Avoiding a Brand Identity Crisis, Online and Off


I’m Stacy Ford-Bingham, first let me tell you a little bit about Albers Communications Group. Here we are – we are a full-service PR and digital marketing agency, and we strongly believe that these two strategies go hand-in-hand and work best when used as part of an integrated communications strategy. We represent clients in all 50 states and Canada. Our team of PR and social media specialists helps our clients achieve exposure nationally and locally in their operating markets throughout the country. As I said at the beginning of the webinar, my  name is Stacy Ford-Bingham, I’m an account manager with Albers. Feel free to follow me on Twitter at fordbingham, or you can connect with me also on LinkedIn.

Here’s a look at the tops we’re going to be covering today. First, we’re going to discuss the definition of a brand, why your brand matters, what are the five characteristics of a sticky brand, and where do you begin as a company? What are the three questions that I would ask? Next we’re going to look at a branding success story, and then we will finish with questions and discussion.

First, we’ll begin with the definition of a brand. Beyond your company logo, your tagline, color palette, letterhead, and corporate polo, is the core reason your business exists. What type of product or service do you provide that people need? By definition, a brand is the unified voice that weaves through everything you do and reinforces who you are. A 2014 article entitled “Why Your Company Needs a Unified Brand Experience” explains it this way: every encounter, viewing a commercial, visiting your website, chatting with a customer, reading an email, and receiving a product in the mail is an opportunity for you and the brand to deliver on its promise and convey its purpose. Those encounters can strengthen the overall brand experience. Far from being just a marketing buzzword, brand experience requires support from many departments and encompasses your policies, your people, your processes and your products. Marketers may determine the branding, but everyone in the company – from the CEO to your designers, your staff, and everyone in between – must enact the brand promise and contribute to have a unified brand experience.

When you are able to make a sincere connection with your customer, a foundation is being built. That foundation paves the way for building a long-term trust and loyalty with your customer that will eventually benefit both your bottom line and expand your customer base. Because of the trust you develop, a platform is created for your story to extend far beyond what you alone can reach. People are at the heart of every business. As a business, you are either helping people solve a problem, alleviate a pain point, or provide them an exceptional customer experience. Finding a way to share your story in a compelling, emotional way is at the cornerstone of your brand’s success. According to thestoryoftelling.com, story is how Starbucks created a whole new coffee category, and elevated itself way above its competitors. That story is the reason that their client drives four miles past Dunkin Donuts and 711 and pay three times more for a cup of coffee every single morning. It’s your job to give customers a story to tell.

Telling your story in an authentic and genuine way that connects emotionally with your customer isn’t something that you can fake. According to Four Ways to Build Trust and Humanize Your Brand, more than a great product or service, it’s the passion or cause at the core of the company that builds this much deeper connection between the brand and the customer. Always does an incredible job of this throughout their Like A Girl campaign which you may have seen. Always is on a mission to champion girls confidence. This is a cause that anyone can be inspired by, but the target is girls and women all over the world. A 2015 Huffington Post article ranked Always brand Like A Girl campaign as the top digital marketing campaign of the superbowl with a message that addresses important and real issues girls face. The content and stories resonated and made a huge impact. Always uses the authenticity of story and the transparency of the sight and several behind the scene videos to build a powerful, emotional association with their brand. This approach would not work if Always was taking up this cause just for their numbers on social media. Because all of the people in the video are genuinely invested, the message is delivered with conviction, not only from the director, but also the young adults featured, and they all believe it too.

Just a minute here. We’re having just a few technical difficulties. Can you guys see the screen? Well, the screen might not change here for us. Let’s just continue on. For this part, we’ll just continue on with the audio portion, and if the visual portion catches up with us, we’ll go with that too.

On the other hand though, it only takes one big misstep to take big steps in the wrong direction away from gaining the loyalty and trust of your customer base. Let’s take Lululemon for example. Customers of Lululemon, an athletic apparel company, pay over $150 for a pair of yoga pants, but after a 2015 public relations and branding disaster, many customers are taking their money and loyalty elsewhere after former CEO Chip Wilson claims the yoga pants were not a fit for everybody. Shoppers of this high end yogawear brand were outraged after he suggested that production problems weren’t the fault of the company, but women who try to squeeze into too-small sizes. “Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just don’t work for the pants,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

Next we’re going to discuss the five characteristics of a sticky brand.

We’re back on, you guys.. on the visual portion.

The five characteristics of a sticky brand: according to a recent Forbes article, five secrets to use storytelling for brand marketing success – not just any story will draw in your potential customer. Boring stories won’t attract and retain readers, but stories brimming with personality can. The article also shares insights on why authenticity matters. Honesty and transparency are important in storytelling. Yes, you are crafting stories, but they  need to be rooted in the reality of you, your brand, your product, and your industry. People want brands with purpose, and brands that matter. Brands with greater depth are ones that people want to spend time with.

Such is the case with TOMS, which you are all probably quite familiar with. TOMS founder Blake started with just a simple idea of providing a one-for-one business model and mission. Today, they have over 3 million Facebook followers and many, many loyal customers who believe deeply in what they stand for and their desire to make the world a better place – one shoe at a time. From the moment you click on their website, their Twitter feed, or Facebook page, TOMS understands we want to be a part of their story, not just a consumer of a product. By being part of TOMS tribe, as they call it on their website, we feel like a part of a movement and that our purchase of a product is really an investment in so much more, and that’s what keeps us coming back.

So, what about you? As you evaluate your company’s brand, let’s talk about what questions you should ask. As part of most company’s cultures, we have an internal language we use with each other. In board meetings with our coworkers or throughout our internal communications, we use abbreviations and insider lingo. We know our material and organizations almost too well. Sometimes, this curse of knowledge as we call it can blind us to who we are actually talking to. Our customers may not know as much about our company as we think they do. So, the first question I would ask when looking at your company’s brand is: who are you talking to? Secondly, I would identify what your customer base is looking for. What are their core reasons for engaging with your brand? They may be different than what you think. Do you know the answer for sure? A couple of years ago, I helped a private school evaluate and grow their school’s brand. The school’s committee believed wholeheartedly that one of the three main reasons families chose to send their children to that school was because of their academics. The reality was, the school’s academics were sub-par. When we communicate a message that isn’t authentic, we can actually lose the trust of the people we are trying to win over. That same school did have some pretty unique characteristics, though. They had a close, small-town community that families WERE looking for. In the end, this was one of the three main messages that we communicated throughout their communications and marketing plan. Find out what characteristics are unique to you.

Using the same school example we started with, let’s talk about brand integration. In order to truly understand your brand’s unique qualities, I suggest listening to and understanding better your customers. For this school project, we interviewed current families, alumni families, potential families, and new families to the school. The main goal was to understand why each of these families chose the school and why they stay. From this research of these focus groups, we were able to understand and develop themes. One of the most effective ways to share your company’s unique characteristics is through video storytelling. The stories can be told from the perspective of employees in the company and how they are making a difference. They can also be told from customers whose lives are better because of your company product or service. You can also use social media as a platform to share these stories on Facebook, Twitter, and your website. Most of us are very aware that we only have seconds to interact with, and engage, potential customers online. Keeping your website up-to-date and easy to navigate is so important to your company’s success. Not only will customers visit your website, but may also engage with and share your stories on their news feeds if they are inspired or find your content helpful, informational, or funny. On the other hand, social media gives your potential customers a platform to share negative experiences as well.

Before getting into your questions, I wanted to tell you about an upcoming webinar in our ongoing series if you’d like to register. It would be Wednesday, September 13th with Gina Pappas, and it’s about “Are You LinkedIn or LinkedOut?”

Now, I will open up, and unmute, for any questions.

I don’t think we have any questions here. We will be sending out a link to this presentation, and if you have any questions even after the webinar we would be happy to answer them. Thank you so much for attending the webinar, and have a great day!

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