We all know branding is key to building customer awareness and loyalty. Every communication is a touch point with your audience and an opportunity to create brand confidence. We all recognize branding when it’s done well — Martha Stewart, Disney, Apple — yet achieving it can seem nebulous and frustrating, maybe even frivolous.

As a business owner or corporate executive, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day pressures of running a company. Who cares about “look and feel” or “brand voice”?

Your customers and potential customers, that’s who.

They need to feel confident in your company, its products and its services.

You neither need to be in the Fortune 500 to create well-thought-out branding, nor do you need a massive marketing staff. What you do need is to step back to look at your brand and its elements from the customer’s perspective.

Ask yourself some basic questions:

Is this appropriate for the company and/or industry? Standing out from your competitors is great, but not at the expense of building trust and confidence in your brand. Venturing too far outside the norms of your industry could backfire. If you work for Harley-Davidson, ditch the pink script in your work’s email signature.

Do they know it’s you? One of the basic tactics of brand awareness is visual consistency. In the simplest terms, this means using the company’s logo, colors and fonts across all points of contact. On a higher level, this is where “look and feel” come into play, including layout, imagery, and user experience. If emails look different from the website, neither of which has anything to do with the printed marketing pieces, your brand will come across as haphazard, unprofessional – and possibly untrustworthy.

Is the “voice” on brand? This goes hand-in-hand with visual consistency. Every message your customer receives from you should sound like your brand. You need to establish a “tone of voice” that represents your business, then stick with it. Don’t be all folksy, using “aw-shucks” colloquialisms in one message, then sounding like a Ph.D. in the next. Good copywriting is essential, and the tone of every piece should reinforce the brand. Message and image must work together to support each other, and the overall brand and company culture.

Is the messaging right for your target audience? How you present the same product or service might vary, depending on the target audience. Everyone may benefit from your company’s new medical test. However, the information you present and how you present it will be different, based on whether the audience is the doctor, the patient, or the hospital administration evaluating a large expenditure in new equipment and training.

Regardless of your company’s size, it’s important to take the basic steps to create an identity that accurately represents your business and develops customers’ trust. Solid branding will get the customers interested in the first place and keep them coming back in the long run.

About Your Columnist

Adrienne Grace is a featured columnist for Women Taking Charge, the official blog of Connected Women of Influence, where she covers all things print, web, advertising and package design. Adrienne is an art director and designer with an extensive background as a photo stylist. Adrienne understands how corporations think and operate. Her company Vim & Vigor excels at helping companies craft their brand strategies to create business communications that are clear and memorable.

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