Building your brand: Inside, outside and from the ground up

5 tips for creating messaging that increases brand awareness

With the explosion of social media, on-demand content and always-connected mobile devices, there’s no longer a clear line separating marketing from PR. Building a strong, sustainable brand now demands an integrated approach to communications, one that looks at tactics from a marketing, PR and digital media perspective. Before an integrated brand-building campaign launches, however, companies must first craft powerful and effective messaging that will be consistently delivered throughout their communications. Here are five ways to create messaging that helps increase your brand resonance:

Know the market. You can’t craft an effective message or strong brand if you don’t know the market and how you’re perceived. Established companies must use quantitative and/or qualitative research to evaluate existing brand perceptions, while new companies need research for a better understanding of the market in which they’ll be competing. Regardless of your stage, research can help ensure that a marketing strategy—and its associated messaging—effectively address both a company’s strengths and its weaknesses.

Keep it simple. When selling more complex solutions, such as software, hardware and other technologies, it’s important to clearly and simply describe what you’re selling and how it addresses the specific needs of the market. Newer companies should focus initial messaging and communications on educational activities about your new offering and its benefits. If you’re more established, your market research should guide the messaging and how to spotlight the unique benefits of each solution, directly contrasting them to the market’s current understanding and addressing any potential misconceptions.

Be different. If the research indicates a crowded marketplace, establish a thought leadership program that helps to differentiate the company, its leadership and its products from the competition. You can then generate greater awareness and establish more visibility by employing viral marketing and social media techniques to highlight positive customer experiences and testimonials.

Stay fresh. As the company grows, leverage existing brand equity and drive awareness of the expanded product offerings with refined messaging and by building recognition among existing customers, prospects and other influencers. Concentrate on corporate messaging rather than fragmenting marketing dollars across both product and company brands.

Always integrate. Regardless of your stage, it’s crucial to create the infrastructure that supports your integrated communications strategy, including formulating the messaging. This could include cross-functional meetings between marketing, digital services and PR personnel. Once developed, it is just as vital to share these messages using an integrated approach that leverages traditional PR and marketing tactics, such as bylined trade publication pieces and direct mail, as well as newer tactics employing social media and nurturing campaigns through a marketing automation tool.

As you can see, carefully tailored messaging is the first stepping-stone to building a sustainable brand. But, as the industry changes and your products are updated and improved, your messaging will also need to be refined and re-integrated into your overall strategy.

To learn more about how to build a sustainable brand through an integrated communications strategy, download our white paper.

“Rising to the challenge” of a rapid rebranding campaign

In 2013, Aesynt, formerly McKesson Automation, divested from McKesson Corporation to develop a stronger pharmacy automation and medication management business for hospitals and health systems. Aesynt partnered with Dodge Communications for a rebranding effort, but it set an aggressive three-month deadline across all efforts to ensure the new brand could be firmly established immediately following the divestment and beyond.

Dodge rose to the challenge. Aesynt experienced overwhelmingly positive results after Dodge’s six-pronged rebranding effort. Here’s how:

Naming. Aesynt, a derivative of “ascent,” was the ultimate name selection after two weeks of brainstorming and research conducted by Dodge. The new name embodied the company’s progressive roots as well as its core mission and values: relentless innovation, customer-centricity and deep knowledge of the healthcare industry.

Branding and corporate identity development. With a new name in place, Dodge created a corporate personality for Aesynt with a bold, modern new logo and striking color palette, all of which were completed, emblazoned on corporate materials, and available in less than two weeks.

Advertising campaign. To quickly build brand awareness and ensure a powerful launch, an advertising campaign was essential. Dodge executed a brand advertising campaign that illustrated Aesynt’s name and highlighted other core values, all stemming from a central theme: “Rise to the challenge.” Dodge finalized the advertising theme and first ad, which appeared in print and digital, within two weeks. Over the past two years, the advertising campaign has spanned several iterations to promote the company’s continued innovation and deepen market awareness of Aesynt and its brand.

Website. Establishing a web presence was another critical component for the rebranding. Dodge launched a four-page microsite for the rebranding announcement while developing a 25-page website in the background using a Drupal-based template. The microsite went live in a little over a month and was then broadened into the full site two months later.

External launch plan and execution. The new brand name and identity was officially unveiled at Aesynt’s largest tradeshow, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ (ASHP) Midyear Conference. With “rise to the challenge” as the theme, Dodge created a strategic marketing campaign, designed a 50’x50’ tradeshow booth outfitted with a rock-climbing wall, and launched and promoted Aesynt’s social media channels through strategic public relations outreach—all designed to drive traffic to the booth and build buzz for the newly-formed company at the show.

Public relations. At ASHP, throughout the three-month endeavor and beyond, Dodge ramped up media relations efforts, securing high-visibility interviews and bylined articles for Aesynt thought leaders and clients, showcasing Aesynt’s deep knowledge and prowess for helping healthcare organizations enhance medication management. Ongoing social media efforts, with an emphasis on content development and management of Twitter, were also boosted.

The rebranding effort earned Aesynt unprecedented industry and media attention compared to its previous brand. The first newsletter sent to customers following the divestment announcement saw a record 16.3 percent open rate and booth tours at ASHP increased 62 percent. After the trade show, Aesynt’s website received more than 4,000 visits in January 2014—more than tripling its former website’s average monthly visit rate. Aesynt’s Twitter followers grew from zero to nearly 200, while Dodge secured 10 premium placements in target healthcare publications in less than six months.

Sustaining this momentum for Aesynt’s journey continues. Through an integrated communications strategy, Dodge is still bolstering awareness for Aesynt and ensuring the company stands out from its competitors. Read the case study for the full story on how we did it.

3 ways to leverage employee collaboration for internal branding

Building a strong, sustainable brand is essential for external communications, marketing and sales, but don’t forget the impact a brand can have on your employees. Internal branding, however, isn’t just handing out T-shirts with the company logo or telling employees to follow the company on Twitter. When done well, internal branding engages employees and inspires them to share ideas that can improve efficiency or boost productivity. In short, internal branding helps employees understand how their day-to-day efforts affect the brand, your customers and your success. That’s why strategic employee outreach and collaboration are a must for internal branding. Here are a few ways to do that:

Employee manifesto. Invite employees to tell your company’s leaders what they think the brand represents and why they think it’s important. You can then collect the statements and arrange them into a large wall graphic that employees can sign and then display prominently in the office. This demonstrates that leaders value employees’ input, which translates to improved performance and customer satisfaction.

Awards and recognition. Employee field days and other recreational activities are effective for boosting morale and creating camaraderie, but publically recognizing employees for a business idea or project to improve the company is essential for internal branding. For example, ActiveHealth Management (ActiveHealth®), a national leader in population health management, wanted to develop an internal campaign to recognize employees who go above and beyond to improve the quality of work provided to customers, members and other employees. ActiveHealth asked Dodge Communications to help develop the campaign, including marketing collateral, direct mailers and internal messaging. 

Dodge developed the name for the recognition program, BEST, for “Better, Efficient, Smarter, Timely.” Leveraging the tagline, “Put your BEST foot forward,” ActiveHealth encouraged employees to submit their own achievements or those of co-workers throughout the year, which were shared in BEST weekly success emails from executives. Dodge used the BEST success stories sent via email each week of 2014 to create the content for the BEST Book, which was distributed to all employees initially as an eBook and printed copies were placed in the lobby and conference room at the company's headquarters. Each story aligned with the company’s strategic imperatives, and represented employees across different functions of the company and from all five offices, uniting all ActiveHealth employees. Since the initial campaign launched in 2012, Dodge has worked with ActiveHealth to evolve the BEST theme each year.

Leadership involvement. Senior leadership’s support of the BEST program was key to its success. Employees received an email from the CEO introducing the campaign, a letter from the CEO was included in a quarterly eNewsletter that Dodge developed to spotlight individual or team winners and the weekly success emails came from executives. Leadership’s support of the program shows employees that they matter, their ideas are valued and they are empowered to shape work culture – all of which go the distance to create a strong, positive brand.

With the goals of connecting employees to the corporate vision and strategy, motivating and inspiring employees to get informed and take action, internal branding can make a difference in the lives of employees while satisfying customers and improving the company.

Learn more about the value of internal branding.

Q&A: Establishing a solid foundation prior to launching your brand

Dodge recently caught up with Troy Moore, chief scientific officer at Kailos Genetics, about a foundational component of the company’s consumer brand launch: messaging. Here, Troy details the benefits—and the tough parts—of Kailos’ messaging process.

Dodge: Kailos invested in a robust messaging effort prior to launch of its gene-based test. Talk to us about your choice to start out in that way.
We realized it’s a big world out there, and there is a lot of noise generated every day. Unless you have an active campaign to reach out and to assert your presence, no one will notice you. Previously we offered services to the physicians and clinical researchers, which were contained and in limited markets. In these markets, we could launch a website and get the traffic we needed. But when you go to the broad consumer market, you have to create buzz about your company to get your product noticed. It’s a lot of work. It’s not just about opening a website and running some ads. Your outreach strategy needs to be more planned, and it needs to have a concerted effort put into it. We all value that, and we know that we don’t have the skills to do that efficiently ourselves.

Dodge: Kailos was extremely deliberate in choosing specific audiences. Why?
You can’t be something to everyone. The decision was a reflection of where we’re at as an organization. A brand new startup trying to raise funds will have different target segments than companies that are established and in need of more customers. We put a lot of thought into where we were and what we needed to do to make this a success. For us, we needed to show traction. We needed a customer base, and we needed people that come through the entire system to show that this is a viable strategy since we were making such a big change from our former business.

Dodge: How do you think the messaging process contributed to the website launch and current PR activities?
Moore: The messaging process helped focus our thoughts and properly convey our story in PR activities and website content. The messaging brings it all together. When we start thinking about consumers, there are unlimited ways to segment people. We had to go into this messaging process and figure out who we were going to target and how we were going to focus on them. By really thinking about our audience and our message, we were able to cull some of those whom we initially thought would be interesting targets and add others who were a better fit.

The ability to categorize our customers into personas had a huge impact on the development and management team. Suddenly we had a cohesive language when we spoke about how we were going to communicate to our customers. Before we had a focused message, you could see the level of frustration in our team when it came to ensuring we shared the same stories when approaching customers. Ultimately, the messaging process had as much internal impact as much as it did externally.

Dodge: Were there any unexpected benefits to the messaging process?
The messaging process gave us a sense of internal cohesion when we met as a team, whether we were developing reports for patients and physicians or if we were meeting with local groups. Without a focused message, people started speculating on “what is this,” and “what is that.” By going through the messaging process, we can always step back and say this is the message, this is what we are trying to convey and this is our focus. Even beyond the website and PR, it had a lot of internal implications as well.

Dodge: What about challenges?
It’s easy to say “we want to reach everyone and see who comes.” So when we decided to pick and choose audiences, it led to some very dynamic discussions. We had to make hard decisions when we chose not to focus on certain audiences. That’s a hard thing to do when you’re a small company. You don’t want to miss anything. But I think you’ll miss a lot more if you make a diluted message that tries to apply to anybody. We’re trying to get down to something very personable even if that means that, over time, we have numerous personalized messages tailored to different customer bases. In the end, having a lot of personal messages is better than having one broad message that tries to touch everyone with something vague and not relatable.

Dodge: What would you say to other start-ups planning a significant launch?
Don’t do it without going through a formal process. You should really take time to dive into this big project to get the messaging right. Even if you think you know your customers and think you know what you want to say, it’s crucial to put in the effort to go through and formalize the process. It may be eye opening – even revealing – and you’ll feel more confident about it.

As you go through this planning phase, it’s just as important to involve a third party. It’s a tendency among startups to do everything by yourself. We’ve done that; and we still often do that for some things. The risk of crafting a plan without an outside viewpoint is that you become too shortsighted. Even if they’re just asking questions or acting as a moderator, it is very worth having that validator. When we first imagined our audience, we told ourselves stories to help picture our customers and supported them with data. This process is very useful in research and concept building, but it’s easy to lose track of speculation and reality. We don’t want to enter the market and realize a few months later that the story in which we invested a lot of time and money is not true.

In the end, if you’re afraid to test your message – meaning that you’re afraid to spend a little money on it and be exposed to someone who will challenge and question you – I would say that it’s not right, and you don’t believe in it.