A few weeks ago, we launched our first ever Spark Series event (#ICoSS) titled How to Build a Brand That Builds Your Business. When I took the stage I looked out at the audience and declared, “if there is one thing I want you to remember from today, it is that your brand does not exist within your business. Your brand exists within the minds of your consumers, and it is theirs to control.”

I was met with looks of confusion from the audience. Not ours to control? So why are we here? Well, while it is not yours to control, it is still yours to influence.

A brand is a concept surrounding a product or service that evokes certain emotions, expectations, and associations. It is your consumers’ understanding of everything you do, and the culmination of every experience they have had with business. It is the gut feeling they have when they hear your brand name, and that is something you cannot control.

So does that mean your consumers simply get to decide what your business stands for? Not exactly. While we cannot control how they interpret the messages we send out into the world, we can control those messages in order to guide them toward the understanding of our brand that we desire. A simple analogy is our personalities. We cannot control how people view us and whether they like us or not, but we can control how we interact with those people to influence the beliefs they have about us. The same is true for brands.

So, who are you?
The first step to influencing the brand’s perception is to determine what you want it to stand for. Developing the brand positioning statement will be the core of this and is an integral step that all businesses must take.

Determine key messages
Next, determine what your brand’s key messages are and how those messages work to build the brand positioning. Once you have done that, you must ensure that your entire team understands those messages and how to convey them. Not taking the time to onboard the team is a common mistake among busy managers and owners, and this leads to conflicting messages clouding the consumers’ perception of the brand.

Stay consistent
Once you have completed the first two steps, you must work diligently to reflect the brand’s positioning and messages at every touch point in your business. A brand is built by your receptionist’s attitude, your employees’ knowledge, the way your office looks, the packaging of your products, your staff uniforms, and more. If all those aspects don’t line up to provide a consistent image, then consumers are going to be confused and make their own judgement about what your brand is rather than understanding how you want it to be perceived.

Conducting a brand audit of your business at every touch point will highlight the gaps between what a consumer is seeing and what you want them to see. This will provide you with an immediate to-do list to help bolster your brand’s image to be what you want it to be. If you still are unsure how to make things better, the best thing to do would be to ask your consumers themselves through a formal feedback request. After all, if the brand lives in their minds then there is no one better to tell you how they see it.