“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person.
You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”
– Jeff Bezos, U.S. Entrepreneur & Philanthropist
(Oh, and he’s the Founder & CEO of Amazon.com, but you knew that…)
It’s not often you get to quote the second richest man on the planet, but he clearly knows a thing or two about the relationship between brand and business. Amazon.com is the biggest online retailer on the planet he lives on, which is, believe you and me, far removed from the one we occupy, considering our wealth in comparison to his. Nonetheless, dreams are still free, and efforts to emulate someone of his business stature are as good a path as any to start out on.
Amazon.com, with its business plan devised by Bezos on a drive from New York to Seattle and its first premises being his own humble garage, now has a brand that only a few can compare to. Whatever he considered his company’s brand, vision and meaning to be at the time he began the company, it was the U.S. Supreme Court of North Dakota of all places that gave him the initial impetus.
On May 26, 1992, this Supreme Court ruled that Quill, Inc., a retail company based out of Delaware who had no physical presence within the state of North Dakota, were exempt from paying any taxes whatsoever on what they happened to ship there. No physical presence. Bezos had an idea, and, as they say, he ran with it.
Whatever it is that is the focus of your business enterprise, whatever you are now running with, your brand will become how the consumer world recognises you, and, just as importantly, how they differentiate you from those others in the same sphere. To put it another way, it’s the thing that those consumers, every single one of them, will pass judgment on.
Your brand needs to have meaning. Yes, your logo will no doubt go through a few slight color changes over time, possibly even a font swap, but your meaning, the very essence of your brand, needs to be maintained. Here are 5 important steps to take to make sure this happens, regardless of whether your business is slowly ploughing along or taking off at breakneck speed like it’s the next Amazon.
Before your business, before your brand, you need to have meaning, a purpose, encapsulated within a few, simple words – a mantra, if you like. It’s not, repeat not a slogan. Your mantra tells your customers, your potential customers, everyone coming onto the company payroll, and everyone else in the whole wide world for that matter exactly what the core of your business is, and why you exist in the first place.
Staying in retail, let’s take another big global player – Nike. We all know their “Just Do It” slogan, but do you know the company’s mantra? It is succinct, well-worded, and tells everyone exactly what their core is, and why they exist:
Authentic athletic performance.
As it says above, before your brand, you need to have meaning. And remember, authenticity, whether it’s your product or you as a company, builds reputation, and, in the end, authenticity sells.
Creating new, exciting content relevant to your brand requires in-house guidelines, even templates, to ensure brand consistency across the board. This is the brand foundation, flexible enough to be tweaked if required, but from which everything is then built upon. Your brand is, to a large degree, dependent upon the whole image that you portray visually.
Your Approval Process
When it comes to the maintenance of your brand, it was pretty simple at the outset. Everything brand-related was signed off by your good self and anyone else who founded the company with you. As you progress and get bigger, and those people using your brand within the company become more diverse, you really don’t want to be tied up with every little decision.
Having a concrete approval process will maintain the integrity of your brand, and protect its image, whoever is making those final decisions (be they employees or contractors).
Any reduction upon the quality of your product will directly impact your reputation, and so your brand. It’s sad to say but many companies are happy to take a hit on their reputation if the profit margins widen. By using the age-old practice of cutting corners to increase revenue, you may as well cut up your brand at the same time.
Product quality is paramount in a world where consumers’ rights are equally as important. One way of ensuring when people consider your brand, they think “quality” is the use of corporate gifts such as customized journals and/or notepads – high quality, useful and aesthetic items that bear your company branding. It’s an excellent way to get your brand out there, and to reward your loyal customers in the process.
A key word is starting to appear in this article: authenticity. All established global and national brands have it simply because they earned it. After all, it is your reputation we’re talking about here. It is important to recognise that your brand goes further than what your customers actually see. Everyone within the company needs to promote the same tone and message as the brand itself. That way, you hit consistency every time.
So there are your 5 important steps to maintaining your brand as your business grows – meaning, foundation, approval, product and authenticity. What are your strategies for ensuring a brand built on reputation? Feel free to leave a comment.