Branding has long been misunderstood. Many businesses think it’s simply creating a unique name and logo for their companies. As such, some companies stop their “branding” efforts once they have built an image for their business.

But in reality, branding is a discipline that transcends everything a company does – from choosing a logo to the image it puts out in public and the way its employees interact with customers. Everything an organisation and its members do is tied to its brand, and all those customer experiences are what sum up the company’s reputation.

In a sense, branding is all about reputation management. This usually involves going above and beyond to ensure that customers are satisfied with the quality of service they receive. In the end, positive brand experience begets brand loyalty.

Customer loyalty is top priority

According to Edward Crossin, award-winning digital marketing expert and senior marketing manager at Automotive Holdings Group, companies should focus on building a long term relationship with customers, rather than doing one-time transactions. He says marketing should not focus on customer acquisition alone, but on customer retention as well.

“In the long term, if customers return for a repeat purchase, this saves the company money and provides the framework for a sustainable and profitable business,” Crossin explained.

In fact, a statistic from Lee Resource Inc. reveals that attracting new customers will cost a company 5 times more than keeping an existing client. Not only is it cheaper to retain a customer, but it also enhances margins, as people are willing to pay more for quality products from companies they know and trust.

The secret of iconic brands

As Crossin puts it, “Consistent great service is one of the essential ingredients of customer loyalty.” He cited McDonald’s as an example. In order to ensure a consistent brand experience across its chains worldwide, the fastfood giant maintains product quality and service delivery in all restaurants through rigorous franchise and training programmes.

Besides consistency, Crossin says connecting with customers on a personal level is even more important. Customers tend to stick with a brand that offers something truly of value or shares the same values and goals. They also tend to identify with the people or person behind brands due to a perceived similarity in philosophy or personality.

“For example, there is a deep affection for Steve Jobs from Apple brand champions… Perhaps it is the company’s values and personality, like Harley Davidson, which has a passionate fan base. Perhaps a Gucci handbag signifies status, a feeling which customers desire. Or perhaps it is Greenpeace, which connects with environmental issues that are important to many people,” explains Crossin

“The greatest brands resonate positively with a meaningful and positive contribution to a customer’s life,” he added.

Measuring brand engagement

Many years ago, companies had to utilise customer surveys and rely on word of mouth to find out what customers think of their product and service. As such, they often lacked the data to help them easily identify problems areas and improve their brand experience.

Today’s businesses are lucky though, as there are a variety of tools and metrics to help them track and measure their brand engagement and analyse their data. In addition, there are online review platforms such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google+ or TrueLocal that give businesses instant access to client feedback.

As Crossing pointed out, “Marketing has shifted over the last twenty years from achieving hard-to-measure outcomes like brand awareness to the metrics available through digital marketing. In particular, Google Analytics and the data available through some social media platforms provide valuable insight to brand engagement. Because if you can ‘measure it, you can manage it.’”

He further added that this concept resonates with the ideas of Bryan Eisenberg, author of a blog post entitled The Shake Weight Challenge of Social Media, which says:

“Companies need to realise that people who are front line and in direct contact with your customers are some of your most powerful assets if, data immediately in hand, they are empowered to rectify problems, answer questions, and delight customer during critical touch points.”

Final thoughts

Every business must understand that building an enduring brand takes a lot of time and effort. It’s a constant endeavour that is crucial to running a successful business.

If you don’t hit all the marks in branding, that’s okay. Truth is companies rarely perfect the art of branding because the market is constantly evolving. What matters is that you make an effort to anticipate your customers’ needs, find out what they love, and continue to provide the same quality service they experience with your brand.