By Steven Picanza, Latin & Code

Today more than ever, the companies and organizations that are paying close attention to their brand and the experience it offers in the marketplace are the ones who are winning wallet share, market share, and customer admiration.

Whether you are a newly formed startup with a billion dollar idea, or an established company looking for a competitive advantage, putting resources behind smart branding ensures you move the pendulum from reactive to proactive while staying effective and efficient for long-term sustainable success.

To ensure you’re thinking about your brand in the correct light, start with these five essential elements and strategies.

1. Understand Your CORE Audience

No brand can survive without understanding and acknowledging its core audience and that audience’s wants and needs. Spending time in your customer’s shoes will allow you to enhance all aspects of your brand and turn your visitors into advocates.

The need for niching down on your core audience becomes imperative here because as a brand, you cannot be everything to everyone. Focus on your core audience and service them to the best of your ability. As they say, “the riches are in the niches”: sticky note this saying onto your computer because as you grow and start attracting potential customers to your business, bright shiny new objects can steer you from your focus. The data can become overwhelming, so you want to stay focused on the metrics messages that matter in understanding your audience and its particular needs.

2. Define Your Positioning

By understanding your audience and your own personal perception of your brand as well as the industry in which you operate, you can begin to see the position your brand holds within your industry. Your position is the line in the sand in which your brand lives its core values on a day-to-day basis. It’s the problem you are solving for your audience.

Like your thumbprint, every brand has a unique position. The goal is to find the position you hold and live it every day within every audience interaction and touchpoint.

3. Articulate Your Story Through Messaging

Your brand story is a culmination of taking your core audiences insights and mixing it with your brand DNA (your core values, positioning, and voice). This allows you to create a brand narrative of features and benefits that can connect with your audience on an emotional level while being able to address their wants and needs.

The best brands look at their story as a way to be the hero and take their audience with them on a journey. This is done by showing your top quality content on social media or through your marketing and by illuminating all facets of your brand, meaning your culture, the successes, and failures that accompany being a brand.

4. Package It Based On Data

Your brand’s visual identity should be based on the data collected including your audience, your competitors, as well as the position your brand is holding within your industry.

Senior designers understand that a great design becomes a great design when it emotionally resonates with an audience. This is why it’s important to base your designs on your data, your gut, and emotional perspective of your audience.

5. Strategy of Consistency

The biggest brand killer is inconsistency. Instill a culture of proactiveness and your brand will soar to new heights. If you’re being lackadaisical with your brand position, you’ll start to watch cracks appear as you grow – or worse, don’t grow – because you don’t understand your brand’s position.

Understanding that every brand touchpoint is an opportunity to build trust with your audience, taking a consistent approach should be a non-negotiable within your organization.

Do you believe in your brand or do you just use your brand to sell?

This blog was reprinted with permission from Steven Picanza, it originally appeared here on The Creative Hustler.  

Steve Picanza headshotSteven Picanza is the Global Brand Strategist at Latin & Code. He’s an award-winning brand strategist, interim CMO and educator with a core purpose centered around helping businesses and organizations make smarter branding and marketing decisions. He runs a brand + marketing consultancy with his wife while also being a strategic advisor to brands, agencies, and start-ups.

In addition to his Executive Board seat with the San Diego Entertainment & Arts Guild, a non-profit organization he helped found in 2009, Steven is also an adjunct instructor at Drexel University in Philadelphia as well as being a yearly guest instructor at IED – The European Institute of Design in Milan, Italy.