Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

How to Build and Maintain Your Brand

We’re be exploring how to create, implement and maintain your brand, as well as ways to achieve and retain brand loyalty and awareness.

Branding is an opportunity to define, distinguish and market yourself. Your brand showcases your skills, knowledge and professionalism. One of the most effective ways to create a strong brand is to establish yourself as an expert in your field —you want your clients to see you as the most knowledgeable sales rep in the area; your brand is a way to do that. In the first half of this two-part series, we discussed how your professional brand is an intersection between your personal identity and your company’s brand. For the second half, we’ll be exploring how to create, implement and maintain your brand, as well as ways to achieve and retain brand loyalty and awareness.

Creating a Brand

After the discovery process is complete, it’s time to start building your brand. Below are common elements that are useful when creating your brand:

• Professional documents: Business cards, résumé/cover letter and references. These documents are quick and easy ways to develop your professional brand. You can use them to design how you want to visually represent yourself — consider creating your own logo and using it on all of your professional documents. However, if your company issues business cards, use those instead (they go along with company branding). Also keep in mind that your email address is part of a way to brand yourself, it’s a way to affirm your brand.

• Portfolio: Whether print or online, your portfolio is where you can showcase your accomplishments; it conveys your abilities to potential employers or clients.

• Website: Creating a website is a good idea because you can implement the above tools to create a dynamic landing page for employers and clients that will be consistent with your brand. You may even want to create a video résumé to send to employers or clients. Consider investing in your own domain name, which will further enhance your brand. Alternatively, there are many free hosting sites that have professional themes and will provide you with a domain name.

• Social media profiles: Use social media to create an online presence. The common choices for social media networks are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Make sure you implement strict privacy settings and keep the profiles extremely professional. You don’t want inappropriate pictures to conflict with the professional image you’re trying to create.

• Appearance: Your personal style of dress is a factor in your brand. Pick clothing that matches your brand, especially when using online mediums to convey your brand, as they tend to be photo-centric. This also applies to the way you dress when meeting employers or clients.

Maintaining Your Brand

A simple way to make sure your brand is well maintained is to keep it updated. You want to look inside to create outside growth, and update your brand with that growth.

Brand Awareness

This is a concept that marketers use to quantify trends in customers’ knowledge and awareness of your brand’s existence. Your brand level aggregates with the proportion of people who recognize your brand. It’s important to use a strong benchmark (such as data from pervious years) to compare the results. The Hierarchy of Effects — which is a model that reflects the hierarchical influence of advertising on consumers’ decision to purchase — shows that individuals go through stages with brands that begin with lack of awareness and ends with brand loyalty. Brand awareness is primarily a goal for advertising during the start of the brand’s life cycle and brand awareness has a direct influence on buying trends. When building brand awareness, make sure you have a strong visual hook. Levels of awareness are measured by questions such as, “Do you know this brand?” or, “What brand pops into your head when you think of fast food?” Brand recall, a level of brand awareness, refers to a consumers’ ability to recall — aided or unaided — names of brands that fall under the same category. Think about cars, for example; brand recall refers to how many specific brands of cars a consumer is able to list. Top of mind awareness is a level of unprompted awareness; it means that your brand is the first recalled when consumers are asked these questions. Brand awareness functions on brand exposure and brand recognition.

Brand Loyalty

This refers to the idea that consumers will generally buy the same product or service over and over if services and products have proven to be effective and reputable. You should focus on providing quality customer service, so you can help customers develop loyalty. This loyalty is the consumers’ commitment to repurchasing or continuous use of a brand. This promotes word of mouth. Brand loyalty is more than simply repurchasing, however, instead it exists when there is a positive attitude toward the brand. This can help the company because it effects their buying behaviors, meaning that consumers may be willing to pay more, may cost less to serve and may spread word of mouth. Consumer usage is a way to measure brand loyalty, and this includes understanding your brands usage rates. The 80:20 rule can apply here; typically 20 percent of consumers will account for 80 percent of usage. Furthermore, you can define your customers as heavy, medium or light users to determine whether a customer is committed to the brand. You can measure loyalty in terms of hardcore loyalty (consumers who repeatedly buy the same brand consistently), split loyalty (consumers have three or four consistent brands), shifting loyalty (jumps from one brand to another) or switch loyalty (little-to-no brand loyalty — customers who are bargain hunters tend to fit here). Brand loyalty can be affected by elements such as perceived value, trust, satisfaction and repeated purchasing.