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Branding is the most commonly used phrase in business circles, but is also often the least understood.
For Jonathan Jadali, CEO of Ascend Agency, a PR form that works with top Fortune 500 companies, a brand is not a tangible thing. As he told me in a recent conversation, it is “a strong feeling that a business creates in the minds of its customers, that creates an emotional bond and passion for their businesses and produces loyalty.”
Here are some more insights into Jadali’s three-step approach to creating a brand that lasts.
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1. Find your soul
A business without a soul might get sales, but can never build a following. “I have worked with scores of companies, and I always noticed which ones had a strong brand the moment I received their initial emails,” Jadali explains. “I could feel the soul of the company oozing out from the letters as I read them. Until you find your soul, the ‘why’ behind your business, it’s hard to make any kind of impact.”
This discovery phase should start with an internal audit of your brand’s marketing approach, services and products, as well as an external audit of your customer base’s sentiment towards your industry as a whole and your company in particular. You then need to delete the features you don’t like and incorporate the ones you want.
Once that’s accomplished, infuse this focus into your design (logos, graphics, etc.), staff training, social media content, customer touchpoints and email campaigns. The ability to consistently reflect your purpose in all areas of your business is what begins to build that connected feeling in your customer’s hearts.
2. Develop cult devotion
Respect, they say, is reciprocal, and so is loyalty. It is unwise to expect extreme commitment from a customer base that you are not extremely loyal to, and you cannot be dedicated to a base whose needs you don’t know.
As Jadali says, “Most of the brands want to build a cult following from their customer base, but as we dig into brand strategy, most of the companies either do not know exactly who that audience is supposed to be or they haven’t spent time developing cult devotion to their base themselves.”
Every company must spend time in “base discernment.” The first step is to find the common feature of your base, be it age range, lifestyle, gender, fashion preferences, health condition, locality, etc. Then you need to start building your brand image around these discoveries. For instance, an all-black-marketing theme may work for a men’s brand, but might fail miserably for a female-targeted line.
3. Always show up with value
“With all content you put out, every campaign you start and every place you appear, you are animating your company in one direction or the other,” Jadali ecourages. “It is similar to how we perceive people; your brand has a personality that is discerned by what you associate yourself with, where you show up, what you say and how you say it. If all you do is marketing, you reduce your chances of making sales.”
Showing up on the right platforms where you are sure to meet your client base is also key. For instance, a brand that caters to teenage girls needs to take TikTok more seriously than most. “Authority positioning,” as Jonathan Jadali terms it, is the art of making sure your brand is seen where it matters the most. One needs to undertake an empirical approach to guest posting, social media marketing and SEO. It is far better to appear in fewer places than to appear in the wrong places; businesses should spend more time researching than they do simply trying to get featured.
When you do show up, you must market efficiently, but beyond that, you must find all possible ways to identify with your customer base and to build the chemistry they share with your brand. This could often mean offering non-marketing value to your customer base and identifying with their sentiments.
An active presence on all relevant platforms is a necessary part of your PR strategy. It doesn’t just enable you to identify more with your base; it also helps you monitor the chatter to know how customers feel. This way, you can always pivot your business to make sure your purpose is being fulfilled.
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Marketing, sales, staff, products and services may form the necessary infrastructure to run your business profitably, but mastering the art of effective branding is the necessary ingredient for remaining profitable perpetually.