There are approximately one bajillion brands in the world right now. That’s a rough estimate—don’t quote me on that. The growth of social media has exponentially increased the opportunity to stand out, along with the difficulty of doing so. Your brand is not just competing with other brands; it’s also competing with anything that is trying to win the attention of your customer. Personal Facebook accounts, trending tweets, silly cat photos—in an attention-starved culture, anything and everything is making a grab for the one resource we’ll never have more of: time.
How do you make your brand stand out in the midst of this clutter? You use the 3 Cs of branding.
When I wrote for AutoTrader.com, one of the biggest questions we asked about our communications was “Are they clear?” Shopping for a car can be a complicated process and our brand needed to be very focused on clarity. At each turn, we had to eliminate vagueness, winnow out confusion, and edit out ambiguity. If you’re not clear about who your business is, how it benefits people and what they need to do next, customers will never know. It’s your job, not your customer’s, to figure out your message. If they have to work to interpret something you’ve created, your brand isn’t clear enough yet.
This is not a sexy word or a fun idea, but it’s critical. Your billboard needs to have the same voice as your website, which needs to have the same voice as your Twitter account. Why? Consistency in your brand inspires confidence. It sends a signal to all your customers and your potential customers that you’re a detailed business. It shows discipline. That’s why when I wrote for the Home Depot we were incredibly serious about the shade of orange we used. The fonts weren’t accidental. The way we talked about saving you money was not varied. We strove for consistency. Do you need a detailed brand bible that outlines every possible execution of your brand? Maybe not, but regardless of how small or large your business is, you need to aim for consistency.
Most branding campaigns fail because businesses give up on them before they’ve even had a chance to succeed. We live in such an instant culture that we expect our branding efforts to deliver overnight success. We want our ads to go viral, and the minute they don’t, we get discouraged and shift directions. The truth is that great branding takes great time. If you launch five different ideas in five different directions in a single month, customers get confused. That’s why when I wrote for Bose, we were committed to the long-term messaging of our products. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a brand. You have to stay committed.
We live in a loud, shiny world, full of brands. The bad news is that by the time you finish reading this, there will be a thousand new brands launched. The good news is that most will disappear just as quickly. But not yours, because you’re going to knock out the 3 Cs of branding: Clarity, Consistency, and Commitment.