Yesterday we talked about how to define your brand. Today let’s discuss staying true to your brand, once you’ve established it.
Being true to your brand means really understanding your audience and what they want and need. It means evolving with them, and putting yourself in their place. If you are going after a new audience, you’d better be sure you understand who they are before you try and infiltrate that world, or you will stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. (I’m picturing myself in junior high, trying to get a seat at the “it” table in the cafeteria. That just wasn’t going to happen, and the more I tried, the worse it would have been.)
Remember New Coke? Good grief! There’s a case of a company shaking up their brand to fix a problem that didn’t even exist! New Coke was brutally rejected, and Coca-Cola brought back its original formula within months, though it was rebranded “Coca-Cola Classic” while the dust settled. (There are some claims that the release of New Coke was actually a marketing ploy, though Coca-Cola says this is not the case – it was just a big blunder.)
Just like in a person’s daily life, your brand’s true colors show in the way difficult situations are handled. If your brand touts outstanding quality and customer service, that is what must be delivered, especially in a world where a bad experience can become a PR nightmare simply by clicking “Share.” Delivering exceptional service starts from within, though. Treat your employees well. Empower them to make decisions in the best interest of your customer. The Walt Disney Company is a great example of an organization staying true to its brand in this manner. Their promise is “Entertainment with Heart,” which the company delivers on in every aspect of their business, including how their employees are treated. Team loyalty can translate to brand loyalty, and when your customers trust you, they will come back to you, even if they can get the similar product cheaper somewhere else.
Case in point: The Land’s End return policy. I know from experience that this company stands behind their GUARANTEED. PERIOD. ® philosophy, and that is why I go back to them, even though I could get lunchboxes and backpacks faster, cheaper (and with more fun characters!) at a local store.
In theory, it should not be difficult to remain true to your brand, provided you have a solid brand philosophy in place. I believe it follows the same principles as remaining true to yourself: listen to your gut, don’t try to be something you’re not, and do what you know is right, even when it’s hard. Successful brands are building long-term, meaningful connections with their customers, not just trying to sell something in the moment.