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The Best Way to Build Your Brand? Remember Who You Are...

Some of us who follow election cycles are old enough to recall Ross Perot's memorable presidential bid as an Independent candidate in 1992. Perot chose the distinguished Admiral James Bond Stockdale as his running mate. Although new to the national media scene, Stockdale had had an illustrious career in the Navy. When this decorated war hero appeared at the vice presidential debate, he posed these questions: "Who am I? Why am I here?"

The national press had a field day and ran with those two questions, ultimately turning this Naval officer and well respected author of several books into an elderly man who was not quite sure who or where he was. By some accounts, this was an unfair characterization. Some argue that Stockdale obviously was asking a rhetorical question in order to introduce himself to the electorate. The media characterization stuck any way. Game over.

A Lesson In Branding...
I bring up the Stockdale example because, for businesses, the point clearly is this: never have an identity crisis or perceived identity crisis in public - ever. Once you develop your brand, stick to your brand, and make certain to express confidence in it to your customers and business associates. Businesses that lose sight of their brands or fail to communicate their brands to their clients/customers, too often lose market share to competitors, some of whom might even offer products or services of inferior quality.

Consistency: Carry It Through
Once you've developed your brand, changing it or communicating it differently can confuse your target market. However, there is more to developing your brand than designing an attractive logo, creating a mission statement, and developing a consistent price-point. The way in which you interact with clients/customers counts equally as much. The way in which your employees or representatives (the people who deliver your brand) interact with clients/customers and business associates can make you or break you.

Consistency means employing a top to bottom approach. Your business's actions are the proof that you are who you say you are. For example, if you are a five-star hotel advertising in premium media, charging high room rates, and promising your customers the "star treatment," all could be lost if your guests have to wait over an hour for room service. Delivering on your brand's promise closes the deal, and keeps people coming back for more.

Your Staff Makes The Difference...
Perhaps one of the most crucial branding tools you have is your staff. In most cases, these are the people who actually follow through on everything your brand promises. Therefore, your staff must believe in your brand as much as you do. You should develop a corporate mantra, and make that central to the employee training program, and that training program should not be for new hires only. To work, training must be an on-going process; one that constantly reinforces the importance of your brand.

Style Counts, See It, Know It...
Regardless of which medium you choose, your advertising and promotions should have a look that immediately identifies your brand. Building this degree of brand recognition is a long-term commitment, but should be your ultimate goal. For example, Golden Arches hardly need the word McDonalds alongside them. And when you're shopping for cereal, you know what the letter "K" stands for as you scan the aisles. These well-known brands have spent decades reinforcing who they are. They have reached such a high level of recognition that even when they roll out a new series of ads or promotions, consumers never are confused.

This article was written by Gina DeHaan, Copywriter at Active Web Group.