Updated: Jul 2
What are you doing to make sure that your audience is receiving your brand in the way you intend?
When you think about the most popular brands that we are exposed to today, what brands come to mind? Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, are often the first mention because of their ubiquity. How do they achieve this dominant share of mind? By continually developing their brand equity.
Brand equity is a combination of the associations attributed to your business and the monetary metric of those associations. In simpler terms, it is how your audience perceives your brand, and the value that they attach with it. The more money a customer is willing to spend on said brand, the higher the brand equity. Financially, this positive perception has a positive, direct impact on sales and profitability.
Brands like Starbucks have higher brand equity because they emphasize their unique proposition and expand upon it to maintain relevance. In the beginning, Starbucks wanted to be a portal for Americans to experience how premium coffee and espresso was made to be enjoyed. Since then, they’ve innovated around connection via their third place model and accessible indulgence through their specialty drink portfolio. Because of this, their customers value Starbucks' experience, and therefore its equity, higher than their competitors and are willing to pay higher prices to be a part of this community. The brand has faced challenges but a constant pulse on customers’ perceptions and investment in technology enables the experience to stay relevant.
Live Your Story
For new businesses, it’s important to evaluate how you’re building your brand – from its inception to next level amplification. First things first, what is your brand’s story? What is the part of your brand that no matter who your customer is or the product/service you offer, remains true? The brands mentioned in the beginning of the article have all stayed true to their point of difference, whether it is quick delivery or intuitive innovation. Your audience should know why you do what you do and what they will get out of working with you, without having to search for it. Allbirds, a sustainable footwear and apparel brand, has documented the strides that they have made since the brand’s conception.
Allbirds acknowledges the goals they have reached thus far, but also makes it clear that they intend to continue to aim high and maintain their reputation as a sustainable brand.
How do you ensure that your audience is receiving your brand’s story in the way that they should? Check their feedback, testimonials, reviews. Are they calling out your core benefit, what you offer that no one else can replicate? Or are they playing back attributes common to the industry? Are they focusing on your product functionality or how it made them feel when using it? Ensure your messaging mix is a blend of building your brand and promoting your offers, both rationally and emotionally.
What If Your Brand Equity Isn’t Creating Value
Visual assets build the emotional, unconscious associations with a brand. For most businesses, logo and color are the assets people remember the most, which make sense considering humans process visuals and color at a faster rate than words. Typography, photography, shape, and pattern can also set a company apart from its competitors. We’re often asked “when is it time to change these assets, e.g. your brand identity.” Like a brand story, your identity should be evolved when it no longer reflects who you are as a company or has relevance for your audience.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is an example of an organization that made a shift after months of research showed that the legacy brand was not connecting with younger, prospective mentors (“Bigs”) or adequately conveying the urgency of the organization’s mission. Replacing the former logo (two figures holding hands) is a powerful and bold capital “B”. “The new logo, designed by Barkley with input from the Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliate network, key stakeholders, and Littles, is a symbol of the powerful relationships between Bigs and Littles. The little “b,” which symbolizes the Little, is the at the center of the mark, and the green lines that complete the capital “B” symbolize the Big, who empowers the Little’s potential” per the organization’s press release. Coupled with a shift in color palette and additional graphics, the new identity reflects the community it serves. Below is the evolution of their logo.
Above all else, consistency is key when it comes to building brand equity. Put in the time and the research to hone in on your true point of difference and the signature visual assets that set you apart in the hearts and minds of your audience. If you evolve your brand, monitor your customers’ perceptions along with financial benchmarks such as sales, market share and pricing to ensure your equity is relevantly driving performance.
The Brand Evaluator is a collective of independent brand builders – Michelle Thompson, BrandSpark Design and Christine Sech, Brave Oak Brand Building. We work with emerging businesses and the investors who support them to clearly and meaningfully convey an organization’s value through brand building strategy, design and content that drives results.