Biz Tips: How to Protect Your Brand Image
I can tell both from readers and my own life that the modern woman's life is about juggling work, home, relationships, health, and all of the things that make up our lives. The "stay-at-home" mom is largely being replaced by work-at-home moms who are creating products or businesses, trying to earn enough from home in order to be there for their children and get the most out of life. It also consists of women who have chosen not to have children in order to focus on career goals. This is all why I've decided to add Biz Tips to the website to cover everything from branding and marketing to social media. I've reached a point with this site where I know I can turn it into my career, and I would love to give back with what I've learned along the way. Pictured: "Whatever You Are, Be A Good One" Motivational Mug by Small Glow
The first thing I want to touch on is something I've been thinking about a lot this year as my brand has started to take on a little life of its own, and that is protecting the brand image. In branding, there is a lot of emphasis put on creating the brand and differentiating it, basically brand positioning. But once that brand is in place, what are you doing to protect it? And I don't just mean from the competition but from yourself. There are several ways you can sabotage your brand and not even know it.
Five Ways to Start Protecting Your Brand Image
1. Define You Brand and Your Consumer
This is a big part of basic branding, and it's such a crucial foundation. If you don't clearly define what your brand is, how you see it growing in the future, and who you want to appeal to; your brand will begin to take on a life of its own.
Outside influences can be distracting and cause you to question your brand decisions. You have to remember how much of it is subjective. What may be the perfect logo or the tastiest product to you may not float someone else's boat. You can't let other people's opinions cause you to try to appease too many people. The old saying try to please everyone and you end up pleasing no one is one of the best bits of advice to keep in mind where your brand is concerned. If you're completely new to business, start with a basic business plan. The template will outline a lot of questions you need to ask yourself in order to define your brand and your target market.
Once you've clearly defined your brand, you should be able to come up with a few words to describe its overall feel. Is it traditional or modern? Is it masculine or feminine? Is it sexy? Funny? My site has taken on an overall feel of being stylish and modern, so before I post anything anywhere, even before I pick a product to feature in a trend report, I ask myself if it's a clear example of stylish and modern. I also ask myself basic questions relating to my target reader. My readers are mostly modern young stylish women, so I have to ask myself every time I share something, is this something the modern young stylish woman would like and how will she benefit from it? What might I have left out that she would want included? In addition to those questions, I focus on the visual feel of the website. I repeat the same background colors, fonts, and formats. This consistency helps to maintain and protect my brand image. You'll never see one of my recipes photographed on fancy, traditional plates. I stick with white modern dishes, and I do this on purpose to protect my brand.
How does this translate to more sales, readers, and sponsors? It helps consumers who are looking for something in particular identify with my brand and creates a trust that anything I post is in fact on-trend and in-style. It also helps draw in the right kind of sponsors. A company looking to promote the latest fashion trends or modern home decor is likely to find their way to my site. This all plays into the reinforcement of the brand as those sponsors appeal to my regular readers, thus they are more likely to buy an affiliate product or see a relevant ad to click on.
2. Don't Be Afraid to Offend A Potential Consumer
This goes hand in hand with #1. It's about being true to your brand and yourself despite outside opinions. You should by all means listen to what your consumers are saying, but with social media, you will have a lot of opinions shoved your way. Listen to the readers or customers who already love what you're doing. That is after all where the bulk of your sales will be coming from.
It's all about being true to yourself and your style, because you know what's more frustrating than offending people? Trying so hard to please someone that you go against yourself yet still let them down. A great example is Nasty Gal clothing. As the brand name would suggest, they sell sexy clothing. As the brand was growing, do you think the CEO took into consideration the opinions and advice of women who dress conservatively? No!
3. Be Prepared for Growth
A huge part of protecting your brand, especially if it is a service or product - based business is quality control. And a part of this that not everyone thinks about is being prepared for growth. If you handle your own packaging and distribution, could you handle if you suddenly wound up with a large increase of orders? You don't want to risk disappointing potential customers with a less-than-perfect product, or worse, by having to tell them you can't give them what they want at all.
There are things you can do to avoid this if you don't have a plan in place. A lot of online shopping sites offer the option to list only a limited number of items available, which you could use to your advantage as a way to drive up demand. You could also stick with selling at farmer's markets and special events until you are ready to go through a distributor.
Even without a product, it's still important to think about what a sudden increase in demand could mean for you and the quality of your brand. For example, in 2014 my blog went from getting most of it's readers through SEO (mostly new readers) to loyal returning readers who actually like what I particularly have to say and expect me to post quite frequently. I knew that if these readers kept arriving at my home page only to find the same old thing, they'd eventually stop visiting. Luckily I had the time to devote to posting often enough and have re-structured the site to be more automated in displaying new content. And whenever I'm traveling or know I'll be super busy, I make a point to schedule articles in advance.
4. Don't Share Too Much of Your Personal Life
Whether good or bad, you really need to be careful about sharing too much. With social media continuing to grow, consumers want to feel connected to the brands they love, and you can totally use that to your advantage. However if you share too much, your personal life can overtake your brand image. Two really great examples are Bethenny Frankel of Skinny Girl and Tori Spelling. Both have been transparent about the negative issues going on in their lives, particularly those relating to their marriages. I'm a fan of both of these ladies, but every single time they post something to social media, their feeds are overtaken by hundreds and hundreds of opinions. Tori could post a link to a new article or product, for instance, and all anyone talks about on the thread is her personal life. What's even worse is that is all they want to talk about now, so whenever she tries to promote something, a lot of fans accuse her of being a sellout. It distracts from what she is trying to promote and completely takes away from her brand image. On the other hand, a lot of the comments are nice and supportive, but again, they all focus on her personal life and distract from the lifestyle brand she is trying to create.
Though like I said, consumers nowadays want and expect some level of personality to show through. They want a glimpse into your life. They want to feel a connection. A great way to do that would be to share behind-the-scenes pics or video footage of a photo shoot or special work project. You could also give a peek into your real life via an office tour (if you have a pretty office worth sharing, that is).
Think in terms of visually letting them behind the scenes of your work life or the lighter side of your personal life; like your adorable dog, beautiful vacation pics, or a workout selfie with a motivational quote. A really great way to do this is with Instagram or the latest social media trend - Snapchat. It's a way for you to reinforce what your brand is all about, for people to further identify with you, and for you to connect with your fans. Whenever I post behind-the-scenes pics to Instagram, I share pics of my German Shepherd Emma and of my adorable kids, but for the most part I try to stick with things that fall under my brand category of fashion and lifestyle, like this photo I snapped when I was cleaning out my closet. It gives readers and up-close view into my personal closet, though it stays on point with my brand of being a fashion website. All of those little thing I do seem like they're random, but they're actually quite calculated and all circle back to my brand.
Just be sure to keep things on the light and positive side whenever possible. The only time sharing the negative is acceptable in my opinion is if you are sharing your story in order to help others who may be struggling with the same thing. Even then, keep it all about your feelings and how you managed to cope and make it through (and only after the fact), because by including details or a play-by-play of something that is currently unfolding, you are giving readers an invitation to stick their noses in and offer their opinions. And we all know how much people like to share their opinions online. Some of them mean well and offer support, but still, it is very distracting from your brand.
5. Focus on the Positive
When I was studying advertising and branding during my very short time at community college, a professor pointed out how commercials that either negatively talk about the competition or who put too much emphasis on the problem their product is trying to solve tend to accomplish one thing for certain - they all leave you with an overall negative feeling. We don't want to feel negative; we want to feel good! A happy customer is much more likely to take action or at least to continue to pay attention to your brand. Focus on other brands in terms of research and networking but NOT in your brand message, unless you are associating yourself with another brand you love. For example, stylist and designer Rachel Zoe, who happens to be old friends with Michael Kors among other designers, has never once shied away from promoting these other brands. Does that take away from her brand? Not at all. It rather helps elevate her brand. People who aren't too familiar with the Rachel Zoe brand but are a little curious will be able to identify with her brand and trust that if they love Michael Kors, surely they will love Rachel Zoe.
With this advice, I must exclude if the core of your brand relies on being negative, like a snarky publication or program. John Stewart is a great example. His image is all about poking fun, so obviously if he starting being nice and positive about everything, his brand would cease to exist.
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