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When businesses think about how customers gain awareness about their brand, the general notion tends to be that the introduction takes place through a single interaction so “we need to be everywhere” and, hopefully, something will stick.  Today we’re going to tear apart these and other misconceptions about how consumers shake hands with your brand.

What you’re saying, where and how

The first layer of awareness is always a result of communication. Whether it’s a simple news article, a sponsored post on Facebook, an AdWords ad, product packaging or a face to face meeting with a sales rep, we are introduced to brands through written, spoken or visual language.

To make sure the meet and greet between consumers and your brand is as smooth as possible, you need to sit down with all the people involved in these interactions and sync your messages. Ask yourself what are the top 1-3 attributes you want a potential customer to register the first time he sees your Facebook post, when he bumps into your sales guys at an event, as he grabs his coffee and sees your ad on the billboard outside the shop. Yes, that’s an ‘and’ not an ‘or’.

It’s very important that all these introductions have the same goal – make you look cool, fun, reliable or innovative. This might sound relatively simple but it’s not so I suggest you try your hand at a single attribute first and then expand, once you’re confident you’ve effectively covered all these interactions. The result you should be going for is something like this: “….is a cool tech company”, “….sells rock solid doors”, “…builds brilliant prefab homes”.

What you do and how you do it

Your products and services speak louder than any campaign you might come up with. What’s more, no amount of marketing will ever gloss over a job badly done. You might get away with it for a while but it’ll eventually come back to bite you.

If your organic, natural makeup line turns out to be chunky, awful-smelling and makes your customers’ makeup look as natural as Heath Ledger’s Joker, you can promote the living daylights out of it, it will only take a handful of dissatisfied customers for it all to blow up in your face.

Yes, we’re building brand stories but we need to root them in the reality of what your business delivers. You can embellish ever so slightly but exaggerating your capacity to deliver on the brand promise will cost you dearly. You needn’t look any further than the Fyre festival fiasco to see just what’s at stake when it comes to overselling.

How you own up to fumbles

It’s not just how you run your business that introduces people to your brand, it’s also how you respond to mistakes, which is why crisis communication should be a part of every content marketing strategy. You might never use it but if you do end up in trouble, you’ll be glad you’ve gone through the trouble of thinking ahead.

We know that the bigger the blunder, the better people feast on it on social media so it’s not uncommon to hear about a brand and its services while they’re experiencing a crisis. How they handle that crisis won’t matter just to their current customers but to their potential ones as well.

Making a difference to an infuriated customer will ultimately affect the way they react to you online, whether they will use your brand again and, most importantly, whether or not they will ever recommend your business, online and offline.

How you treat the people you employ

Nothing will ever shine a stronger spotlight on the business you run than the way you enable the growth, meet the needs and deliver on your promises to employees. You can try to muzzle them through non-disclosure agreements, company policies and confidentiality agreements but the reality is that people will tell their friends that they’re unhappy. They might not tell them why but they will share how they feel and bad news travels faster than an employee through the door at 6 pm on a Friday.

Out of all the layers of communication brands account for, the most neglected one is how they treat former or rejected employees. Generally considered inconsequential, little time is spent engaging with them online which considering the very public nature of the forum, won’t go unnoticed. Not everyone will pick up on who these people are but people working within the same industry, in the same city, at a certain level of seniority, tend to have an inkling into who is who and who they used to work for.

Whether or not someone is leaving your company, you need to be as warm, welcoming and responsive towards them as the day they joined, otherwise you’re sending the very negative message that people matter only so long as they’re useful to you.

The Bottom Line

Memorable is the new little black dress of the branding world. From colours, to copy and interactions, brands are trying their honest best to dangle themselves in front of consumers in the hope they’ll be remembered. But people forget. They forget you, your brand, their lunch.

In fact, it will take bumping into your brand as many as 7 times for someone to remember it; which makes putting all your eggs into a single, massive campaign basket, worthless. Instead of responding to this by stretching your resources across all the mediums you can think of, focus on the engagements that work towards your advantage.

How people get to know your brand

Exhibiting at an art show might bring you in front of potential customers but it’ll also put you right next to your competitors. Similarly, joining a photography group/ community on Facebook or Google+ (yes, it still exists and yields surprisingly positive results) will “put you out there” but it’ll be right alongside other people doing similar things.

Focusing on a single, unifying message across what you do, what you sell, where, by whom and why, will maximise your impact and deliver a consistent enough experience for us to remember your brand.

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