Brand building is based on three fundamental steps — consistency, persistence, and restraint, and the process to build a brand is one that every organization should place at the top of its strategic priorities. Brand equity is one of your business’ most powerful assets, and it’s importance should not be underestimated. In my new series here on the AYTM blog, Brand Building Step-by-Step, you’ll learn how to carry out the three fundamental steps of brand building as well as how to continually monitor your brand to ensure you’re on the right path to success.
The first step to brand building is consistency. The value of a brand comes from consumers who believe the promise that brand makes to them. Brands that don’t keep their promises through every customer interaction are doomed to failure. The reason for this is a little something called trust.
Consumers build brands, not companies. Brands evolve in the following manner:
- Consumers learn the brand exists and hear its promise.
- Consumers try the brand and believe the promise based on the trial experience.
- Consumers try the brand again and develop trust that the brand will continually meet their expectations based on the promise and original experience.
- Consumers choose the brand again and again.
- Consumers tell other people about the brand.
What is the biggest thing that could throw off the pattern of brand evolution outlined above? Inconsistency is the answer. Let’s take a closer look.
First, all the brand awareness advertising in the world won’t help to build a brand unless the brand actually delivers on the promise made to consumers in that advertising. The ShamWow promised to be a miracle towel, but in reality, it was just a towel. The brand failed to deliver on its promise, and sales dropped quickly after the initial trial phase.
Second, once consumers try a product and it lives up to their expectations based on the original brand promise, they’re likely to try it again. Now, they’ll have even higher expectations for it. The brand needs to meet their expectations in every customer interaction or they’ll become confused and turn away from the brand. In simplest terms, they won’t trust the brand to meet their expectations anymore. Without consumer trust, brands have little chance at long-term success. Again, the ShamWow is a great example. Since it failed to meet consumer expectations, all trust in the brand was lost.
Finally, brands must meet customer expectations in every interaction as mentioned above. A brand that claims to be the luxury option in the marketplace but owns a poorly designed website that’s filled with poorly written copy and elements that don’t work is positioned for a big problem. When consumers develop expectations for a brand, their perceptions of the brand also develop. This is where the tangible meet the intangible aspects of branding.
Consumer perceptions of a brand are more emotional than consumer expectations for a brand. When consumers become emotionally connected to a brand, that brand becomes very powerful. Harley Davidson is the perfect example of a brand that loyal consumers are highly emotionally connected to.
When a brand fails to meet consumer perceptions, it’s in big trouble. Consumers become confused. Using the example above, a “luxury” brand that has a website that looks terrible is confusing to consumers. The two brand experiences are inconsistent. Consumer confusion is a brand killer, because when consumers become confused by a brand, they’ll turn away from it and look for another brand that does meet their expectations for it and consistently matches their perceptions for it in every customer interaction.
Therefore, brand consistency in all customer touch points as well as in all internal activities is absolutely essential to building brand equity and ensuring your brand’s success.
Up next in the Brand Building Step-by-Step series, you’ll learn about the second step in building a brand — persistence. Stay tuned!