align your brand

What is brand alignment, and how do you get it?

If we looked at the messages on your website and compared that to your ad campaigns, brochures, social posts – and what your sales team is saying in the field – would it be cohesive? Is there brand alignment or is it all disjointed?

If it is all a jumbled hot mess… keep reading.

The speed of business increases daily. There are so many channels of communication to choose from.

Leads, leads, we want more leads!

Where do we focus? What do we do? Confusion and frustration sneak in and wreak havoc on your marketing plans.

What do you say where? What client group are you talking to? How should it look?

Taking a step back and looking at everything your firm is communicating (visually, verbally, and experientially), is vital to keep your brand in alignment. The complexity of your business model can make alignment harder and even more critical. Let’s look at the basics of how your company’s communication engine works.

How do marketing, branding, and business goals fit together to create an aligned brand?

We’re going to jump straight in and look at what brand communication alignment is and how it can make everything else easier. You may need to stop and go check out our post on “what is a rebrand” or our post about brands being invisible.

When your brand is out of alignment, it can make everything else harder, inconsistent, causing you to waste a lot of your marketing dollars on unclear offers, and ultimately draining the credibility of your brand. 

illustration - brand alignment stack - basic

This is the basic concept of an aligned brand in an overly-simplified graphic. You have a solid foundation of who you are, how you talk about what you do, and what your brand looks like. This foundation supports your super clear website and your targeted marketing campaigns. All of this supports your sales team. Your brand promise is clear.

“Alignment” all comes down to the structure of your brand foundation and applying what you've learned to the top two layers.

Most firms skip the brand foundation part and jump right to making a pretty website and tossing money into the deep dark hole of hope marketing (psst…competitors love it when you waste time and money chasing your tail.)

chart total brand alignment process simplified

This chart expands on the process of creating an aligned brand. Still overly simplified, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you and get stuck in the weeds. Further down in this article, we'll go into more detail about each layer.

Why start with building your foundation?

Because I don't want you to waste your marketing budget jumping from tactic to tactic.

The real problem? You aren't clear, consistent, or you may not look and sound credible from an outside perspective (or a mixture of all three!)

So, here's how to solve that – without throwing cash down the drain advertising.

  1. Build a solid foundation first – Who the hell are you, and why should anyone give a damn? This work will define your visual and verbal business personality. Once you have these answers, you'll be able to speak to your target audience and resonate with what they're looking for.
  2. Apply your personality to your website – Reimagine your site through the eyes of your prospect. Apply your visual and verbal personality to the site (Pssst this IS branding). Be clear. Be so clear it feels like too much – you can't be too clear.
  3. Go get the attention you deserve – It's time to get consistent with your clarity and infuse everything with your personality and credibility. Everything will be easier when you're no longer starting from scratch with each new marketing campaign. Your brand foundation is your filter to know what is on-brand and off. You'll also know where you should be focusing your efforts and what is just a shiny object that should be avoided.

Too often, I see good firms wasting money on random acts of marketing, confused about why things aren't working. So, they search Google and try yet another tactic. When that doesn't work, blaming the sales team and blaming the website is next, or blaming the market, the economy, trying to find a reason sales aren't where they should be.

“Maybe you’ve been sabotaging your sales this whole time {gasp!} by being confusing and bland, watering down your messaging to appeal to everyone, and all of your marketing materials are outdated and boring.”

It's easy to get into a rut and say the same things that every other firm is saying or what your firm has been saying for years in your marketing.

I get it, you are busy serving clients, but just imagine having clear and energizing messages, a visual identity that really fits your company's personality, and a solid direction aligned with what you offer and what your clients want.

Have you got goosebumps? I do. Because it’s possible for you to find the brand hidden within, define it, design it, market it, and be proud to own it.

Taking the time to take a good hard look at the company from the top down seems overwhelming. Where do you start? Can this be fixed internally? How much will it cost? Who will do it? How long will it take?

Ok, breathe.

We can help, but first, let's take a look at the bigger picture.

What can an aligned brand do for you?

Having a differentiated, recognizable, and focused brand has many benefits internal and external:

  • A clear brand is easy to understand, buy from, fall in love with, and refer to others.
  • A brand that looks and sounds credible gets invited to the table, while others who blend in get ignored.
  • A brand that is both consistent and relevant to customers builds credibility, trust, and ultimately loyalty.
  • Your brand simplifies decisions for customers. When a brand consistently communicates how and why it is distinct from competitors, it reminds customers why they prefer this brand over others – and why they would pay more for it.
  • A well-defined brand is a filter for decision making. Where should we focus our sales time and marketing budget? Are they a good fit for our team? Is this a shiny object, or is it aligned with our business goals? Is this on or off-brand for us?”
  • An aligned brand solidifies your culture and helps attract, retain, and engage top talent.

Let’s dig into each of the 3 layers starting from the top… because that is where most firms jump in and spend money.

Marketing Channel Mix… campaigns, repetition, conversion funnels, and social posts, oh my!

blog-promotional-mix-marketing

These two layers are very complex, and I've already written about the myriad of ways communication can go wrong – and what to do about it. It is important for your strategy and tactics to support each other and be in alignment with your business and its goals.

There are 5 main marketing channels.

  1. Advertising – Online pay per click (Google ads), email blasts, print ads, direct mail, radio, television ads, etc.
  2. Press Relations (PR) Outreach – Earned Media (holy grail), article placement, 3rd-party endorsements, etc.
  3. Your Website – Landing pages, sales funnels, product pages, lead magnets, video, blogs, content marketing, etc.
  4. Social Media – Engagement on social media platforms, videos, photos, posts, groups, live streams, etc.
  5. Sales Team – Relationship building, sales calls, speaking on stage, webinars, networking, association chair, and volunteering, etc.

Your marketing initiatives are spread out over the available channels that are relevant to your business and budget. Campaigns and initiatives are the visible work the marketing and sales department does to cultivate business. It is usually multichannel (not necessarily all 5), and when done well, the message is coordinated, clear, consistent, and effective.

This is also where a lot of time and money is wasted trying new untested tactics and tweaking campaigns hoping something will work. A lot of firms are so busy trying to get the word out that they haven’t spent enough time figuring out what the word should be and precisely who they want to talk to.

When investigating why you’re not getting a positive return on your investment, this is not where you should start looking.

When your marketing plan is not working, it's usually due to the absence of an awareness strategy.

Your digital headquarters – the company website

chart - Website Redesign and development

Ah, the website. This can be a point of pride or embarrassment for your team. I have labeled this “Your Digital Headquarters” for a reason. It’s a critical business asset that needs to be treated as such.

Your website is the only thing many prospects will see when doing research and making the decision to invite you to the table or not. They will not read the entire site to get an idea of who you and what you do, so don’t expect them to.

They will scan the home page, dig around a bit, or bounce quickly – based on finding the answers to these questions:

  1. What is it?
  2. Is it for me?
  3. What do I get out of it?
  4. Are they credible?

If you don't look or sound like the type of company they are looking for, the researcher (prospect or the prospect's gatekeeper) will leave. It's that simple.

The researcher is going to make a split second Goldilocks-style decision:

  • The Right Choice – You’re clear, consistent, and you look and sound credible.
  • The Babbler – You’re consistent and look credible, but your message is not clear.
  • The Flake – Everything looks great and you’re clear but not consistent.
  • The Risky Bet – You’re clear and consistent, but everything looks like hell.

Don’t think that’s true? Pay attention to how you search for resources. I'm sure it goes a bit like this, “Yes. No. Maybe. Hell no. Yes. OMG No. Wow. Why?” Sound familiar? You make these decisions in seconds, not minutes. Apply that research reality to your website. Do you look like the sort of firm they can trust with a big project? Do you look outdated, or do you look too slick and expensive? Do you look like everyone else and are easily forgotten?

Your website should:

  • Look and sound credible
  • Be easy to find and navigate
  • Be easy to understand and clearly state what you do and for whom
  • Express your brand personality
  • Have a consistent message
  • Position and differentiate your firm
  • Have fresh, quality content
  • Add credibility to your firm, not drain it
  • Be visually consistent with your other brand assets
  • Support your sales and marketing team
  • Play well with Google

You’ve heard it before, and I’ll repeat it again… your website is not a set-it-and-forget-it sort of thing. Your website is a precious asset that needs to be maintained and updated regularly. Gone are the days of a site redesign, ignore it for 3-5 years, knock it down, build another, ignore it for 3-5 years… rinse repeat.

To sum all that up, your website is a living asset that should grow and change with the company.

That is easily said but much harder to accomplish when you have limited staff, budget, and a million other priorities on your plate. If you need help, we can evaluate the challenges and help you develop a plan to fix them. But I bet most of the issues can be solved by taking the time and defining your brand pillars. Without this structure, you are working without a foundation for your brand.

Brand Foundation part B

Brand Pillars – the basis of your verbal and visual brand personality and the core that makes sales and marketing easier and more effective

chart - Brand Pillars - differentiation, positioning, core messaging, and visual identity - - part 2 of brand foundation

Your brand pillars are based on the research and brand strategy from understanding who you are, what you are selling, and why customers buy on an emotional level.

This is where your visual and verbal identity is created for your company – the logical yin to the emotional yang. Having these 4 things dialed in tight for your business will make all external and internal communications easier and more effective.

Your brand’s personality is based on the 4 pillars and is applied to and rides along with all of your marketing and advertising. That is what the action “branding” really means, and it is what separates strong brands from companies that are interchangeable commodities.

  • What is the differentiation that makes you unique in the market?
  • What space do you occupy in the mind of your audience?
  • Why should prospects choose you?
  • Who were you built to serve?
  • What problems do you solve?
  • What value do you create?
  • What do you stand for and against?
  • What does your brand look like?
  • What does your brand sound like?
  • What is the key messages that needs to be conveyed regularly?

Brand Foundation part A

Business DNA – Who are you and why should anyone care?

chart - Business DNA - part 1 of brand foundation

Many companies say, “We’re good at what we do, but so are our competitors, we’re not different.” I haven’t found a company yet that didn’t have hidden goodies that make them unique.

You are the only company that does what you do in the way that you do it. If you have a business with repeat customers, there is a reason. It often takes an outside perspective to see what you take for granted.

Most of my clients aren’t sexy businesses.

That doesn't mean they aren't total badasses in one way or another. And honestly, each and everyone has a service that is sexy to someone who needs it. The key is to find out what you are made of and who you were made for, wrap that in strategy, create your pillars, and define your personality. Then apply that to everything you do.

Simple, right? Not really, but with our proven process, it is easier than you think to get clear, get consistent, and look and sound credible.

Like Dolly Parton said, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” Amen, sister.

Here at Branding & Beyond, we'll help you define your brand personality and build out a solid foundation that will make sales easier and marketing more effective. We don't fabricate brands. We find what already exists within your company, and craft it into a verbal and visual identity that we can apply to everything internally and externally.

When you work with us, we guide you through the brand alignment process. This isn’t our first rodeo.

We’ll help you build a solid brand foundation to implement a marketing plan that actually delivers.

Build your brand foundation today.

Get your own Total Brand Alignment infographic.

chart total brand alignment process detailed


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Tracy O’Shaughnessy Founder / Lead Brand Strategist of Branding & Beyond

Tracy and her team help B2B firms in the construction industry and professional services look and sound credible online and off.

She has been in the industry since the early '90s and is tired of great companies being treated as commodities and competing on price because they don't look and sound as credible as they really are.

You can find Tracy on Linkedin and here on this blog.