When you’re building up your business, you have to be thinking about how each decision you make, small and large, impacts your brand. Your brand is an edifice built of every way the public interact with and experience it, from the intended messaging you embed in your adverts to the information conveyed by context. If someone sees a print advert for your brand in the Daily Mail, they start to associate your brand with that paper, regardless of whether they act on the ad. That may be good for you or not, but you have to be aware of it happening, and make sure every decision is helping to build a consistent picture that’s in line with your stated values rather than fighting with them.
If your brand messaging isn’t consistent, customers simply won’t know what you’re offering them: uncertainty doesn’t create demand it drives people away. People like to know what to expect as that allows them to make a choice. Not knowing what to expect from your stores, service or products makes people less likely to take a chance on them.
To make sure you’re building your brand with strength, consistency and visibility to the people who are going to be attracted to it, you need data. You need data on your own company, on your competitors’ branding, on how your decisions and changing conditions affect what consumers think of your brand, to be sure you’re making the right decisions.
The key to all this vital information is known as a ‘brand tracker’ survey – a set of questions for a broad cross section of consumers that get at the answers you need. You can use brand tracking not just find out where you’re succeeding and where you’re going wrong but also to find out where your competitors are making mistakes, or dominating the market. If your niche already has businesses with a strong market penetration and messaging, you know you need either the resources to overwhelm the existing competition quickly by brute force – a tactic with heavy risks – or a recognisably different approach that will attract different people as well as offering a real alternative to the established brands.
Starting your brand tracking early and you can see how perception of your brand is affected by the decisions you make. Knowing what’s behind dips and rises in your reputation, whether it’s wording in your ads, media coverage (positive or negative) or the reputation of your sales staff for either hard-headedness or generous after-care means you can tune your approach in future to create the effect you really want to.