Customer loyalty separates historically successful brands from the rest. Why do people consistently drink Coca-Cola or wear Nike sneakers? The answer is a simple one: Those brands have earned trust from their customers. Their products are of high quality, and their brand messaging has remained consistent, making it easy to cultivate brand integrity with customers.
Building integrity through your brand requires following the correct blueprint. You can't build an entire house by following instructions on how to assemble a new sofa. In the same vein, building and maintaining brand integrity starts by using strategies that help you stay on-message and foster loyalty and recognition.
If you're looking for the right blueprint, consider following these five guidelines to build and maintain your company's brand integrity.
1. Choose the right products
One misstep can create a long-lasting negative impression for a brand. IHOP drove this lesson home when the company changed its name and logo to IHOB to announce new burger offerings on its menu. Customers and critics alike lampooned the decision, stating that the company had strayed from its breakfast roots. IHOP reverted to its old name and logo, and it claimed the move was only a temporary promotional stunt. Even if that's true, it didn't undo the negative publicity the brand endured.
The lesson here is simple: Choose the right products to maintain consistency in your brand message. Trying to go "off the menu" to deliver what you think is a better product could confuse customers, employees, vendors and other parties. Products should always feel cohesive and congruent with your overall brand identity. That consistency lays the foundation for brand trust.
2. Make customers your top priority
Customer engagement forms the backbone of any successful business. Your company gains strength by offering high-quality products and reliable services to its customers time and time again. It's the cornerstone for building relationships of trust with those customers.
Dropping the ball can be a disaster. Customers notice when your company makes mistakes, such as producing inferior products or offering poor customer service. Such slip-ups can convince them to leave, which ultimately hurts your brand reputation and negatively impacts your bottom line.
One of the best things your business can do is to fulfill what your brand promises by putting your customers first. Start by
- Identifying their needs.
- Create solutions tailored to meet their needs.
- Keep communication open by hiring a dedicated customer support team and maintaining an active presence on social media.
Because when your business is approachable, customers are more likely to trust your brand to find solutions for their problems as they arise.
3. Be honest
Chances are, when you see an infomercial pop up on TV, you quickly change the channel. Why is that such a common reaction? The simple answer is that no one likes feeling manipulated.
Infomercials have a lousy reputation partly because the products featured are often long on promises and short on results. From cookware guaranteed to never wear out to miracle cures for a host of ailments, these products are often too good to be true. No customers enjoy feeling misled, and the brands associated with "As Seen on TV," products often suffer the results of negative perception.
Your business should be wary of falling into the same trap. Always be truthful in advertising and other forms of communication with customers — respect their intelligence. Be honest about what your products and services can do, and play to their natural strengths.
Fostering integrity with your brand starts with honesty. If a customer can't trust your brand messaging, how can you expect them to trust your business?
4. Employ realistic marketing strategies
Reckless marketing campaigns give the wrong impression about your brand to customers and employees alike. It's tempting to kick the hype machine into overdrive whenever you roll out a new product or service. But bigger isn't always better. If your marketing veers into uncharted territory by making promises your business can't keep, the road back to restoring brand integrity can be long and treacherous.
How do you feel when a product works as advertised? It's amazing! You want to give that same feeling to your customers and employees. Give them a reason to feel excited, of course, but make sure you're still coloring within the lines. Focus on the real benefits and results of your products, rather than allowing your creative energy to devise claims that aren't achievable.
5. Maintain a consistent moral code
Doing the right thing for the right reasons is not an antiquated virtue. Businesses who play dirty often end up looking dirty in the eyes of the customers they want to attract.
Understanding which values your customers cherish is essential. Take enough time to learn what those values meanwhile you're conducting market research. Then, take it a step further and weave those values into the fabric of your brand.
If your brand has core values that define your company's culture, stick to those values. Doing so fosters an authentic and favorable brand image. Betraying those values can do more to undermine your brand's integrity than just about anything else. The last thing you need to do in a crowded marketplace gives customers and employees a reason to turn away and march into the arms of a competitor.
Building and maintaining brand integrity is a long-term strategy for success, but the results are well worth the investment. By choosing the right products, putting customers first, making promises your brand can keep, and sticking to your company's values, you build a long-lasting brand that customers and employees are proud to support.