How to define your brand: 4 core strategies for success
You may want to watch your back.
Because more than 600,000 new businesses are launched each year — and that’s just in the United States. That’s 600,000 businesses trying to capture hearts and minds with their branding and 600,000 businesses scouring the web — dissecting every keyword, graphic, and color scheme — looking for a marketing edge. Not to mention their actual products and material innovations.
Consumer attention is a zero-sum game: the average American looks at a screen for about 7 hours a day. How much of that time can you realistically garner?
The digital age gives marketers endless reach but also enables endless, better-equipped competitors — which necessitates endless content creation to build and maintain a consumer audience.
Strong brand definition allows you to step — and stay — ahead of the pack.
Crunched for time? No sweat, here’s a TL;DR:
There are 600,000 new businesses in America each year, and they’re coming for your customers — either via product or better, more consistent content.
Defining your brand can boost your bottom line, but it’s about more than logos, taglines, and color schemes.
Following these 4 key strategies will help your company define and maintain a strong brand:
Prioritize collaboration — within your marketing department, across the entire company, and externally with your audience.
Create content that connects — Leverage the insights from your collaboration to produce and distribute a smorgasbord of engaging content.
Spread social proof — You know you’ve hit the sweet spot when customers start creating content for you, so don’t let it go to waste: take note and spread it!
Check the temperature — Brand definition is never finished. Make sure your teams are monitoring, analyzing, and responding to your wider community.
With these 4 keys in mind, take a second to evaluate your brand. Air’s Holy Grail of branding is a great place to start!
So, why do you absolutely need to define your brand?
Long answer short: brand experience.
You may have a great product and rock-solid customer personas, but connecting the two is a monumental task. Why? Because UX, CX, and all the other X’s in the book are part and parcel of the overall brand experience. The Big BX.
It’s the “why” behind all the brand marketing statistics that you see on LinkedIn. You know, stats like:
Revenue increases over 20% for companies with consistent brand presentation across channels.
64% of consumers base their relationship with a brand on shared core values.
Nearly 40% of people stop engaging with poorly designed websites.
Signature colors improve brand recognition by up to 80%.
Logos, colors, graphics, web pages, social posts, blogs — these assets all feed into your brand. In the digital era, companies often make these surface-level aspects a central tenet of their brand definition. There’s just one problem with that:
Creative assets are only one component of brand experience.
Your brand is more than just a sharp logo, punchy taglines, and a website that’s easy on the eyes. They’re small pieces in a much larger game.
The sensations, thoughts, emotions, and actions that a brand evokes, this psychological experience, colors every interaction between customer and company. Here’s how Seth Godin defines it:
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
Although it’s hard to quantify, brand definition has a very real impact. According to G2, over 70% of consumers only engage with branding efforts that speak to their particular interests and 63% will stop purchasing from brands that miss the mark with personalization. Branding has a deep effect on your bottom line.
Achieving this level of alignment isn’t easy. There’s a chasm between defining your brand on paper and building a brand experience that truly connects with consumer expectations, ultimately driving and maintaining purchases.
4 ways to define a strong, scalable brand
Here’s a freebie: Brand definition doesn’t stop after you launch a new campaign or rebrand with a new logo. It’s a misleading phrase — “defining your brand” is not something that happens once. It shouldn’t be a foregone conclusion. This is ongoing, reactive work.
Like any maintenance job, you’ll need the right personnel, tools, and processes to succeed.
You’ve covered the personnel, we've got the tools, and the keys below will unlock your process.
1) Keep collaboration at the core
Don’t hide in the lab with a pen and a pad — the only way you’ll develop a clear brand definition is by working through it with everyone involved. Your team, your company, your consumers — everyone.
There are three different levels to this collaborative process:
1. Team-level collaboration
Defining an entire brand isn’t something that a handful of creatives and marketers can just knock out in a few weeks. Not if you’re trying to build something deep, elegant, and scalable: producing content that resonates at scale takes real team effort.
That requires prioritizing collaborative efficiency.
For your team, maybe this means blocking out more time for brainstorming sessions. Or maybe it means refining your creative review process. Maybe it’s as simple as adopting tools that help your team provide better feedback.
2. Company-level collaboration
If Marketing is the only department contributing to your brand definition, you’re in trouble.
The ability to create compelling content, visual, written, and otherwise, is important. But that’s just half the battle (maybe even less). What’s informing that content? Who’s ensuring that your premises and propositions are valid?
For this type of holistic insight, you need to assemble the rest of the Avengers — the people who know your product inside and out. That means sales reps, product developers, and customer service. It means customers — both prospects and current.
Without context and perspective from other relevant departments, your marketing team is just getting high on their own supply.
3. Community-level collaboration
This one is the most important, by far.
If you’re trying to sell a narrative to someone, you might want to know a little bit about them. Hell, you might even want to actually talk to them. Shaping your brand shouldn’t be cold ethnography — your audience is made up of real people. Treat them as such.
Companies with famously resonant branding — Notion, for instance [link to blog post 6] — are able to harness the energy of their audience because they invest in this type of crowd-sourced brand definition. And with the third-party cookie on its deathbed, this practice is only growing more important.
In 2021, over 50% of CMOs reported investing in direct engagement tactics in anticipation of the end of third-party tracking.
2) Create content that connects
This renowned post from Slack’s founder perfectly outlines how investing in customer research allows companies to create compelling content:
“Just as much as our job is to build something genuinely useful, something which really does make people’s working lives simpler, more pleasant and more productive, our job is also to understand what people think they want and then translate the value of Slack into their terms.”
You need to translate your brand’s value into their terms.
The qualitative insights you gather from extensive collaboration with your internal teams and potential customers allow you to create content they care about. It also helps you determine how you can communicate your values in their terms.
Here’s how CEO and content marketing expert Ross Simmonds creates content that connects:
Once you’ve oriented your brand, it’s time to start creating on-brand content and spreading it far and wide. Blog posts become Twitter threads, YouTube videos, LinkedIn articles, and email blasts. Connecting your content with your audience isn’t just about the framing, it’s also about distributing it in as many formats as possible. Different strokes for different folks.
For example, Air is now on TikTok. We’re out galavanting around NYC, making a conscious effort to create content that connects with our audience. It’s not always about keywords and numbers, sometimes it’s about experimenting with your audience to find their terms.
You’ve heard of product-market fit; this is basically the same thing. Content-audience fit.
Oh, and the 1.7 million views don’t hurt either.
3) Spread social proof
Remember: customer feedback needs to shape how you define your brand. Not just because it informs your internal efforts, but because it gives you the opportunity to leverage social proof.
In an ideal world, everyone believes your brand is what you say it is. Unfortunately, nearly every brand is met with a healthy dose of cynicism until proven otherwise.
Whether it’s online reviews, testimonials, or (if you’re lucky) UGC, public opinion is a huge boost to a brand's trustworthiness and credibility. Just take a look at how Tushy leverages this kind of content on Twitter:
Whether it’s about their branding…
Or customer appreciation…
Tushy takes these nuggets of gold and uses them to elevate and update their brand definition.
4) Check the Temperature
We’re very sorry to tell you this, but you no longer have sole ownership over your brand. Our hyperconnected world puts old traditions in flux — that includes brand ownership.
Customers. Influencers. The media. Competitors. Review sites.
All of these entities that used to passively experience your brand can now, quite literally, immerse themselves in your brand through social media — for better or for worse.
Lean into your impeccable customer service that makes up for product deficiencies.
Lean into the granular insights from your performance marketing team.
Lean into that new tone that feels oh-so *corny* but your social following loves.
Social media, FAQs, feedback from other departments, web performance — basically all the resources you used in the first collaboration stage need to be monitored consistently.
Observe the trends developing in the larger environment, monitor how your audience responds to them, and adjust messaging accordingly.
Basically, ABC. Always be checkin’.
Defining each day keeps competitors at bay
By now, we hope those 600,000 new businesses are starting to look a little less daunting. Chances are that most of them will bite the dust after the first few years anyway.
And for the ones that don’t, the ones that gain momentum and start jockeying for room at the Big Brand table, you’ve got a new set of tricks to create and maintain your brand definition:
Prioritize collaboration at all levels
Create and distribute content that connects
Spread that social proof
“Always be checkin’” the social temperature
Still got questions about defining, building, and maintaining a brand? We’ve put together a comprehensive branding guide, our one-stop-shop on everything branding — from the basics to inspiration.
Check it out ASAP to kickstart your brand definition efforts!