Your Brand is an Ecosystem
Your brand is how you represent and position yourself to your customers and staff. Your brand is how your customers perceive you and the values you express implicitly and explicitly. Your brand is everything from how you look to the experience you provide. It’s an ecosystem – living elements that work together to thrive or fail.
There’s no getting around it: the look is important. You’ve got to have the look in order to validate your business with your audience, and to help them feel like they’re receiving an authentic experience. When you build your brand’s visual identity, you’re working to code in attitudes, interests, and values that you hold in subtle ways that add up to what your brand stands for.
Ford’s onging campaign is a prime example of doing this well. Their visuals and message, even when making an appeal about being green and using less fuel, is full of grungy imagery. It’s authentic to their audience – men who idealize the rough and dirty, get down to work attitude. Even Denis Leary as the announcer reflects the brand in his gruff voice, and the steel, stone, and dirt textures reinforce the brand’s values. They carry this look across all of their visuals and marketing to reinforce their identity.
The look and the marketing work together to set expectations. Whereas the look tells your customers your visual attitude, the marketing cues your customer into your message, your positioning in the market, and builds expectations for the experience.
Marketing is not just advertising. It’s your website and social media and collateral. It’s the places customers come into contact with your brand that aren’t in your shop. It’s not just what your advertising is, but also what it says and where it’s placed. And how it works together across different media. Your marketing is more than your most current ad. Rather, it’s reinforcement of visuals, message, and differentiation across your platforms (web, social, radio, tv, print, word-of-mouth) in a consistent and focused way.
The experience is essential to the consistent growth of your brand ecosystem, and it’s one that’s frequently overlooked. While the look and the marketing serve to get your brand attention and recognition, the experience validates these efforts and completes the brand picture. The experience solidifies trust in your brand message and business.
All that effort you put into looking the part must be reflected in the experience – your customer service, physical location, all the way through your company culture, little extra details that serve as your differentiators, and most importantly the quality of your product or service. This is where everything is on the line! A great product experience that matches the expectations you build through the look and the marketing feeds back into the system and will grow trust and attention in your audience.
The reverse of the experience is when there’s a gap between expectation and delivery. Over time, lack of congruity between the three leads to an unsustainable ecosystem, which collapses under customers who have a poor experience and share that experience with others who trust them more than they trust marketing messages. This is the very reason that a great visual identity and strong marketing make a good product great, but can’t save a product experience that needs improving.
Build your brand environment in sync with itself. Customers pay attention to a balanced brand ecosystem, as it builds trust, reliability, and quality with your target audience over time. By building consistency between the look, the marketing, and the experience, you’ll reap the benefits as customers engage and share positive experience with their friends and colleagues.
What do you think makes a strong brand? What’s your experience in growing a brand ecosystem? Comment and let us know!