Ask the Digital Marketing Experts: Roger West President Jennie Treby on Branding & Messaging Strategy
Jennie reveals what it takes to dig deep into the personality and purpose of an organization to truly understand its mission and vision – and define a compelling, enduring brand.
What is a company’s brand and why is it important?
To me, a brand is a representation of who a company is and what it represents. Once you get brand awareness, once people know who you are and what you stand for, it’s the feeling and thought that’s provoked. That brand carries the company through everything. A consistent brand is important because you want to have that single representation of the core of who you are and everything you do.
Isn’t the brand just the people of an organization and their actions?
It’s a lot more than that. A brand that’s done the right way, the awareness, the identity, the brand equity, there’s no amount of money you can put on that.
Why does a new organization need to define its brand?
If you’re building a new brand, you have to be able to articulate how and why you’re different. A lot of new organizations, people who aren’t overly familiar with brand messaging, think all they need is a really cool, kickass logo. And then they think, we should probably get some web or social copy.
Your message should have just as much weight to it as your logo. The two need to work hand-in-hand. But have you really put that thought into defining what your brand stands for and how you communicate it?
Why would an established organization need to redefine its brand?
There are a few things that trigger a redefinition of brand messaging. Sometimes organizations change direction. Maybe they’ve taken on a new industry or a whole new line of products. A lot of times they need to redefine their brand after they’ve acquired or merged with another company. Every time you make significant changes to a company’s strategy or vision, if it doesn’t align with that original messaging, it’s time for a refresh.
Roger West takes a deep dive into an organization to help define its brand. What does a typical branding exercise look like?
We do a competitive analysis, we look at existing marketing assets, we interview executive teams and a cross section of team members, and most importantly, we interview customers and prospects. That is where you get the really good stuff.
For a larger company, it’s got more moving parts to it. An established company probably already has some existing brand messaging, and whether they like it or not, it exists. Our goal is to find what’s working and what’s not.
What are the most important questions to ask internal and external stakeholders as the organization defines its brand?
Everyone in the organization should be able to identify who your company is and what you do in one or two sentences. What problems are you solving for customers? How do you differ from the competition? What are you known for?
We ask team members that represent different lengths of service, roles and functions the same questions. It enables us to see consistencies and identify brand truths. But more importantly, it allows is to surface the inconsistencies and smooth them out.
Why is it important to get fresh, outside eyes on the organization as it defines its brand?
It’s a matter of perspective. Sometimes it takes an objective person to ask the hard questions. We’re able to come in and bring a fresh set of eyes and ears. We don’t have that personal, “this is my baby” attachment. We’re able to move across an organization and get honest feedback.
What steps should the organization take to cement its brand with its internal and external stakeholders?
When you’re rolling out new brand messaging, whether for a new or existing company, you have to take the time and energy to share it with your team. That’s the only way you’re going to get consistency. Everybody needs to be on the same page and know what to say and how to say it with confidence. You are wrecking your brand if you’ve got 10 different people saying 10 different things.
How does an organization communicate its brand to employees, customers, partners, investors, etc.? And isn’t that means of communication a foundational element of the brand itself?
It’s not only what we say, but how we say it. That’s where things like brand voice and tone come into play. How do we talk? Are we fun and hip and casual? Or are we more conservative and serious? The voice of the brand has to be reflected.
So, how you talk about the brand is just as important in terms of how you communicate to the public. This is where having brand consistency is so vital. Competition is steep, so you better have that crisp, clear message. It goes back to the whole purpose, the whole reason for the exercise: What we want to achieve is alignment.
Finally, what is enabled by a fully realized brand with effective messaging?
You’re making it easier to recruit, easier to build cultural unity and most importantly, you’re creating a message that gives sales teams the ammo they need to drive deals – it’s a revenue driver. Companies sometimes believe things like brand messaging is fluff. It’s not. If you’ve got the right messaging, there’s a direct line to revenue.
You don’t have to start from scratch every time you want to push a campaign out the door or communicate. If every single team member can tell you in one sentence who your company is, what you do and why, that one-liner, that’s a winner. That’s where consistency is king.