of your brand’s attributes cultivates the emotional connection that is vital to its survival.

So, where do you start? A brand strategy’s blueprint consists of three key elements: the brand heart, brand voice, and the brand identity. Once you can identify these elements, you can focus on building your brand.

Brand Heart

When examining the heart of your brand, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What purpose does your business serve?
  • What is at the core of what you do and why you do it?
  • What are your future goals? How are you going to achieve them?

When you can answer these questions honestly, you’ll have the brand heart laid out right before you. These are your core beliefs and should be presented in each facet of your business to create brand consistency and trustworthiness amongst your audience.

Brand Voice

Your brand heart is extremely influential in finding the second key point of building your brand: your brand voice. Your brand voice is the “Just Do It” to Nike’s brand. The voice’s framework includes the following:

  • Unique Tagline
  • #Hashtags (specific to your target audience or specific market)
  • Messaging/content
  • Pillars
  • Tone of voice
  • Sales pitch
  • Goals
  • Values

Your brand voice should be consistent in every piece of content you create. To create a ‘voice’ you must consider your specific angle, your customers’ angle, and your competitors’ angle. This all aids in helping you create a consistent, authentic, recognizable brand for your audience.

Brand Identity

Communicating your voice effectively can affect people’s initial perceptions of your brand and is the basis of your brand identity. Brands are more than their basic identity, and they are most commonly associated with a visual element at first glance, such as a logo, colors, or imagery. How your logo looks and what emotions it immediately evokes in someone is typically your audience’s first impression of your brand. You may not always use your tagline in your content, but your logo, the colors, the typography, imagery, photography, website, social media content, and video content all generate a memorable reference to your brand that continues to shape, grow, and add to the brand identity as a whole. All three of these brand elements are necessary in creating a complete brand image that will lead you to success within your industry.

Now that you have identified the brand elements of heart, voice, and identity, you may ask – How do you create brand awareness and brand loyalty to ensure longevity within your industry? With over 2.1 billion people with social accounts, today’s social media platforms are the frontrunner for building a brand in our modern, technology-influenced society. Therefore, you should use those channels to your advantage when it comes to brand awareness.

Your brand strategy does not stop once you have created these three key elements. Once you have established your brand, how you promote and advertise your brand should align with your vision. This is essential to keep in mind when looking to expand and grow your brand either organically or through a media service.

Tell Your Story

In addition to the key elements of creating a brand comes the act of storytelling. Compelling storytelling in your branding demands attention, calling all who are experiencing your brand to buy in, and take a step further to invest in what you are doing. A strong message, an intense photograph or image, or a bold color and/or design will resonate with your intended audience as long as the messaging and branding is authentic and consistent. The intended message for your brand will have people coming back for more through sharing, liking, commenting, and garnishing the brand awareness.

The Power of Social Media Platforms

You must be specific and intentional when deciding which social media platforms to use in order to tell your story thoughtfully. Knowing your target audience plays an important role in where your brand should be concentrated. As a media firm vested in the private lending industry, we have found  more success on LinkedIn and Instagram, over alternative social platforms like Pinterest or Twitter. We have seen firsthand that when you incorporate your brand heart, voice, and identity genuinely across your brand and platforms, it will entice users to engage and take the conversation a step further, with the hopes of creating a new connection within your specific industry.

Whether you are starting your brand from scratch, or contemplating a rebrand that encompasses these elements, branding starts with a clear vision that can be implemented into every aspect of your business and provides a customer experience worth remembering. From the staff on your team, to the graphic elements found on your website, to your social media presence, it is most important that your brand tells your story.

If you need help achieving your brand goals, establishing a new brand purpose, and/or creating a social media presence that is authentic to your company as a whole, contact us today to see how we can partner together to successfully communicate who you are, and what you have to offer to your audience and industry!

Branding 101: What is Branding and Where Do I Start?

There is a psychology to creating brand awareness that, when executed correctly, will gain your brand loyalty and relatability. But, where do you begin? Establish the heart of your brand first. Determine what it is you stand for, what problems you are solving for consumers, and explain how you accomplish that through creative storytelling across all mediums. Create a plan that allows you to stick to your messaging, and then communicate it through all channels authentically. This authenticity will aid in building trust and creating a relatable brand identity.

Create an Image That Resonates

Creating content and digital assets for your online platforms can seem easy, but if it doesn’t align with your brand’s message, it can cause confusion and distract from the story you’re attempting to tell. Don’t let consumers second-guess what your brand is about. When your brand is consistent, authentic, and reliable, it can positively impact your company’s mission and bottom line.

The Value Appeal

Statistics show consumers buy from brands that share their values. If your brand doesn’t offer value outside of a product, it’s as good as dead in the water.

If you’re familiar with the Toms brand, you know their mission is that for every pair of shoes bought, a pair of shoes is donated to a child in need. Their brand takes on a big-picture approach, and their success shows consumers connect to this positively. If Toms decided they were changing their mission and not donating a pair of shoes because it was too expensive to do so, do you think their brand would have lasted this long? Not likely. It doesn’t matter if the shoes are cute or comfortable; when you buy a pair of Toms, you know the charitable donation comes with your shoes, which makes your purchase feel more meaningful than a typical purchase. Taking that out of the equation would completely change the appeal of the brand.

How Colors Can Help Your Brand

Consumers not only relate to your brand purpose and value proposition, but they also associate colors and imagery with your brand. If you think about any well-known brands that you are loyal to, you can likely picture their logo and brand colors. Lyft, for example, created a memorable color association when they started with a giant, fuzzy pink mustache in their driver’s grill to differentiate from other vehicles. As they grew, they realized that the giant mustache may not be the best ‘look’ when pulling up to a formal event or business meeting. They stuck with the pink in their logo to remain consistent, but now, riders expect to see a bright indicator light in the window of the driver’s car that distinguishes it from a yellow cab, Uber driver, or general traffic. This is an example of how colors and branding make a difference when setting your company apart, but how you may still need to re-evaluate and make changes as your company grows.

Another reason that brand colors are important is for easy recognizability and brand consistency. You want to ensure that your social media pages, email campaigns, and website pages are all aligned with the same colors, fonts, and styles. The color consistency and design will become easily recognizable to your target audience and will convey your brand message to them upon seeing your branding.

Know Your Audience

Online purchasing decisions are regularly made based on the content on your social media platforms. The posts, photos, videos, blogs, articles, Tweets, announcements, advertisements, and information can be easily spread if it’s accumulating engagement from the audience. But if you’re not seeing the likes, shares, comments or clicks, your brand’s message isn’t resonating.

LinkedIn has become the preferred social media site for business enrichment. This platform is ideal for professionals and job seekers and has become an effective marketing tool due to its authenticity and user engagement. Knowing your audience and understanding what their preferred platforms are will help keep your brand consistent.

Numbers indicate it takes 5-7 impressions for someone to remember your brand. Posting quality, relevant content regularly on your preferred social media platforms is important to draw users in. After a while, they will expect to see something new every day, and follow your page. The bonus is, if it appeals to them and causes them to engage with your page, this engagement can be used to help build lookalike and target audiences. This is why it is very important to have brand consistency on your channels, and to make sure you are promoting, posting, and engaging on the correct platform and the appropriate audience. Knowing your audience will allow you to put out the most relevant content and therefore grow your loyal following.

Don’t Sell; Tell Your Story

The final thing to remember when building your brand is to focus on telling your story, rather than just sell to your audience. Consumers are looking for an emotional connection to a brand, whether they get it from the colors, design, images, or content. If your feed is full of self-promotion, users are less likely to connect with your messaging and purpose, and your followers and engagement will drop. Keeping your feed consistent and telling the story that captures your audience will have your audience coming back for more, sharing your content, and referring you to their friends and followers.

Brands that present themselves consistently across the board on average see a 33% growth in revenue, per Lucidpress. Brand consistency is all about trust. People do business with the companies that they know, like, trust, and believe in. To establish a trustworthy brand, consumers have to personally relate to your brand’s heart, voice, and identity in order to know if it is something that they want to invest time in. Your audience needs to recognize and remember your brand through your consistent messaging and authenticity.

If you’re struggling to establish a consistent brand, or would like more information on any of the points we discussed, contact us today to see how we can partner to take your brand to the next level.

5 Considerations for Marketing During COVID-19

In times of crisis, brands can either help or hurt our collective experience. When something impacts the world as drastically as COVID-19 has, brands should address the issue with tact, empathy, value-add, and mindful marketing strategies.

Context is key for marketing during a crisis. Marketing teams should re-evaluate current and planned campaigns and adjust communication approaches. Every brand is different, but there are some basic guidelines that can help marketers make the right and appropriate choices during a crisis.

Here are five considerations for marketing during challenging times:

Adjust marketing campaigns and planned content timelines

Some brands take a risk by quickly producing new content for a specific moment – for example, Ford recently swapped its vehicle ads for a Coronavirus-response campaign. But this method isn’t realistic for most brands.

Instead, you should audit what content you have running and what is in your pipeline. Decide what should be paused immediately and push back campaigns if you’re not sure the content will be appropriate or relevant as people’s mindsets and current initiatives have changed. You don’t have to scrap the campaigns altogether, just reserve them for when things are back to normal. Consider how you can adjust your existing content. Maybe you can move some items up, adjust your messaging, or add a CTA as simple as lending a helping hand to those who might be in need.

This content break can give you an advantage once the crisis subsides. Take this time to prepare fresh content for the next cultural moment. Stay on top of the quarantine advisements in the private lending area, so you can be proactive in communicating with your clients as things change.

Evaluate imagery and language

Think about the message your brand is sending through visuals and word choice. For example, avoid visuals of crowds, people touching, and people working in offices. If you have current or future campaigns with visuals that might not be appropriate, revise now or push the campaign back to later in the year. In the same vein, re-frame marketing language that describes close interaction, like “work hand-in-hand” or “get closer to your borrowers.”

This doesn’t mean redoing your whole website. We’re speaking about “push” content, which means the content you’re actively putting out – e.g. emails, advertisements, and social media posts. Visitors will be more forgiving about pre-existing content and brand elements like your logo and homepage.

Don’t capitalize on the crisis

This rule is especially important in times of tragedy and fear. Your goal is to keep people informed. Clients and Partners expect to hear from brands about measures like policy updates and closures related to COVID-19. However, don’t be an alarmist. Be aware of dramatic language and be careful about additional information you’re sharing (e.g. make sure news sources are credible and up-to-date).

Be mindful of your tone. Do not promote “COVID-19 sales.” Remember that many people are out of work and are uncertain about their futures. Any communication during this time should have a tone of humility and empathy. Even if communication isn’t offensive, if the tone is off, it can be perceived as clueless.

Be positive, but not ignorant

You don’t need to meet a grim cultural moment with a grim brand tone. Look to your purpose, mission, vision, and values to remind yourself what your brand stands for, and what that means in a crisis. Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerable side.

Lean into human stories and offer well wishes. Imagery of people smiling and living normal lives doesn’t have to be offensive. In fact, it can inspire hope for the end of quarantine. During the last recession in 2008, many brands released campaigns promoting optimism, hope, and empathy, like Coke’s “Open Happiness” campaign.

Create employee-generated content to spotlight your people and your culture. What are your team members watching on Netflix? How are they staying healthy? What are they doing to keep things light? What has helped them to be effective while working remotely? Use this quarantine to show your brand’s human side.

Highlight how your brand can help

Think about how your brand’s products and services can help during this stressful time. What can you do to enhance people’s lives while in quarantine? Communicate your benefits and create helpful content. Even if your brand doesn’t directly help people during a crisis, how can you inspire them? If you keep your focus on your clients, your marketing doesn’t have to stop.

Remember: this won’t last forever. Although no one knows exactly when the quarantine will end, we’re expecting it to be over sometime this year. In times like these, we remember that marketing isn’t a life-or-death practice. But being proactive and thoughtful, and feeling like we add value to the world, is meaningful.

If you’d like to learn more about how Geraci can be a resource for your marketing during this time, we’d love to schedule a free consultation to discuss these tips. Reach out to Geraci Media here.