Monday, September 9, 2013

Want to Improve Your Brand? Here Are 25 Ways

If you ask people to define a brand, you’ll get hundreds of definitions. Everything from a company’s main product to secondary products to a tagline to a competitive differentiator can all define your brand. But as customer engagement expert Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar) explains, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. The room is the web, it’s getting bigger, and it’s social.”

So, do you know what people say about your brand? Do you monitor brand mentions in social media? What do those metrics mean? Since my favorite marketing discussions focus on brand development, brand equity, and branding strategies, I asked 25 fellow brand marketers to share their favorite marketing tips.

Julie Hunt (@juliebhunt): Branding is becoming more than names, logos, and company identity. Positive customer experience is becoming entwined with brand value.

Bernadette Jiwa (@bernadettejiwa): We think our job is to change how people feel about our product or service. But, in fact, our job is to change how people feel about themselves when they use that product or service.

William Arruda (@williamarruda): Engage all employees in the brand promise from sourcing and onboarding through separation. They’re all brand assets and potent ambassadors.

Doug Rawady (@dougrawady): Make sure that your brand is integrated into your organization’s DNA such that every aspect of the business reflects and is in-sync with the brand’s promise.

Julia Carcamo (@jccarcamo): Know your audience. It will help you understand what the experience needs to be and how to communicate it.

Michael A. Stelzner (@Mike_Stelzner): Create an unforgettable image for your site. We use a cartoon character that people don’t forget.

John Freshney (@WiseCrow1): Focus your branding on what you are great at, not what you aspire to be. Staff will live your brand, and customers will love the experience.

Kent Huffman (@KentHuffman): Focus your messaging on the most significant differentiator your brand offers and what value that brings to your customers.

Jay Baer (@jaybaer): Don’t be afraid to make the story bigger. Engage with your customers and prospects in ways that improve their lives, even if it’s not your products and services. Remember, helping beats selling.

Jeffrey Summers (@JeffreySummers): You build better brands through better guest experiences. You build better guest experiences by adding meaningfully differentiated value at every single guest touchpoint.

Tim Moore (@TimMoore): Build your brand around relationships, not rules, policies, color palettes, or buzzwords. If you do, the “out of business” clock is ticking.

Paul Biedermann (@PaulBiedermann): Be consistent with your branding throughout your various channels and marketing touchpoints, both online and offline.

Brandemix (@Brandemix): Make the brand authentic. It must reflect a company’s actual mission, vision, and values. Otherwise, it’s a false promise.

Karl Speak (@speakk and @brandtoolbox)): Creating and sustaining a strong alignment between employees’ personal brands and an organization’s brand is the most powerful brand strategy.

Neal Schaffer (@NealSchaffer): You are what you tweet – make sure you update your branding guidelines to include your voice for social media.

Aaron Biebert (@Biebert): Always look good. Don’t put out low-level pictures, videos, or designs. People don’t trust outdated or poorly-designed brands.

Sandi Krakowski (@sandikrakowski): Focus on relationships. This will increase conversion.

JD Lasica (@jdlasica): Branding is not about design or logos or look. It’s about positioning and messaging. Your company needs a consistent message to the public, whether it’s your website, social channels, marketing collateral, or banner flying over Giants Stadium. Tell your story across different media and formats, and understand that, in the end, your customers determine your brand. Be yourself and be true.

Brand You Consulting (@BrandYOUGroup): Understand that the market is constantly changing. Position your brand one step ahead so you’re the one affecting change instead of being affected by it.

Sisarina (@Sisarina and @MelanieSpring): Spend time and money on a logo and make sure you hire an expert to pull it out of you.

Fiona Vesey (@FionaVesey): It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Building rapport with potential customers is all about doing the right things, as opposed to saying the right things. Choosing the right tone of voice, the correct marketing mediums, through to whether you use a giveaway versus a discount – these all affect how people interpret what you say about your brand.

Kathi Kruse (@kathikruse): It’s never been more important to have a customer-centric culture. Everything you say and do – including how you treat your employees – is being broadcast throughout the web. Make sure your culture is ready for prime time. Being able to tell the story of your business in a meaningful way connects your brand to your prospects and customers. By communicating how you do business, you initiate the customer experience long before they walk on the lot or visit your website.

Phil Gerbyshak (@philgerb): Be as consistent as possible in usernames so they can be easily remembered and mention the actual URL.

Anna Rydne (@CoSkills): Find your authentic voice! That’s the most important thing when building relationships with customers.

David Brier (@davidbrier): Cookie cutters are for baking, not branding. It’s one of those points too often overlooked by companies, so to carry the cooking metaphor further, it goes like this: Companies use the same ingredients as one another. These being the same clichĂ©s, the same imagery, the same tired formula messages, yet they expect a different result. If two or more chefs used the same ingredients, the only way one would outshine the other would be to apply ingenuity, using one of the ingredients in a different way, using it in some unexpected approach, shaking it up. Otherwise, their cooking efforts would all blend and be impossible to distinguish one from the other, kind of like today’s all-you-can-eat-buffets of endless brand messages. If you omit the ingenuity and the insight to use some ingredient differently, you won’t be branding, you’ll wind up blanding, which is worse (and flatter) than the flattest (and least palatable) soufflĂ©.

And finally, I wish to thank Ken Peters (Person of Interest, Nocturnal Branding Studio) for my favorite statement on this subject: “Advertising shouts at you. Marketing talks to you. Branding connects with you.”

What’s your favorite branding tip? Please chime in.

Image Credit: Thanks to Ted Goff for use of his cartoon with this post. Check out Ted's work at

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.


  1. Great compilation of marketing insights, thank you!

    1. Thanks for your kind comment, Holly. I took a look at your site and like the way you have created a memorable brand for Flavor Plate. The way that you have integrated giving back to the local community certainly positions your brand as a stand-out.


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