Do you have a brand development plan for 2017? Is it the right one? Have you considered everything?
If the insanity of 2016 was anything to go by, 2017 is going to be an interesting year and your brand needs ready to tackle it head on.
So what challenges can your brand expect in 2017?
Ethics or Costs
Being seen as ethical or caring is big business. Values have become the business equivalent of a soul, with businesses desperately trying to bare theirs in the hope of convincing customers of their worth.
However, having values means living by them and conducting yourself in a more ethical way. This can be expensive.
So, how do you justify this additional (kind of optional) expense against simpler (but more selfish) running costs? It’s a tough question, and in tough times even tougher. Do you really need to be sustainable? Do you really need a healthcare scheme or flexible working?
That’s down to you, but remember the world is changing and there’s a reason industries are moving in this direction. It may not be expected by everyone now, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be. And you don’t want to be seen as the unethical company.
Telling your story
Values need a story. This doesn’t mean some fantasy or fiction, instead you’re framing the reasoning for your business and the values that founded it in a context or language your audience understand.
The difficulty is making this believable. A business is a business and your audience know this, so convincing them otherwise is tough. What you’re left with is some wonderfully inventive solutions. John Lewis have become the saviours of Christmas, Aldi a Mecca for savvy shoppers and so on.
However, many more stories don’t work. For most, it’s because they’re not complete or believable.
So it’s more than words, it’s fonts, colours and imagery; it’s social media engagement and staff interaction; it’s speaking directly to your audience in a voice they understand. And doing this properly isn’t easy.
You’d imagine, in a world of automation, this would be easier by now. But, new channels appear every day and the old keep getting more complex.
Yet, your job is make sure they’re all aligned with the same message. Impossible, right? Probably, but you still have to do it.
The problem is that inconsistent equals unbelievable to modern audiences. No value or story survives that. Which only makes this more of a priority, and this is only set to grow.
Your brand can’t work if you are not totally behind it. And by you, we mean everyone in your company. Before you consider your audience, you need to consider your own staff. If you can’t make them believe in the business how do you expect to convince anyone else.
Brands and channels need more attention than ever, which means more input. It has to be all hands on deck to keep feeding this constant need for content and this has to come from your staff.
Want a social feed brimming with engaging and exciting imagery? Then you’re going to need to give your staff a reason to create content. One they have this they’ll do the rest.
Beyond brand guidelines
With so many channels, brand guidelines are no longer enough. Your brand and how you express it needs to be set in stone.
You MUST have robust rules built on insight, strategy and internal support.
What this isn’t is constant brand change, more constant brand enhancement. You don’t need to redesign everything every week. However, don’t miss your opportunity to incrementally develop and evolve your brand in line with your brand strategy.
This will become your brand bible, laid down for all to follow, but open to a certain level of interpretation where necessary.
Feeding the social beast
In managing so many channels, it’s easy to forget to use them.
This means content. Quality content. Constant quality content.
Because, with Google’s Micro Moments shifting how the industry works, you need to be in control of your social media at every level. Make sure it follows your brand bible. Make sure your staff are onboard. Make sure it’s active and engaging. And, make sure it tells your story.
This can often be the most challenging stage, because it demand the most resources and time. However, it’s also where you see the most benefit.
Knowing less is more
Micro Moments and lots of other market trends are pointing towards a shift in audience targeting. It’s no longer about how many, but who.
You need to be attracting smaller, more relevant audiences. This will mean focusing on quality output and content. Which leads to a content problem.
It’s a dilemma, you need constant content, you also need quality content. But, often these two goals can seem diametrically opposed. Quality can take time. So which takes priority?
Historically, constant always won out, but times have changed. Everyone is producing content now, so just having content isn’t enough. Your content needs to stand out, but how?
Focus on quality. Forget targets, if you don’t have quality content don’t do anything. Sometimes nothing is better than something. Kill off those pointless lists or generic “how to’s” created to fill space. Write for people, not products.
Pushing quality will build trust in your opinion and your brand. This approach can separate you from your competitors.
Lack of insight
The foundation of any good brand is insight. Yet, so many companies still decide to ignore this. Brands need to be built on understanding, the problem is companies believe that this will cost them time and money.
This isn’t the case. With most misunderstanding the benefits of this stage of the process. Knowing what your audience wants is never an unnecessary expenditure. In reality, this work is what stops wasted time and expenditure later on.
But its real benefit isn’t the cost saving. What you’re gaining is an understanding of your brands value. This is integral to informing everything you do, giving you a guide on which to base your approach and strategies. It’s what will help you talk directly to your customers and stand apart from your competitors.
Not new, but challenging
None of these challenges are new. Many of them you will have been struggling with for some time. However, marketing is changing, fast. Which is only magnifying these issues for any companies already wrestling with them.
You can no longer simply fumble through, as there’s too much to manage and even more at stake. In today’s world, your brand is more valuable than ever. So you need to face each of these challenges and have a plan for how your brand is going to deal with them. This not only gives you a measurable target, but gives you a transparent way to get everyone onboard.
As marketing splinters into more pieces, channels and directions. The only way to deal with it is together. Your brand needs to become a coherent whole, from staff to style. Only then can you tame these beasts.