Building enduring brands
Listening to customers and incorporating their experience is essential to building enduring brands with sustainable buzz.
Creating, changing and building enduring brands is expensive. These projects consume the focus not only of the marketing team, but of everyone in the company who is involved. So it is critical that when the shiny, new brand is unveiled, it endures.
Time after time, we see brands launch to the market – whether it is a new company, or a rebrand of an established player – amid much fanfare and excitement, and then it evaporates. At best, the buzz fades and the market quickly forgets all about this next big thing. At worst the shine quickly dims, as the reality of the product is seen to fall far short of the promise.
What can brand marketers do to ensure this does not happen to them and their brands? How can we ensure brand promise tallies with customer reality? Ultimately, how can we go about building enduring brands?
Listen and learn
We believe the contribution of many is more effective than the power of one. That is why we advocate listening. We start with asking questions to find out what people really think. It is this information that gives us the insight to approach building enduring brands that stand out.
It is what we have done with our rebranding work for leading law firm, Stephenson Harwood.
This launched in November 2015, but the listening phase began right at the start of the year. We had been tasked with the creation of a brand with a distinctive proposition that would appeal to clients, prospects and their people, and it was immediately clear that if we were to succeed in that task we would need to begin with a clear understanding of existing stakeholder perceptions.
Together with management consultants Gulland Padfield, we undertook a series of workshops and 49 client interviews to find out what people really thought about the firm. It was the largest piece of client research ever undertaken by the firm in its 130-year history.
Drawing on this intelligence and insight, we created a client-centric brand that underpins Stephenson Harwood’s culture of success and communicates the strengths and confidence of the firm and its people. The result was a new and distinctive brand proposition, key messaging and a set of powerful brand values that celebrate the firm’s strengths and complements its international growth ambitions.
This was expressed through a new visual identity and tone of voice that has been deployed firm-wide through the design of a new website, brochure, launch video, brochures for practice areas, services and geographies, stationery for all offices, email marketing, pitch proposals, presentation materials, exhibition panels, and signage. Internal communications include a vision and values booklet, an elevator pitch booklet, and both writing and brand guidelines.
Promises matching reality
This project is just one example of what can be achieved by listening. It is crucial that the insight gathered in this way is used well, and the team needs both an understanding of the broader sector and an ability to create and communicate effective marketing materials.
It is also crucial to engage the internal audience so that they become fervent advocates of the brand, not sceptics or even critics. Finally, the brand needs careful, ongoing guardianship, with a small team continually altering it in response to external and internal developments.
Yet it is only when these creative and the communication stages are underpinned by insight, knowledge and expertise that we can create an authentic brand proposition, messaging and visual identity. It ensures that brand promise tallies with customer reality, and allows it to evolve, grow consistently and reach its full potential.
This article was first published by the Chartered Institute of Marketing, a leading international body for marketing and business development.