Do you know how to load your brand? Build brand equity? Develop the brand into a personality that potential customers are attracted to? That is beautiful! But do you manage to get the corner office to explain that it will take a while for those great brands to produce a sounding coin? Perhaps the branding staircase can help you make a visual story out of it.
Sometimes it is brand building presented as simply as the sales process: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action (AIDA). Brand theory also has four stages: From Aware it goes through Familiair to Favorable, in the hope that this will ultimately lead to Loyalty.
Step-by-step on the branding staircase
In branding theory, those different phases for brand builders are often represented by one pyramid. But let's look at it from the other side: through the eyes of the customer! It goes through more than the four steps when he or she tries to climb the pyramid. There is much more to it if they can develop knowledge, attitude and behavior towards a brand. I have several models overlaid and combined with my own experience and insights. Based on that, I have developed a model in the form of a staircase that a customer must climb. The figure represents the phases that a customer goes through before he becomes a fan of your brand.
Large steps are difficult for the customer to handle.
If you want to help the customer get closer to your brand, the branding trap can be helpful. The branding staircase provides insight into the customer journey. It shows what stage he or she is in. As a result, you understand better what kind of information is needed to help the customer further up. But it is also a useful tool to explain to others that a long breath is needed to build a strong brand.
Notice the difference
Let me start with an anecdote. A few years ago I was allowed to lead a workshop with around fifty managers. They were rather skeptical about investments in branding. I opened with a question:
“How much would you like to pay for this product?”
On the screen I projected a picture of a simple white 100% cotton T-shirt with a round neck; visibly picked from the website of textile super Zeeman. The room responded quickly. The answers varied from 4.95 to 8 euros.
Next, I projected a picture of a T-shirt with identical technical specifications, only with a Nike logo on it. My question was the same. Not the answers. They went from 18 to even 25 euros for the Nike shirt. I let it soak in. The audience drew an important conclusion from their own answers. Then I could start my story. Without having to explain why a brand is important, but just about how you can build a brand.
Brand building requires consistency
If we strive for brand loyalty, the three-stage rocket is: knowledge – attitude – behavior applicable. So first of all, make sure that customers know your brand. They need to know that your brand exists. Brand awareness or brand awareness is the basis for taking further steps. Because unknown makes unloved. Make your brand visible and recognizable by graphic elements such as logo, font and use of color, illustrations, photos, and symbols or icons. Check the consistency. Easily start on the web. Does the site radiate the desired brand image or is it time for an overhaul? Graphically or textually? What about findability in the different search engines? And all those social media platforms … are they linked? Do they also have the matching “look & feel”?
Then you can give more substance: not only ensure that your brand is known; also make clear what your brand stands for. Tell what you have to offer. Then you create brand familiarity.
Communicate goals first!
Patience is important here. Spoon feeding with information, so that the customer can process all bite-sized chunks and move on to the next step at their own pace. A well-founded and implemented content marketing plan plays a crucial role in this.
Focusing too quickly on the sales target can be a killing for the branding strategy.
One of the biggest pitfalls with branding is – just like with content marketing – that we want to achieve the sales target too quickly instead of focusing on communication objectives. By trying to take several steps at the same time, the risk of tripping (and thus sliding) becomes life-size.
Consistency is also a first condition for giving substance to your brand. Everything you do and communicate must form a unity and be in a logical connection. It is useful to have a starting point where you describe what you want to mean with the brand and for whom. This one positioning question you can easily answer if this has already been laid down in the corporate strategy. In the context of brand policy, this is then summarized as a value proposition. It describes how your brand stands out.
From values to words
Ultimately we translate this into a brand promise. It makes clear what customers can count on. Some examples:
- H&M talks about: “More fashion that is good for people, the planet and your wallet”
- Starbucks says, “Inspire and take care of the human mind – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time”
- BMW promises: “The ultimate vehicle”
- Google digs to: “Organize the world's information, make it accessible and useful”
As the brand promise nicely worded, you can base the writing style for the core messages and other texts on this. This gives customers a substantive picture of your brand and organization. The better that suits them, they will be willing to take the next step.
In addition, we enter the “yellow” part of the stairs. The customer now has sufficient knowledge; it is now about the attitude compared to your brand. The adage “not words but deeds” also applies here. It is time to deliver on everything you have promised (through your brand promise). In this “pre-sales” process, it is important to ensure the optimum customer experience. The customer has not yet purchased. It is therefore purely a matter of any other interaction with your brand being a positive experience.
Stay the consistency secure. Make sure that all means of communication (online, offline, personally reinforce the message about your brand. Of course you, like your target group, look at the competition. What do they do and how do they do it compared to you? That relative score is something that sometimes If you ultimately want to get the preference of a customer, it is simply the intention to (slightly) score better than your competitor – keep that in mind for customer satisfaction and competition research. .
Influencer marketing avant la lettre
To be preferred and favorable to become, it is important that brand values fit in well with the interests of the target group. Therefore, even more communication is needed to establish that connection. Influencer marketing is something that has come across as the new magic in recent years. Thanks to the targeting possibilities offered by “new” media, it is quite possible to target the target group in a targeted manner and to find a suitable person or way to convey the message. A quarter of a century ago this was done with a shot of hail via mass media.
Sponsoring without activation is throwing money away – or in the best case: giving it away.
The then skating champions Rintje Ritsma and Marianne Timmer Filmed in iconic TV commercials, sitting in a bathtub. Naturally using the products of sponsor Sanex. A great example of how the Sanex brand was built step by step: raising brand awareness through sponsoring and then cultivating preference through this creative activation: having popular (sports) figures propagate the brand.
Brands in the mix
The other elements of the mix must of course also be in order. Especially if you eventually want to continue to the green part of the fire stairs. Perhaps an open door, but if you want people to make a (try) purchase, you have to take care of it good availability. All your previous steps prove good services for this. A retailer is more likely to be prepared to place a well-known brand or product on the shelf. A strong brand will therefore have a favorable influence on your distribution coverage. If you think you do not need the resellers and go online immediately, the same applies of course.
Who buys online at an “anonymous” company? No, that works much better with a strong brand. And then it is sometimes necessary to give the product away for free. Sampling actions are of all times to influence behavior. Post-its were introduced 40 years ago. Simply hand it out to secretaries and let them experience the ease of use. That quickly created a lot rumor around the brand and to this day for brand loyalty. Having a white paper downloaded over a yellow sticky note obviously does not work as well 🙂. You can of course also bind customers and make them more loyal by working with savings campaigns (think of the Formula 1 cars at Jumbo), customer cards (AH bonus card), and events (such as the Libelle Summer Week). Always perfectly in line with the principles of your brand (value proposition), tailored to your target group and communicated with the matching tone of voice.
Noticeable financial result
Finally, you can develop all kinds of programs to brand advocates and fans. That is more time and contact intensive, but the stones that you throw into the pond can have a major effect. You get, as it were, a group of spokespersons. That sounds and attractive and it can be. Given the risks involved, it requires a huge (time) investment and also a selection process. Looking for the key opinion leader…
If you continue to do that step by step, step by step, you guide customers up the stairs and your brand will rise with it. You have to take a long breath for it. The reward is therefore generous: one above average result for the brand and your company. The corner office will also listen to that!