Brand Alignment Issues: Learning How to Spot and Fix Them
To maintain a strong, viable brand, companies need to keep their story straight across people and platforms. Whether online or offline, this alignment is critical to determining how authoritative your company is in your industry—and delivering a consistent customer experience that increases brand awareness and loyalty.
Here are some telltale signs of brand alignment issues and tips on fixing them.
What is Brand Alignment?
Brand alignment is when communications, creative assets, and team member and customer interactions are in sync with each other. When your brand is sound, all external and internal stakeholders agree on your company's purpose.
Unfortunately, the ducks aren't always swimming in the same direction. Misalignments in any one area of the business can create confusion that can end up costing your company dearly. Larger firms that operate across industries, regions, or business service groups are particularly susceptible to brand alignment issues.
Signs Your Brand Has Alignment Problems
Below are some of the signs that show that your brand is misaligned:
1. Your audience doesn't get what you do
When what you say, behave, and believe don't align, your audience will have difficulty understanding what you offer. As a result, current and potential customers may shy away from your service or products. Let's dig into some of the reasons why your audience may find it hard to understand your intentions:
If you are not consistent in your communications, for instance, saying one thing on social media and saying something different on your website, and something completely different in person, your audience will likely get confused about what you do and how you can help them.
The market perceives you as too small/big to do the work:
If your message, design, or positioning miss the mark, potential buyers may mistakenly assume you aren't the right fit for them. One of the most common challenges I help my clients overcome is the perception that they're either too small or too big to take on clients and projects that are a perfect fit for them.
You are pigeon-holed in an industry or role:
Brand development is not a one-and-done activity. Companies that fail to evolve with economic, societal, and technology shifts get stuck in a rut and may end up losing customers in search of more dynamic companies that better meet their needs.
2. You often compete on price, not value
You and your competitor(s) have similar products and services. Period. And companies that fail to create differentiation lose the leverage of competing on value and are often forced to underprice their goods and services to gain a competitive edge.
3. Your team members describe what you do differently
Another indicator that your company's brand alignment might be out of whack is when your team members give varying information to buyers or clients. Try asking various team members to describe the core of your brand and the promise it offers. How similar are their answers? If you get a wide range of responses, chances are you have a brand alignment issue.
What to Do About It
Here are some of the measures you can take to ensure that you have proper brand alignment:
1. Understand your current brand position
Understanding your current brand position will go a long way in helping you discover its weaknesses. It will also grant you the opportunity to shape it so that it appeals to your audience's needs. You can review your brand by taking the following actions:
Gather and compare internal (team member) and external (customer) perceptions using surveys and one-on-one interviews.
Identify misalignments and establish strategies to close the gaps. For instance, you can craft a brand playbook that provides team members with the guidelines they need to promote your business to customers effectively. A documented strategy or playbook can also help you avoid posting conflicting or irrelevant content on your website and social media handles.
2. Put some distance between you and the competition
A distinctive brand gives you a monopoly of sorts simply because it makes it easy for customers to identify and remember what you offer. Conversely, ubiquitous brands often compete based on cost rather than value. Here are some ways of ensuring that doesn't happen:
By definition, differentiators are something no one else has. Customers use those differences to evaluate their options. But if your message/offer looks and sounds like your competitors, your buyers have no choice but to use price as the determining factor. That puts you at a disadvantage, and you may be forced to lower your prices considerably to remain competitive. With that in mind, you should ensure that your key differentiators are entirely different from those of your competitors.
Competitive analysis can help you pinpoint the key differences and shift your message to highlight them. Identify competitors, analyze their position and message, and then assess their strategic intentions. Remember that differentiation is created, not magically found. Depending on what you discover, you can implement new strategies to make your brand stand out from theirs.
3. Take control of your narrative
Leaving it up to your audience to decide who you are and what you're worth is risky business. It's also not unheard of for employees to fail to recall or mismanage critical statements that define your firm. You can avoid these scenarios altogether by taking control of your narrative:
Document your guiding principles, story, and messaging framework to help people in all departments deliver consistent messages across online and offline channels.
Create brand guidelines that outline the appropriate use of your logo, fonts, colors, and voice. Keep that information in one, easily accessible place.
Brand alignment is all about delivering what your customers expect at every touchpoint. Misalignments can thwart the progress of your business, but using the tips I shared can help you identify inconsistencies and address them in time to capture your next big opportunity.
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