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How does branding affect a brand's image?

What you will learn?

What s branding?
The key elements of branding
What is a consistent company image?
Potential threats arising from image inconsistency

What makes some companies in the market have a so-called "good brand" or "cohesive image"? How does how a company is perceived by its audience impact sales, and how can one influence how customers perceive it?

Most companies should pay attention to creating a specific image at some point in their development.

A company's image can be compared to the image of each of us: we want to be perceived by others as well as possible, we try every day to prove what we can do, and we have our goals, which - in an ideal world - we consistently achieve, and both professionally and personally we try to be... well, what exactly? That depends on how we perceive ourselves and how we want to be perceived by others.

The same applies to companies and how their employees want them to be perceived by the market. Brand building should be thought out at the initial stage of the company's development—regardless of its size and scope—the earlier, the better!

Branding creates a unique identity for a product, service, or company. It includes all the elements that allow the brand to stand out in the market, such as logos, slogans, corporate colours, or other visual elements and the way of communication with the audience. Branding aims to create a strong, positive perception of the brand among recipients, attracting and retaining customers.

Saying that a company has a cohesive image means that all its marketing and communication activities are consistent and harmoniously interplay with each other, supporting the building of a recognizable and uniform brand identity. This consistency applies to the brand's visual aspects (such as logo, colours, and typography) and communication (tone, style, and conveyed values), as well as customer experiences with the brand at every point of contact. A cohesive image helps build trust and customer loyalty because it provides them with consistent and predictable experiences with the brand, positively affecting its perception and value in the market.

Among the elements of branding, we distinguish:

  • Brand Name: the first fundamental element that identifies the company or product. It should be unique, easy to remember, and stand out.

  • Logo: a visual symbol of the brand that communicates its essence succinctly and effectively. The logo is often the first element that people associate with a brand.

  • Corporate Colors: Carefully selected colors that support brand recognition and communicate its character. These colours are used in all of the brand's visual materials.

  • Typography: Fonts and their use are consistently applied in brand communication. This includes everything from printed materials to the website.

  • Slogan/Claim: A short, catchy phrase summarising the brand's mission, values, or unique proposition. A slogan helps solidify the brand in consumers' minds.

  • Packaging: The design and aesthetics of physical product packaging protect the product, communicate the brand's values, and attract consumer attention.

  • Website, digital product appearance, and online presence: The design of the website, its usability, content, and the way the brand presents itself on social media and other digital platforms.

  • Tone and Style of Communication: The way the brand communicates with its audience, including the language it uses and the overall style of communication. It should be consistent across all channels and customer touchpoints.

  • Brand Values and Story: The beliefs and values that are the foundation of the brand's operations and the story of its creation and development help build a deeper relationship with the audience.

  • Customer Experiences: How the brand engages customers and the quality of its experiences, from customer service to the product itself.

  • Branding Strategy: The brand's purpose, mission, vision, described personas, i.e., profiles of target customers and how the company wants to reach them, examples of competitive companies, etc.

All these elements work together to build a cohesive and compelling brand image that attracts and retains customer loyalty.

What does it mean that a company has an inconsistent image?

Building a consistent company image is not as simple as it might seem. Describing a strategy and creating a brand book (a visual framework in which the brand presents itself externally) is not enough for the brand to be perceived by customers as "coherent".

A company has an inconsistent image when its marketing activities, communications, visuals, and experiences offered to customers do not create a unified whole or when different aspects of its identity are inconsistent. Inconsistency can manifest in many ways, for example:

  • Inconsistencies in communication: The company uses different tones, styles, or messages across various communication channels, which can confuse recipients and make it difficult to identify the brand.

  • Unclear or variable branding: The logo, corporate colours, or typography are used inconsistently across different materials, from business cards to advertising materials to the website.

  • Divergent values or messages: Marketing messages that do not reflect the company's actual values or are contradictory can undermine the brand's trust and credibility.

  • Variable customer experiences: Customers receive varying service levels depending on the point of contact with the brand, leading to inconsistent experiences.

  • Unclear value proposition: Ambiguous or changing messages about what sets the product or service apart from the competition, making it difficult for consumers to understand why they should choose a particular brand.

An inconsistent image can negatively impact how the brand is perceived by consumers, limiting its ability to build strong relationships with the audience, hindering recognition, and reducing the effectiveness of marketing activities. In the long run, this can lead to decreased customer loyalty and loss of competitive advantage in the market. Therefore, companies must strive for image consistency at all levels of their communication and activities.

Potential threats arising from image inconsistency:

  • Decreased trust: Customers may have difficulty building trust with a brand that seems inconsistent or unclear in its messages and actions. Trust is the foundation of customer loyalty, and its absence can lead to loss of customers.

  • Worsened brand recognition: Inconsistency in visual elements, such as logos, colours, or typography, can make it difficult for consumers to quickly and easily recognize the brand, weakening its market presence.

  • Confusion and uncertainty among customers: Ambiguous messages or varying experiences can confuse customers about what to expect from the brand, leading to their dissatisfaction or departure from competitors.

  • Weakened communication consistency: Inconsistent messages can lead to ineffective marketing campaigns that do not deliver expected results, increasing costs while reducing return on investment.

  • Loss of unique identity: Without a clear and consistent image, a brand may struggle to stand out among competitors, which is crucial in attracting and retaining customers.

  • Negative impact on purchase decisions: Customers often make purchase decisions based on an emotional connection with a brand. Inconsistency can disrupt this connection, reducing the propensity to purchase.

  • Discouragement of potential customers: New customers may be discouraged by a lack of a consistent image, resulting in losing potential markets and growth opportunities.

  • Threat to the internal company culture: An inconsistent image can also affect employees, creating confusion about the company's values and goals, which can weaken morale and engagement at work.

  • Negative impact on employer branding: A company can harm itself if it does not care about its employees and how they perceive it. As a result, it will be difficult to recruit the most valuable candidates in the market in the future.

To avoid these risks, companies should strive to maintain image consistency by consistently applying their branding elements, clearly communicating their values and mission, and ensuring consistent quality of products and services.

What does it mean that a company's products or services are inconsistent with the image?

Saying that a company's products or services are image-inconsistent refers to situations where they may seem mismatched with the rest of the company's offerings or marketing message. Such inconsistencies can manifest in several ways:

  • Differences in quality: If the level of quality of individual products or services varies significantly, customers may have difficulty determining what to expect from the brand.

  • Differences in design: Products or services that visually differ significantly (e.g., through different styles, colours, or logos) can give the impression that they come from different brands.

  • Differences in positioning: When individual products or services are targeted at completely different market segments without a clear explanation or strategy, this can mislead consumers about the company's identity and the value it offers.

  • Differences in communication: If marketing messages for different products or services significantly differ, it can obscure the overall image of the brand and its key message.

  • Image inconsistency of products or services can lead to similar negative consequences as an inconsistent brand image on a broader scale. It can weaken consumer trust, hinder loyalty building, and negatively affect the perception of the brand as a whole.

Companies aiming to maintain a strong market position should, therefore, care about the consistency of their external image and the internal consistency of their product and service offerings.

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