Let’s take a look into the design of our neo-consumer e-commerce culture: this whole new frontier of click-driven ad space, social media marketing and one-product startups signaling through socially conscious business models and environmentally friendly materials, pedaling ideas and imagery — some of it failing and a lot of it working out really well.
We’re dealing with a whole new model of mass appeal. With a small, simple, straight-to-the-throat approach to branding, emerging success stories like Molekule and Purple have efficiently crafted hip identities and built solid brand equity by standing at the dais of distinct flagship products.
Gone are the days of over-extended product lines, requisite retailer presence or mass spend on commercial ad campaigns in service of brand-building. One product, one price, rare promos: this is the magic, 2019 formula for a simple, successful and easily maintained identity. Many brands are either reengineering communications strategies around these models or wishing that they could.
But let’s take a step back for a moment and consider all this from the slant of a larger, more established company — one where a communications or creative director might have to fight for brand identity over the requests, requirements, limitations or agendas of other departments. There are budgets to meet, laws to consider, search engine optimization (SEO) strategists who might want to sack your communications with cloak and dagger keyword tactics, research and development labs pushing line extensions to their breaking points. We’re talking sales teams with quick-commission ideas about promo placement or packaging violators, your beautiful box designs dabbed up with neon stickers: “Buy Now!” “Save More!” “Just Do It!”
How then, in the midst of so much chaos, do you keep it all together? How do you put a little class, cohesion and consistency in your brand voice? How do you compete with the clean, clear image and identity of a Casper or a Harry’s when you’ve got a crazed social media manager with a feline fetish, just looking for his next opportunity to bring a Mexican Hairless into the mix of your Instagram stories? For the love of all things relevant, read on.
Know Your Products, Know Your Market
Starting with the easy and obvious here. Knowing your product, market and demographic is the first step in composing a solid strategy for your brand voice and identity. Do a little recon on your competition. Dig up as much messaging as you can and try to figure out what they’ve done right, where they’re missing the point and how you can position yourself to stand out in a market with preconceived expectations about your industry.
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel but learn how you can gain a little more tread and traction. If you’re selling tech, come from a place of innovation, If you’re selling finance, come from a place of trust. If you’re selling hot dogs from a street cart, wear red. Knowing where your product fits into the market will make the next few steps much easier.
Set Up A Key Message Strategy
A defined key message strategy is great for not only knowing what it is you’re trying to convey in pitching your products but it’s also important in selling your brand voice and identity. Your key messages should be a compass by which all communications are geared, be it email copy, print collateral, packaging, signage, even press releases. With a strong brand message strategy, you can easily reconcile and justify your communications position on any asset requests that come by your desk through any department.
By articulating your value propositions, mission, voice, etc., a strong key messaging strategy will help you promote your brand within the scope of each product or asset. This way, you’re coming across with a distinct identity to tie your product lines and communication channels together instead of selling everything piecemeal.
I might get into the minutiae of crafting these strategies in a future post, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll leave you with a few things to consider when you’re coming up with your own brand voice — one of which we already covered.
• Know your audience.
• Define your communications goals.
• Keep it simple.
• Get your story straight.
Of course, cross-departmental alignment should be a top priority after you’ve drafted and pitched your message strategy. You’ll likely find yourself back at the drawing board, going back and forth on anything from brand statements to packaging callouts, if all stakeholders aren’t onboard.
Sitting down with everyone from the executive vice president to the C-suite squad and going over not only the wider thrust of your new image but also your road map to getting there will leave everyone on the same page regarding future marketing strategies, what the brand means and who the company is. This is also a great way to rally everyone around a central aesthetic and give them a bigger stake in the brand identity going forward.
Appoint Some Accountability
Once you’ve established your audience, voice, goals, vision, value propositions, etc., you should put someone in charge of maintaining it all. This entails more than just tracking key performance indicators (KPIs), engagement or click-through rates. It means keeping the marketing and communications team accountable in terms of quality assurance in brand voice and messaging at all times.
The keeper of your brand book should be a creative or communications director tasked with the role of managing brand standards. It would be a mistake to assume these standards will be held up on their own no matter how great a creative team you have. People are people.
So, there you go — a few strategic ways to keep a clean brand amongst a multifaceted organization in an age where simplicity is all the rage. Now you can go out into the world of marketing, find your niche and hop into the e-commerce scene with the confidence of a real cool corporation.
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