6 Best Practices to Create an End-to-End Brand

April 25, 2019 Ryan Schulz

Over the past 17 years, I have had the pleasure of working with fantastic brands in both the B2C (business-to-consumer) and B2B (business-to-business) worlds. Throughout my career, I’ve come to realize that brand is quite a loaded concept for most organizations. The term itself often means something radically different depending on the context and situation, and every vertical seems to approach and prioritize brand strategy and planning in their own unique way.

That being said, most modern marketers know that brand is more than just a logo or a splashy ad campaign. These days, your brand is the experience you provide. The fact that it encompasses every little touchpoint a customer has with your business, both online and offline, is both liberating and overwhelming. 

Think about it. Every email, event or visit to your website or office space and every interaction a customer has with your people or your services all bleed together in their minds and feed the overall impression they form of your firm. Where marketers often go wrong is not seeing these interactions as part of a larger brand strategy.

A brand strategy is particularly essential for PSOs and B2B organizations because what you’re offering isn’t tangible (i.e. your clients aren’t unboxing something like an iPhone). For these types of firms, making arbitrary decisions based on individual touchpoints will no longer cut it. The PSOs that win are those who will learn to develop and nurture an end-to-end brand strategy that accounts for any and every interaction they’ll have with customers.

Why get it right?
Without a defined end-to-end brand strategy, every practitioner is the sole deliverer of your brand. In other words, you’re exhausting your people and working harder than you need to. Brand helps “grease the skids” — making it easier to drive revenue, keep clients sticky, and even attract and retain top talent (a benefit particularly useful in today’s tight labor market).

Best practices
Here are six strategies to help you create a successful end-to-end brand strategy. 

  1. Create a brand playbook. The first step is getting consensus around what matters most to your organization and turning that into a brand playbook or bible. Every brand platform should include the 4 Ps:
    • Purpose – What your brand stands for.
    • Positioning – The value you offer customers over competitors.
    • Persona – Your brand’s personality attributes.
    • Promise – Your vision and values.
  2. Align business strategy and brand strategy. These two should always be working in tandem. Marketers need a seat at the table so they can work with fellow leadership team members from the get-go to create a brand strategy that will allow the firm to meet, or exceed, its strategic business goals.
  3. Listen to the latest voice of the customer. Is your brand resonating with customers? Is it delivering on the promise? Field a quarterly questionnaire or have regular check-ins with a customer advisory board. It doesn’t have to be exhaustive; five questions will suffice. For example, “How are you seeing our organization change?” or “What are your pain points?” Customers will tell you if they don’t like something. Use that feedback when making decisions and determining how you want to shift perceptions.
  4. Make it memorable. In a sea of sameness, differentiate yourself. Often, settling for something that doesn’t offend doesn’t really excite anyone either. Dig deeper and articulate exactly what role your firm is playing in the lives of your customers – and why you’re uniquely positioned to support them.
  5. Develop content with a point of view. Make sure your thought leadership and marketing content is crisp and has a unique point of view that connects back to the brand platform. Don’t simply rely on delivering only the content that practitioners are asking for.
  6. Brand maintenance. Every organization adapts and grows over time, with new capabilities, customers, etc. Continuously reassess your brand to make sure it’s keeping up. If you can find a way to build brand maintenance into your annual planning process, even better.

Digital is not an afterthought
Digital is an essential part of the brand experience. Today, user expectations are higher than ever before. Google, Amazon, Uber, etc. have set a high bar. So, if your UX isn’t amazing, the reality is customers and prospective employees might look elsewhere.  

If you’re interested in exploring how your firm can develop a memorable end-to-end brand strategy, let’s connect. You can also check out a presentation that my colleague Kalev Peekna and I gave at the 2019 LMA Annual Conference: From PSO to PSB: A New Model for Creating Differentiated Brand Experiences

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Ryan Schulz Managing Director, Experience Design

As Managing Director of Brand and Experience Design, Ryan Schulz is responsible for making sure clients’ true character is represented in everything his team does: messaging, brand, user experience, visual design and front-end experiences. With more than 15 years in brand consulting, he helps clients break through the sea of sameness that plagues the world of professional services. 

  •  Favorite color: Greenish
  •  Favorite breakfast food: Breakfast tacos

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