Great branding is one thing above all else: consistency
If I asked you to describe Delta, how would you go about it? It's an airline, sure, but how might you talk about it with a friend or co-worker? I imagine if I asked 100 people, I'd get some very different answers. I also imagine not many of them would be ideal. Maybe you had a terrible experience at the ticket counter with long lines and rude clerks, so you'd focus your opinion on that. Maybe you love their frequent flier miles and business class services, and you'd focus on that. Or possibly they lost your luggage one time after a delayed flight that made you sleep crunched in an airport chair.
Different stories, different experiences, different brand perceptions.
Now consider Coca-Cola for a moment. How would you describe that to someone? Coke is one of the most recognized brands in the world. No matter where you are in the world, you can always find a Coke. Maybe it's in a bottle, a can, or from a fountain tap, but it always tastes the same. If you're at home and grab it out of your fridge, or in South Africa grabbing it at a restaurant, it's always the same refreshing taste. It's hard to find a lot of people that don't like Coke the brand even if they don't love the product. If I have multiple drink options that I'm unsure of, I'll grab a Coke because I know what I'm getting every time.
This is brand. It's not just people's perception, but the consistency of those perceptions. We have a tendency to view brand as just visual assets often times. Maybe you think of a logo or colors.These are very key parts of a brand, but it's not what makes a brand. In fact, it's important to understand that everyone and every organization has a brand. The discussion is simply what it is and how strong it is, not if you have one. The more focused, consistent, and well defined your brand is, the more effective it will be (see Coca-Cola). If your brand is fragmented, inconsistent, and undefined, it will at best be neutral and at worst hurt your business (see Delta).
So how do you work with your brand?
When we talk about branding, one of the key pieces you'll often here discussed is "brand touchpoints". These are the places where your brand, in some form or fashion, engages people. There are many of these touchpoints, and it's important to understand where they are so we design them intentionally. Where do people experience your logo? Where do your customers interact with your employees? Where do your employees interact with the public? Customer service, product, logo, website, word of mouth, the news, Yelp, blog, tribe leaders - these all count as brand touchpoints. Some may be more important than others for you, but they all count for something.
What you need to do with brand is two fold:
1. Identify who you are.
They key here is honesty. Honesty is hard, especially the longer you have been established. You can't structure a brand if you don't have an honest and authentic view of yourself. Who are you right now? Who do you want to be? If you're not that, why? How? What's working and what's broken? Like it or not, Miley Cyrus has a clearly defined brand. If Miley defined herself as a family friendly talent, she'd be way off. If she came our with a Children's video, it wouldn't be seen as authentic (I hope). That's not her brand right now. It was at one time, but not now.
2. Consistently be.
A great brand is defined in it's consistency. It's not a pretty logo, but a logo that reflects who you are. It's not a tagline, but a tagline that authentically captures you. Bad things happen when your brand touches are inconsistent and/or not sincere. This is why it's more difficult for larger brands to stay effective.