Branding

What Makes a Strong Brand?

Is it time to give your brand a facelift? Here are the commandments to follow.

 

Whether you’re a one-man-band or a multinational conglomerate, your brand is one of the fundamentals of success.

And branding is becoming an increasingly important element in the strategy of any ambitious business: consumers want to know, now more than ever, that they’re buying into a meaningful mission before they part with their hard-earned cash.

Strong brands tend to share similar characteristics, even if they deliver very different products. The following seven traits are particularly important if you want to build a successful contemporary fitness brand.

Strong brands are focused

“A brand becomes stronger when you narrow the focus”, according to branding experts Al and Laura Ries. When brands lack focus by trying to do too much or by trying to appeal to everyone, they end up connecting with no one.

When you narrow your focus you can say with clarity and conviction, this is who we are and this is what we stand for. That message will resonate with some people and they will be drawn towards your brand because it mirrors their identity, and it specifically offers them what they are looking for.

For example, the UK’s leading personal training gym, Ultimate Performance, specialises in body composition. Their communication focuses on this, rather than trying to convince potential clients that they can also do modified strongman training, weightlifting, MMA and yoga.

One caveat is to acknowledge that your competitive set can influence how narrow your focus needs to be. If you’re the only bricks and mortar gym in town, you can have a broader offering than a facility in an area with fierce competition.

Strong brands are consistent

The more consistent you are with your messages, in both style and content, the easier it is for people to understand who you are and what you offer. If they are unsure about these things, they are unlikely to make a positive purchase decision.

You are also aiming to be the brand that people think of when they think about your product category. If you consistently position yourself as offering a specific kind of service, when they’re looking for that kind of service there’s a good chance that your brand is the one they will recall. If, on the other hand, you constantly chop and change your messaging, what you offer and how you offer it, potential clients might be unsure about what they will get.

Strong brands aren’t generally built overnight, so being consistent helps to develop the kind of trust, authority and reputation you need to make someone confident that the money they spend with you will be well invested.

It’s also the case that people don’t tend to respond to a message or a brand the first time they are exposed to it. They may need to see the brand 10 or 20 times before they take action. Being consistent will help to reduce the number of times someone needs to be exposed to your brand before they take action.

“Consumers want to know that the brands they support are the real deal”

Strong brands are distinctive

This characteristic covers (but isn’t limited to) the idea of having a USP. Having a USP is great because it will naturally separate you from your rivals and give you a competitive advantage, but it isn’t essential.

If you don’t have a natural USP, you need to be distinctive in another way.

One of the best examples of being distinctive is the 1982 Levi’s jeans advertising campaign. They launched black jeans in the UK (until then denim had generally been blue) with a poster showing one black sheep in a field of white sheep and the tagline “When the world zigs, zag”.

The message is simple: if you want to be distinctive, be different. It’s noticeable and it’s memorable.

Strong brands are authentic

Before someone buys something from you they need to buy-in to who you are and what you do. This has arguably become more important in recent years as digital media has eroded the barriers between brands and consumers. Consumers want to know that the brands they support are the real deal. They want to know that you care about what you do and that you are an expert in your field.

Authenticity covers both experience and personality.

People buy in to the Spartan Performance gym (a great facility in the North East of England) that specialises in strength training, because the founder, Jack Lovett, is a former strongman champion who has coached Donna Moore, the world’s strongest woman. He lives and breathes strength training and he cares about his clients, whether they are gym newbies or elite lifters. It’s an example worth following.

Strong brands are interactive

In the pre-digital era, the brand/client relationship was a very one-way process. Brands offered something and consumers either took it or left it. Now consumers have a voice and a direct line of communication in the form of social media. As a result, how consumers interact with brands is evolving.

The modern consumer doesn’t just expect to be listened to and to be acknowledged. They expect to be part of shaping your brand.

This doesn’t mean they need to take a central role in steering your business. It could be giving clients a say in what post-workout smoothies you add to your menu or what activities you include in an annual member event.

You should also aim to communicate regularly across multiple platforms, such as email and social media. Continually reminding clients that you exist, while also adding value and starting conversations, will help to make them feel like they are part of your community.

“Consistently go above and beyond to surprise and delight your clients”

Strong brands are flexible

The fitness landscape has changed dramatically in the past decade and it will continue to change. What works now may not work as well in years to come, so you need to leave yourself room to manoeuvre as the tastes and demands of your clients evolve.

When this is working well, you’ll simultaneously be delivering the tried-and-tested products and services that your clients know and love while staying aware of emerging industry trends and exploring ways that your offering could be updated so that you remain relevant.

Being flexible doesn’t mean that your brand promise or your brand values have to change. It means that the way you deliver them and the way you add value should be contemporary. Should you, for example, offer an online element to your standard personal training packages? You don’t have to jump on every trend or force your 50-something clients to embrace TikTok. The changes you make should be true to your brand but, whatever they are, they should be part of your ongoing brand development plans.

Strong brands are excellent

There’s a common misconception that branding is about creating a facade that hides a lack of substance. In reality, the best brands are excellent at what they do. They deliver a great service and they are constantly looking for ways that they can improve and add value to the customer. This becomes even more important if you are not the cheapest option available to your clients, and it is of paramount importance if you are a high-end brand.

Good branding is about attention to detail. It’s about consistently going above and beyond to surprise and delight your clients so that they feel like they really matter to you.

This blog article is an excerpt from the Branding section of the IFBA Business Blueprint, an extensive resource packed with guidance, templates, interactive exercises, frameworks, and proven systems to level-up your fitness business.

Get full access to this – and much more – through our no-strings-attached Insights subscription (now at half price for the first month with no ongoing commitment).

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