The Nike “swoosh.” The golden arches of McDonalds. The spare beauty of the Apple symbol.
They’re all recognizable brands whose logos can stand on their own. But they’re much more than that.
These three brands offer a specific experience that makes a promise.
- Nike promises health, vitality, speed and an active lifestyle.
- McDonalds promises quick, consistent food at a reasonable price.
- Apple promises sleek, user-friendly technology that empowers your life.
Here’s a shot from the entrance to a Nike store.
And here’s a screen shot from the McDonalds website.
And here’s a shot of an Apple TV box.
All three companies have achieved something that only really big brands can: their logo symbols can be used by themselves — with no text — and you recognize the business in an instant.
Beyond The Symbol: How to Build a Brand Experience
These businesses are much more than their logos. They’ve spent millions placing ads that promise a feeling and an experience.
They’ve created inspirational television spots that make their brand more of a verb than a noun in your mind.
This video doesn’t mention the brand by name until the very end.
But you know it’s Nike. There’s a theme, a tone, and a vibe to their ads.
Let’s say you don’t have a million-dollar advertising budget to help you associate your brand with a feeling in people’s minds.
What can you do to communicate your brand experience?
Know Your Audience
Before you can communicate your brand experience, you’ve got to understand who you’re addressing.
Discovering your target market, or ideal customer, is the first step to building a big brand for your business. It’s the first step of any of your marketing efforts.
Once you have a thorough understanding of who you’re trying to reach, you can choose language and messages that will resonate with them.
Pinpoint Your Brand Personality
Every brand has a personality. You may not know what your brand personality is, but it’s easy to identify it once you have some basic parameters.
Use this Brand Personality test to pinpoint yours.
With your brand personality and target market in hand, you can start thinking about what message you want to communicate.
Write Your Story
The next step is to craft a message your target market will resonate with, and communicate it using your brand personality.
Nike, Apple, and even McDonalds can afford to create inspirational ads that don’t mention their business by name.
You and I cannot. We have to be explicit, and our marketing efforts should have a specific goal in mind.
For every piece of marketing you create, think about the story you’d like to tell. Here’s the most important question:
How will your product or service empower, delight, entertain, or solve a problem?
Answer that question with your brand story. And make sure your brand personality shines through with the language you use (formal? informal?), and the graphic style you choose (conservative? funky?).
Confused about this part? Visit the Brand Personality page, and take the quiz. It takes less than ten minutes.
Communicate Your Brand With Multimedia
If you have the marketing budget to create a polished TV ad … what are you doing reading this blog?
This blog is for small business owners who are bootstrapping their marketing. We’re a scrappy bunch, and even though we don’t have marketing budgets with four, five and six zeroes after them, we don’t let that discourage us.
We know that there are abundant tools available to create a multimedia experience for our prospects and customers. Here are just a handful of ways you can break out of words on screen (or paper) to appeal to your customer’s senses:
- SlideShare: Create slide shows and PDFs to share with the SlideShare audience, and turn around and embed those presentations back on your website. (Scroll down to see the SlideShare deck I created from this post.)
- YouTube: Look into the camera lens — or avoid it altogether by sharing a screencast — but put your marketing message in motion on YouTube.
- Pinterest: Share beautiful, inspirational, informative marketing images on this image-centric site.
- Audio on your website: Embed an audio interview or message on your site.
- Vine and Instagram: If creating a full-length video seems daunting, get your feet wet with one of these two sites. Vine gives you the ability to tell a story in six seconds. Instagram gives you fifteen seconds.
Back Up Your Brand Story with Actions
Using multimedia to tell your brand story is great, but it won’t have a lasting effect unless it’s backed up by actions.
Make sure that any brand message you communicate is supported by actions throughout your business.
That means your customer service needs to be every bit as good as your marketing.
It means you should offer top-quality services and products at a fair price. Otherwise, you’re just telling a story. People might believe it the first time they hear it, but if your brand lets them down, you’ll lose them.
It means if there’s a problem, your business steps up, recognizes the issue, and moves to make it right as quickly as possible.
When you approach your brand from this action-oriented perspective, you’ll communicate a complete vision of what your company represents.
How about you? What do you do to build a brand story? Share your tips in the comments.
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