The branding cycle is a never-ending process which businesses go through to maintain, develop and overhaul their brand.
Made up of the 6 Ps, the branding cycle consist of product, positioning, promise, presentation, perseverance and perception analysis. After that, you repeat, cyclically forever! Ish.
I think probably the most misunderstood branding cycle P is perseverance, and this is something I thought I’d explore in a blog post.
The brand is one a company’s most valuable assets. Many people see the brand as being a logo, a set of colours, a catchy slogan. It’s so much more than that – a brand is a perception. Every single touch point of the customers and the potential customers, influences the way the brand is perceived.
We go through huge branding processes, which give us tremendous insights into what our products (or services) should be like and how they should be positioned, what the promise is and how we should present it.
You come up with an amazing logo; a fantastic brand purpose; you’ve tested all your hard work with your customers and you get some great feedback. They love your new brand – it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever seen.
You go to market with your new brand with huge expectations and guess what? It’s bloody hard work! If you’re lucky you’ve got a bit of an upsurge. If you’re not lucky, then you’ll have to spend some time educating your customers and potential customers. The thing is, during that time you’ll get to see a lot of your own brand and you’ll probably start to question whether the brand is the reason things are so slow.
Even if you’ve managed to strike it lucky and the business has taken off faster than you expected, it won’t be long before you start to question elements of your brand and think about how you can tinker with them. This is when it’s important to recognise the branding cycle.
You need to remember that you see your own brand much more than your customers do. The things that first inspired you about your brand, and the things that your customers identified with are still there, still resonating. Nothing’s really changed, just your perception.
If you’ve got to the point where you’re questioning elements of your brand it’s time to hunker down. Resist the urge to tinker and review the top level, ensuring you’re still aligned with your brand guidelines, with your guiding principles etc.
If you’ve been through a rebranding process then perseverance is often even more important, because parts of the business will naturally stray from the new brand and return back to the brand values they know and understand. It’s important that the brand management team (if you’re luck enough to have such a thing) and the senior management team continue to challenge the employees to live and breathe the new brand. Brand revisionism is an easy place to find yourself, where parts of the new brand start to feel distinctly like the old one.
The key thing in this process is carrying out perception analysis to understand what your team, your customers and your potential customers really think and how they perceive your business. Remember a brand is a perception from every touch point of the business. So don’t start changing element of your brand unless you really understand what the data says.
The first thing to do is to get yourself a brand perception survey. You can make this as complicated or as simple as possible. You want to make sure you’ll get a combination of qualitative and quantitative data from the survey.
To start off with, you want to see if your brand has been perceived in the way you thought it would be. So go back to the guiding principles and form questions based on these that would validate whether you’ve been successful in this. You might offer them a ranking matrix for this, for example, which should give you a feel for how much your brand lives up to your brand principles.
When talking to your customers, you want to be asking them what the first thing that comes to mind is when they think about your business; ask them how it makes them feel; ask them what they love about your business; ask them what made them pick you over your competitors.
It’s important at this point to ask some open questions that don’t lead the people being surveyed in a certain direction. I’ve always found that making the questions open, whilst asking the customers to be positive about the brand/business, is the best way to get an understanding of what has worked. Don’t ask them what they don’t like – people like to moan and naturally it’s easier to say what you don’t like than what you do.
Once you’ve gone through the process of Perception Analysis you will either be pleasantly surprised or know that you’ve got some work to do. If you are pleasantly surprised it’s time to redouble the efforts in the Perseverance stage. I find this is most often the case. If you have found some holes in the brand’s perception then it’s time to go back to the beginning of the branding cycle.