Brands spend hefty chunks of their yearly budgets on defining or refining their brand image and then another sizable chunk on promoting it. No matter how much money you pour into a brand manual and a communication strategy, there are compromises that will completely and sometimes, irreversibly, sabotage your brand’s growth. Today we’re going to talk about the customer trust you’re losing because you’re taking too many shortcuts.
What you see is what you get
Visuals are a crucial component in your branding as people process images much faster and more effectively than they do written copy. In fact, within 3 day of hearing a piece of information, we’re likely to only remember 10% of it. That percentage spikes to 65%, when we pair that information with a relevant image.
Visuals, therefore, have to not just be part of your marketing strategy, you have to invest in making sure your images are relevant to the brand itself and the context they’re used in.
A lot of the visual content you’ll be generating will support digital content. Whether you’re selling jewellery or car parts, you need to define a visual style that accounts for multiple variations of content. In other words, if using cat pictures lounging on colourful carpets boosts your campaign’s effectiveness, you need to find high-quality pictures of just that.
The trick is not to stop there but think about what kind of happy kitty pictures you can pair with your product photos, behind the scenes company photos and visual representation of more technical specs to make sense for your brand’s image. How you can tell it’s decent? Put them side by side and see if they’d work in a photo album.
Low budgets are no longer a viable excuse for posting crappy photos on social media, let alone using them in blog posts, brochures, websites etc. If you’ve taken the time to formulate a strategy, there’s no reason you can’t afford a small stock photo package but let’s, for the sake of the argument, assume you don’t – even then, there are many, very talented photographers who post their pictures free for all.
Too many voices
Visuals tell a story about your brand. They don’t just show what you do, they show who you are. Simply stating that you’re happy-go-lucky, professional, high-tech or relaxed means very little, especially online. Through visuals, however, you’re conveying attributes like these in a fraction of a second. Even better, you don’t have to be in their face all the times, telling them just how open your are. Visuals are, therefore, one voice that’s constantly telling your story.
Your brand is also communicating through written copy and the more contributors, the more disconnected those voices can begin to sound. What’s more, every single employee interacting with existing and potential customers adds another layer to the number of voices your company can develop.
Just like a well-synchronised chorus, visuals, content and people should speak the same language, otherwise your brand is making a whole lot of noise without really saying anything intelligible. Now, who would ever want to speak with someone who’s not making a lick of sense?
Having a lot of contributors is wonderful and will keep you talking but fine-tuning them to speak as one is no easy feat. One brand that’s fantastic at it is Buffer. You can read the copy on their website, social media posts, replies and even videos – they’re all Buffer. What’s really cool about what they’ve achieved isn’t just consistency. They’ve managed to empower their people to communicate as individuals and still have it make sense in the ecosystem of the brand. Well done!
From posting watermarked pictures snatched off Google images and screaming LIKE AND SHARE in your Facebook posts, to snafus like using text-heavy, print collateral online or not providing customer support on social media when customers are clearly asking for it, nothing cheapens your brand more than acting like you really are cheap.
All of these examples say only one thing – your priorities are not your customers. When you don’t even invest the time needed to find high-quality free pictures, create content that works for the channels you’re using it on, let alone your consumers, you are clearly not interested in providing consumers with a tailored experience.
78% of consumers believe that companies focused on custom content are more trustworthy than companies who simply churn out generic content and trust is the foundation of the relationship between your business and its consumers. This is the market share you’re loosing by acting cheap.
So we’ve spoken about consistency in language, visuals and communication but we’ve yet to look at how your brand’s communication works with what your employees and customers say about you online. First of all, you need to make sure you’re monitoring conversations about your brand and that means so much more than just checking your Twitter mentions every now and again.
With so many platforms and environments, going manual is not an option. You need to work with a reliable tool that’ll give you a nudge whenever your brand is mentioned online. Knowledge is power, so once you know who, where and what they’re saying about your brand, you can use those conversation to boost and/ or repair your brand’s image.
Here’s where botched messaging comes in. Few brands work with a crisis communication strategy which means that the likelihood of a bad situation turning worse is very high. But the disconnect between what the brand is saying and the realities of its business can be more subtle than that. Let’s say you define your brand as a welcoming, innovative business. That statement can quickly come back to bite you if Glassdoor is full of reviews from people complaining about rigid processes, strict working hours, dress codes and heaps of overtime.
Sell. Sell. Sell
We know you’re in business to make a profit and your audience is under no illusions that your vegan restaurant is trying to change the world one raw matcha cake at a time. This, however, doesn’t mean you can make everything about you and your bottom line. In fact, it shouldn’t be about you at all.
In today’s communication strategies, selling is an afterthought. Yes, you’ve read that right. It’s where, as a brand, you get when you’ve connected all the dots that matter to your consumers. Instead of telling them you’re running promotions every day, tell them how your product is going to improve their lives, make them prettier, smarter, faster, more relaxed and so on. Oh, and by the way, they’re currently on sale.
The Bottom Line
Although budgets heavily influence your ability to develop and promote your brand, startups have clearly shown that you don’t need wagons full of money to brand, communicate and connect well with your consumers online. Instead, you need something much more precious and impossible to buy – authenticity.