Is your brand aligned with your business?
Did you see Lord Sugar, everyone’s favourite opinionated Twitter uncle, get a big-style schooling when he decided to make a grumpy comment about this year’s John Lewis Christmas ad?
This is what happened:
John Lewis ads may seem like a vanity exercise, but no matter how they differ from year-to-year, they get results because they’re always on-brand.
This goes to prove that despite there still being some daft assumptions that branding is just aesthetics, we all know it’s much more than that.
Of course, you don’t have to be John Lewis to have a brand.
Even businesses that have never put any conscious thought or investment into their brand still have one.
This is because, at its most base level, your brand is the set of associations, impressions and just plain old gut feelings your business creates in people.
Which also makes it the reason people buy from you.
For this reason - and plenty of others - I believe it’s important to put effort into shaping your brand and aligning your business with it.
It comes down to a pretty simple choice.
Do you want a brand that’s incoherent, confusing or generic?
Or do you want one that’s clear, consistent, relevant and purposeful?
The dangers of a brand that’s not aligned with your business
Shocking fact for you: according to Harvard Business Review, up to 95% of employees don’t know or understand their company’s strategy.
Lack of clarity on what you’re trying to achieve as a collective is usually the first sign your business and brand may have drifted out of alignment.
This can leave your team with entirely different interpretations of what your brand represents, scattering their efforts and seeing you pour time, effort and money into random activities that sends your business in different directions.
Without a clear purpose, neither customers or employees have something to buy in to. It’s natural for them to lose confidence and look elsewhere.
Three key ways an aligned brand helps you move forward with pace and purpose...
A strong overarching brand compounds the effort of all you do and gives you:
Scalability - a good brand allows you to be versatile as you’ve thought ahead of opportunities and markets, and the strategy or blueprint you follow can grow into it.
Loyalty - It’s something there’s a lot written about at the moment, but that’s because it’s true. If your brand is on point, and true to your company’s purpose and vision, you’ll find yourself attracting a tribe of loyal fans.
Attention - being consistent with the way you communicate, and therefore consistent with your business, will help you cut through the noise - even on the search engines.
So, how do you get business and brand in alignment?
It starts with identifying a clear proposition and clear values. Then holding yourself - and everyone that works for you - accountable to them.
Take John Lewis for example. Their brand promise, “never knowingly undersold” was made over 90 years ago, but is as relevant to the company today as it was then. As they put it,
“If the words Never Knowingly Undersold seem a little old-fashioned, that’s because they were written in 1925. They’ve remained unchanged ever since, and so has their meaning.”
As a result, they continue to score highly in the customer satisfaction polls and retain their customer’s loyalty; remaining relevant even in the face of tough competition from the likes of Amazon.
However, building upon a clear brand purpose is a longer-term strategy.
If you’re feeling in need of quicker wins, you can start by investing in your digital presence.
Nowadays your brand perception and engagement are all built via digital platforms. Showing up consistently online is crucial. This absolutely cannot be templated, generic or left to chance.
Customers can tell quality within milliseconds and will click away just as quickly if they get a poor experience.
But on the other hand, a strong digital presence (coupled with some growth hacks) can help grow your brand and business like nothing else.
Above all, you must never forget that you cannot turn the tide. No matter what, your brand already exists. It’s up to you to build on it.