Hands up for everyone who loves burritos! Anything that you can smother in sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo = heaven, right!? So when I say, “Chipotle,” what do you think? Maybe you see an ah-mazing foil wrapped meal in your hand. Or, maybe you turn green thinking about the Chipotle food poisoning crisis from a few years ago. Either way, friends, that is brand equity.
Brand equity is the perceived value of a brand. I’ve mentioned before that your “brand” is a promise to your customers. Well, brand equity happens to be the culmination of each and every brand expression, customer experience, and positive or negative impression your company makes fulfilling that promise. Building consistent, positive brand experiences delivers beautiful results. However, even with years of positive brand equity under the belt, one bad incident or poor review can unhinge it all. Could you recover? Sure; but in the world of running small businesses reputation is everything. It is a heck of a lot easier to build consistent, positive brand equity than it is to redeem it.
Let’s talk about what steps you can take to build positive, strong brand equity for your small business.
HOW TO ESTABLISH & DEVELOP STRONG BRAND EQUITY
Strategy + Presence + Recognition + Experiences + Reputation + Community
// Strategy: By syncing business activity with brand strategy, consistency follows. Most of all, purpose and clarity arise for making decisions around messaging, platforms, design, services and target customers. If you haven’t completed the Morgatize Brand Discovery Workbook yet, get on it! It’s totally free and guides you in defining a brand strategy foundation in five easy steps:
// Presence: Here’s where we begin putting our strategy into practice. Whether you have a physical storefront, virtual office, website and/or social media channel(s), building a strong presence for your brand relies on consistency. Following your strategy, choose platforms that align with where your target market will best access and engage with it. Need a website? Build one with Wix. Have an Etsy store? Get that Pinterest page rocking. Are you an executive business coach? LinkedIn is your jam. Mom blogger? Hello Facebook and Instagram. Wherever you’re building a brand presence, follow the guidelines of your brand mission, values and design pallet to create consistency in look, feel and brand voice. This foundation becomes what your audience is familiar with and expects.
// Recognition: Ready to begin feeling the magic? You’ve got your strategy. Your presence is beautifully established and running like a well-oiled machine. Like clockwork, people are starting to recognize you and your brand, products and/or services. And, because you’re awesome, they’re interested.
// Experiences: Ready to sink or swim? Customers are diving in to transact with your brand. They begin creating experiences and journeys by engaging with your content, or following you, or stepping into your store, or clicking on your ads, or buying your offer/product/service. These experiences, transactions and impressions start taking weight. Here’s the thing, though. Don’t just stop at putting your business out there for your target to transact with. The secret sauce for gaining traction is in the quality of your customers’ brand experience. Customers will notice when you take the extra step to engage back, create personalized connections and foster consistent, high quality experiences. As you continue to do this well, they’ll continue to return.
// Reputation: With every positive customer experience a seed is planted for repeat business, word-of-mouth recommendations, and referrals. Guess what? Since you’ve been delivering consistent, positive, and valuable brand experiences, your brand’s reputation is on the rise. Most of all, you’re feeling that traction:
…Customers are leaving five-star Google reviews, boosting your SEO.
…That referral program you kicked off is delivering consistent new business.
…That trending hashtag just connected you to a new client prospect.
// Community: You’ve been planting a lot of seeds… and they’re blossoming. With consistent, positive experiences, your customers not only recommend you to others, you become the ONE they buy from or recommend in your niche. Your brand’s community is built on loyalty and trust because you have consistently delivered. Your brand name communicates value to whatever commodity or presence it’s associated with. Ahhhh. Hi beautiful brand equity.
There’s no doubt about it. Managing and maintaining a positive brand equity requires attention to detail and some serious sweat equity. From the tools you use to support your business, the words you post, how your customers feel after transacting with you, to the colors you paint the walls of your brick and mortar – each expression has weight and speaks to the quality and value you deliver. In the end, your brand equity begins with an idea, is built upon a strategy and fostered by the experiences and community you nurture.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Chipotle actually started as a side hustle to support founder Steve Ells’ fine-dining restaurant? “So many people told me it was not a good idea to start a restaurant, especially a fast-food restaurant. There was so much wrong with it; it was too spicy; everything was done by hand, from scratch. Everything was wrong. But that’s why customers liked it; it’s different, in the right way. If you have an idea, just go for it. If everybody is telling you that it’s wrong, maybe that’s an indication that it’s an original idea.” – Interview with the WSJ
Chipotle took a big idea, with unique differentiators, and birthed a brand with a cult following. Then, a PR food poisoning disaster hit, derailing their brilliant brand equity. Have they recovered? I think we could say they weathered the storm as Chipotle concepts are still in business. We could also agree that the negative event left its mark. This isn’t our takeaway though. Guys, what I want us to see here is how Chipotle started with an idea. It was a side-hustle idea with legs, that had a unique spin. Ultimately, it became a sought after brand for people’s lunch breaks and on-the-go meals. Chipotle fostered a consistent brand experience that could be replicated, rinsed and repeated… and so, it grew into something BIG.
Give your dreams and ideas a chance. You too can build something from nothing. From your brand strategy foundation, all you have to do is build UP! In the meantime, bring on your questions and don’t forget to share this post with your buds.
Next up in the DIY Brand Discovery Blog series, we’re going to talk about the most important platform for your brand. Keep with me, I believe in you and will see you there.
Brand Discovery Blog Series:
[You're Here!] 6. How to DIY Brand Design: Brand Equity
9. How to DIY Brand Design: Top Titles Roundup
10. Exclusive Brand Showcase: Stay Tuned!