When I first joined the Traust team almost five years ago, one of my first assignments was to help lead the organization through a branding refresh. It was clear that the reputation of the organization was strong and had been well managed. However, the brand was feeling tired, it was inconsistently applied across our customer touch points, and the organization’s understanding of what qualifies as branding elements was loose at best.
Before I jump into why I feel this exercise is so important for an established small business, I want to start with an overview of what the process looked like for Traust, and what other small business might consider as a template. I executed this refresh under the guise of a website refresh; and because a website site refresh will be required at the end of any branding update, I might suggest that this be the instigator for you too.
Traust’s website at the time of this this initiative was several years old, mostly unmaintained, non-responsive to mobile and non-standard browsers, and was missing several elements of content that potential customers may be seeking when arriving on our site. Before I could take on the project of refreshing the website, we needed some branding guidelines to build a new foundation on.
Is Your Brand Consistent Across Platforms?
Customers are exposed to your brand in so many ways that companies often forget some of the most critical touch points. For the sake of this blog, I’m going to just focus on a few brand elements we consider to be the basics.
- Logo (a variety of forms that meet all your application needs)
- Branding Colors
- Web Imagery
- Typeface, and use of Fonts
- Presentation, Contract and other Company Document Templates
- Email Signatures
- Employee Headshots
- Writing/Speaking Style of company content (Ads, Posts, Presentation, Web, Etc.)
If I stop to think about how many places even one of these elements is being exposed to a current or potential customer/partner every day, the number is enormous. There are so many ways that companies are putting their brand out for consumption and judgement. If you’re company is lucky enough to have a marketing department, or a partner, some of the bigger brand touch points are likely being taken care. To name a few: websites, marketing materials, social media company pages/posts.
The activity that these branding outlets see represent a fraction of the branding exposure you should be considering as part of your daily operations. Here are a few touch points that are heavily influencing your brand reputation on a constant basis.
- Employee Emails – While signatures are one of the obvious elements here, consider the language, format, and typeface and response time as well. Employees are your most important brand ambassadors. Every time an employee has a delayed, unprofessional email that’s written in all capital letters with primary blue font on pink background (you know who I’m talking about), that person is representing your company brand and making a very specific impression on every recipient.
- Employee Social Media Posts and Imagery – Are your employee headshots, header photos and posts aligning with your brand. While we all recognize the individual vs. the employee, certain platforms like LinkedIn are considered professional sites and individuals are often perceived to be representatives of their company in the ideas and opinions they share. Are you giving your employees the tools and guidelines to properly represent your organization?
- 3rd Party Vendors/Partners – Does your organization utilize professional services to help you deliver your product or service. Do they have direct interaction with your customers and potential customers? While these partners may not always wear your colors and logos on their SWAG, your customers certainly see them as a representative of your company and your brand.
Branding touch points are everywhere, and while you have to find the right balance of what is in and out of your control, organizations can provide their teams, employees and partners with a toolkit to help them be successful in properly representing your company the best they can. Taking the time to define how you want to be presented to the world and developing the assets to manage the touch points that are most important to you will go a long way to protecting and promoting your brand. It will also strengthen the fantastic reputation you already have in your industry.
Review the list of brand elements Traust defines above and tries to use in all of our touchpoints. This might be a good place for you to start too. While we are by no means experts in marketing and brand management, I do believe that awareness and intentionality are the first steps to making an impact.
Brand exposure points can be obvious and targeted. We see this in ads, marketing materials, websites and company social pages. Customers realize they’re being targeted and process your brand accordingly. However, the less obvious brand touchpoints that we talked about above are likely unconsciously influencing your brand reputation among your customers/partners. I challenge you think about how you promote, and protect, your brand here too.