It’s hard enough to survive the stress of building a company. It’s an even bigger challenge to make that company a leading brand within your industry. Becoming known locally, nationally, or even internationally as a trusted resource takes years of dedication, great press, and very few — if any — missteps.
Herman Miller, one of the most trustworthy companies in the U.S., was just a small Michigan furniture company in 1923. The company’s commitment to research on topics such as sustainability, ergonomics, and collaboration in the modern workplace made it known for more than just a well-designed chair. Herman Miller didn’t become a household name overnight; it focused on building a strong brand that consumers and companies love and trust.
This is dedication. And it’s exactly what you need to survive when the average lifespan of a company on the S&P 500 is only 15 years — a decrease of 50 years in the past century, a time during which the Internet became omnipresent. Building a strong brand, one that actually means something more than a name, takes time and effort. And for most brands trying to capture the attention of a person online, time is working against them.
Content can be an avenue for building trust, credibility, and reputation — all crucial elements for creating a sustainable brand. Jonathan Coleman, a content strategist at Facebook, wrote, “We probably share the belief that high-quality content makes for high-quality brands that endure far longer than just a day, a campaign, or a season. Truly great content — and the core values that drive it — is the foundation of brands that last for a century or longer.”
If you are in the brand-building phase, then consider content as a way to build a strong brand now — and for the future.
Create a Brand Reflex
Building a brand is about perception. It’s finding a way to tell a memorable story, evoke an emotional response, or even bring a certain image to mind. Think of Coca-Cola. Do you feel happy? Think Nike. Do you want to go for a run? While you might feel like you’ve been programmed, these reactions underscore the power that brands have over us.
With content, you can embed this reflex in your own customers. Give them a voice, a personality, or an image to call upon. Do this with purpose, and you’ll find that your brand begins to take form. You should:
Define Your Audience. This is short and sweet: Who are you trying to reach, and what type of content will best resonate with them? What values do they care about? Take these and craft the story of your brand. How was it formed, how has it grown, and who are the characters involved?
Be Consistent. This is content’s forte — keeping a brand’s image consistent. Use content to reinforce your brand’s promise, educate customers on what you do, and make them feel comfortable purchasing from your company. Showcasing your brand’s expertise through thought leadership pieces is another way to build trust. Bylined pieces can showcase personality, humor, and wit — something website copy or press releases can’t achieve.
Be Persistent. A research study by Edelman shows that 64 percent of consumers need to hear information from a company three to five times before they believe the message. Content should be a constant in your strategy; it should be persistently working to build upon your brand’s foundation and strengthen your brand’s message, ensuring your brand stays top of mind.
Litmus, which has a testing and tracking Web application for email marketing, is one company that’s built its brand by providing valuable, informative content on making email readable on every device. From its infographic on accessibility challenges to its monthly email market share video series, Litmus has proved that persistent, consistent information that helps your audience do their jobs better builds a brand that can pass any test.
Show Restraint. Content is a vague term, and brands can get pretty creative with it. Always remember that content is permanent. When we started Influence & Co., we preached to potential clients that they should only hire a firm that works on a pay-for-performance model. This created a problem, though: We ended up rewarding clients who produced consistent, quality content with an invoice. No matter the results we achieved for the client, there was a negative connotation with our service because the reward was a reminder to pay up.
We eventually switched to a monthly fee and added services and offerings to provide value. However, I wrote an article about two years ago that touted the pay-for-performance model, and potential clients still mention it. A previous blog post or even a low-quality webinar can poke a permanent hole in the foundation you’ve been working so hard to build. Be proactive to ensure content aligns with your core values.
A brand is what consumers think of when they see your name, logo, or product. And in the beginning, there will be assumptions and uncertainty preventing potential customers from working with you. It might take time, but with a compelling story and strong values, you can build a brand that will outlast any competitor.