4 Signs Your Brand Isn't Ready to Be a Star

To continue to grow, you need to nurture your image. How to know when your brand needs a facelift

Written by Wayne S. Roberts

Having a healthy and vibrant brand is never something you should take for granted. Over time, your brand needs basic care and nurturing to stay fresh and growing, just as a successful movie star might update their image in the quest to remain relevant to what they hope is a growing audience of fans. A new hairstyle and a new attitude can often lead to a new role that redefines their persona and lifts them up above the crowd.

Here are the top four “brand misses” we typically identify when we take on a client who wants to move from background player to box office star.

You Just Don’t Look the Part

Perception is everything, particularly for people who have yet to hear about you. In Hollywood, the first criteria for casting someone in a role comes down to whether they physically fit the role. Looking the part of a successful company means reviewing and updating your key imagery from time to time, including your logo.

Even if you have a good one, it’s also good to see what it could look like with a fresh take on it—consider an evolutionary move. Henry Ford did it. Apple has done it. You can too.

While you’re at it, have a proper Brand Style Guide created. One that includes the key Pantone colours that make up your logo and any typefaces you use as part of your core imagery. And make sure any suppliers you work with who are producing material for you refer to the guide so your look remains consistent.

Your Beauty Shots Are Not Beautiful

If you are using stock photos on your website or in collateral materials, your brand may be suffering from a poorly stocked, or badly underfunded, Brand Image Portfolio.

Most ad agency folks would recommend against stock photography, but it can certainly be cost effective. It can also be dull and boring if you don’t review your imagery regularly and update.

Better yet, invest in your own Brand Imagery Portfolio by scoping out the key images you want to create exclusively for your use that have the tone and character of your brand. Yes, it requires more of an investment but it will also save you the costly embarrassment of having a competitor use the same royalty free image you’re using.  In my travels, I’ve seen the same image of a woman hungrily devouring carrot sticks used to sell organic food choices and a local denture clinic.

You’re Mumbling Your Lines

Another chronic condition that hampers a brand’s ongoing success is wonky messaging. At some point, most businesses struggle to articulate and/or update their key promise to customers. Some get it right—Nike’s “Just Do It” or Budweiser’s “King of Beers”—and leave it alone. Others need to look deep to find their core message.

A few years back, Blade Creative Branding took on the KODIAK boots account. After an extensive review of the brand, we discovered its authenticity was waning. And this was Canada’s iconic boot brand! Working in collaboration with their marketing team, we learned the firm could legitimately date its origins back 100 years. That kicked off a whole slew of strategic decisions and tactical elements to celebrate the company’s centennial.

Maybe you don’t have a milestone coming up. But the point is, when you are reviewing current messaging, or crafting a new message, find the truth behind what you’re firm is all about—and develop messaging that is simple and memorable. Then you’ll want to consistently use that message all over the place so you’re be ready for your close-up when fame calls.

Is the Audience Paying Attention?

One question we love to ask new clients is “When was the last time you asked your customers how they feel about your brand?” It’s rare that companies don’t want to engage with customers. But many don’t have a managed, scheduled process that reaches out to customers, and measures their responses.

In the dark years before the Internet, this effort was time consuming and costly, relying on phone calls, letters in the mail, door-to-door or store-by-store coverage. The web has made reaching out to customers easier, cheaper and faster. E-mail newsletters, online surveys and a host of desktop and mobile apps can be tailored to your needs to keep the lines of communication open all the time.

Invest in reaching out to your customers regularly or at least give them the opportunity to contact you via email or toll free numbers (they’re cheap!). Just make sure you respond to any issues or concerns with 24 hours, even if only to say “We received your message. We’ll be in touch shortly with a reply. That show of good faith creates good will and, just as importantly, buys you some time to make things right€¦before they head for the doors.

Focusing on branding fundamentals from time to time is essential if you want to know where your brand is at and where it should be headed. These elements and others, from the way your people answer the phone to making it easy for customers to read and pay their invoices, are all part of making your company and your brand a star.

Wayne S. Roberts is principal and chief creative officer of Blade Creative Branding, a firm specializing in strategic branding, creative advertising and innovative online solutions.


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