Is your company often mistaken for a competitor? Do you struggle with getting people to understand who you are and what you do? Is your brand’s image inconsistent or disjointed at times?
If you answered “yes” to any or all of the above questions, the good news is that you aren’t alone. The bad news is that these are all signs of brand confusion – a pervasive problem that can spark confusion among stakeholders – including media and the community-at-large – and even impede lead generation and, for nonprofits, donor cultivation. While the challenges that arise from brand confusion can feel overwhelming at times, the good news is that it can be fixed. Start by following these five key steps for minimizing brand confusion:
#1. Set brand standards
Ensuring everyone is on the same page regarding who your company is, what you do and what you stand for starts inside the organization. If your own team isn’t playing from the same sheet of music, you can’t expect your other audiences to have a crystal clear understanding of your organization. While brand standards manuals vary in length and depth depending on the organization and how/where the brand is applied, the basics will always apply – include parameters for logo usage, brand colors, key message points and associated imagery. It can also be helpful to provide not just guidelines for what is approved brand usage, but also a few examples of common missteps (e.g. wrong colors, leaving a TM symbol off of a tagline, using a logo in grayscale, etc.)
#2. Conduct (a) messaging workshop(s)
Mixed messaging is a common cause of brand confusion. For businesses with multiple products/services/verticals, it can often stem from colleagues being more familiar with certain aspects of the business than others. Messaging workshops/training can be an effective tool for standardizing messaging and minimizing confusion.
Remember, while your company’s brand standards manual includes a few of your core/key message points, you want to ensure your entire team is well-versed in articulating the brand. For example, when a sales person is at a networking event and asked to explain what the company does, you want to be sure their message is not only on-brand, but succinct and easily understood. Exercises such as having team members give their elevator pitch during a staff meeting or doing role playing exercises to demonstrate best practices and missteps to avoid can all help to get the team on the same page.
#3. Audit your brand
Nobody knows a company better than the people who are at the core of the organization. However, this intimate knowledge of the organization sometimes requires the outside perspective of an unbiased third-party such as a branding agency to review the brand – from collateral, to messages, to sales materials and so on – to identify inconsistencies and gaps that need to be addressed. A brand audit can help to uncover both items that should be added to or clarified within your brand standards manual as well as opportunities to strengthen marketing assets by increased clarity of messaging.
#4. Keep an eye on the competition
In some instances, the competition can play a significant role in amplifying brand confusion. This may be caused by two companies in the same market offering similar services, one company rebranding and or product/service extensions that bring a company that was not a competitor into direct competition with your business.
Knowing how your competitors are marketing themselves, including the messaging and channels they are embracing, can help your business to be proactive in minimizing potential brand confusion. This includes being able to anticipate misconceptions or questions your team will field as a result.
#5. Understand what’s at the root of the brand confusion
Our fifth tip is arguably the most important. If you don’t understand what is causing brand confusion you will end up in a cycle of consistently trying to clarify misconceptions. This is not only frustrating but can drain resources unnecessarily. Among the measures that can help get to the root of what’s causing your brand confusion are focus groups and stakeholder surveys. And, if you know a contact well enough, asking what gave them a certain impression about something can help drill down to uncover sources of brand confusion that may not have previously been on your radar.
A cohesive brand is among a company’s most valuable marketing assets. Consistency of both image and message ensure stakeholders’ familiarity with your organization stems beyond just recognizing a name and encompasses who you are, what you do, who you serve and what you stand for.
Looking to avoid brand confusion? Trying to identify what may be fueling a current problem with brand confusion? Our brand consistency checklist can help. Download your complimentary copy today.