The Key to Brand Cultivation

Cultivating a brand sounds simple enough. But things can get off track quickly if you don’t understand the ground rules or why they need to be followed in the first place. For your brand to succeed, it must do a lot of things right and avoid a few others. The following do’s and don’ts can help you cultivate a brand that lasts.

Don’t Be a Copycat

One of the most common mistakes businesses make while establishing a brand is trying to be the next Apple, or Target or [insert popular brand here]. While you can model your brand after other successful ones, being the next whatever is like you being your neighbor. It’s not legitimate, and it won’t stand up to scrutiny.

Do Be Yourself

Brands are a lot like people, and memorable ones have distinct personalities. Take Pepsi, for instance – a soft drink that has always been youthful and fun for generations. Your business has a personality, too. Understanding it is the first step toward owning it.

Don’t Waffle

Inconsistency kills brands the way dissonance ruins harmonies. A successful brand has everyone and everything in key, from the logo to the product. It’s why McDonald’s golden arches are never silver, and why every Big Mac from Alabama to Washington state has two all beef patties, special sauce…well, you know the rest.

Do “Stickle”

Yes, being a stickler is so important we’ve made it a verb. Take steps every day to ensure your brand promise – the reason your business exists – is never broken. If pizza delivered in twenty minutes or less is your claim to fame, make sure your deliverers have working GPS devices. If low prices differentiate you, work with low-cost suppliers.

Don’t Brand In a Bubble

If you build your brand without consulting others, you’re doing it half wrong. Yes, you may think you know what your brand is all about, but until you get the opinions of your employees and customers (i.e. focus groups) you’re just making good guesses. While fast pizza delivery may be your idea of a brand promise, they may disagree. If you think your logo rocks in orange, but they think purple fits better, hear them out. Brands are promises that only work when both parties agree on deliverables.

Do Trust Your Instincts

While you will benefit from outside feedback, there will be times when you’ll have to make brand judgment calls. For instance, if the industry is clamoring for lizard-skin handbags and your instincts say no, stay the course. Better yet, leverage wildlife-friendly practices as a brand differentiator.

Brand building is part art and part science. The keys to success include introspection, analysis, self-awareness, perspective, perseverance and above all, a willingness to take a holistic view of your business and where it fits in the branding landscape.

Following these don’ts and do’s will help guide your path, but the difference between walking a path and blazing a brand that sets the world on fire is you. Are you ready to be a catalyst? If so, then brand on.

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