Whether your organization spends millions on branding, or the concept of branding almost never crosses your mind, your organization has a brand that is influenced by an almost infinite number of factors. Obviously, you can’t control all of them, but if you know what factors they are, you can go a long way toward having a brand that matches your desired brand.

There are multiple definitions of the word brand. Here are a few pretty solid ones.

  • Your audience’s collective perception of your organization, products, or services in comparison to those of your competitors.
  • The cumulative results of all interactions (tangible and intangible) that audience members have with or about any aspect of your organization.
  • Or simply… What people think when they hear or see your name.

That’s what your brand is, but how is it shaped? Here’s a non-inclusive list of factors that impact your brand (in no particular order):

  • The quality of your product or service
  • Your price
  • Audience perceptions of your quality and price compared to those of your competitors
  • Your advertising
  • Your corporate personality
  • Your competitors and what they’re saying about both themselves and you
  • Your employees, subcontractors, and vendors
  • How your product is packaged or how your people dress
  • The benefits of your products or services
  • How you answer the phone
  • Your logo, business cards, stationery package, etc.
  • News and gossip
  • Online reviews
  • Social media
  • The satisfaction and engagement levels of your people
  • The philanthropic events or organizations you support
  • The words your people use to describe your organization, product, or service
  • The words others use to describe you
  • Your website
  • The appearance of your fleet vehicles
  • The décor and smell of your store or office
  • The location of your business
  • The music (if any) that plays in your lobby, office, or retail store
  • Where and how you advertise
  • The design of your invoices and other customer communications
  • The design and quality of your shopping bags

In reality, this list could have hundreds of items on it. However, this list has only two real points.

  • If you are not consciously considering every aspect of your brand, you are not shaping your brand.
  • If you are not controlling your brand, someone else is.

By not creating a consistent “elevator speech” and sharing it with your people, you are allowing every single employee to send out his or her own version of your brand.

If your advertisements don’t match your corporate personality, you’re ad agency could be defining your brand in a way that might be contrary to who and what your organization is all about.

When you aren’t delivering a clearly defined brand story to your audience – or you are deciding to not make your brand a priority – you are allowing your competitors to define you.

By not considering the smell of your retail space, you could be allowing the smells of your neighbors to influence audience member’s definition of your brand.

If you don’t let people know that the quality of your products or services has improved, you are allowing people’s memories of your former quality levels define part of your current brand.

By not having a clear definition of your own brand, your audience members will be forced to define a muddled and incomplete definition of your brand.

If someone in purchasing decides to downgrade the quality of shopping bags or employee uniforms or any little detail that impacts employee or customer experience, you just let a seemingly unimportant financial decision impact your brand.

When you don’t bother letting people know what you stand for, people will use their limited knowledge of your organization to determine their own perception and definition of your brand.

If one part of your organization has one definition of your brand and another part has a different definition, each member of your audience will have to define your brand based on their limited exposure to your organization, products, or services.

By ignoring how all these factors (and more) impact your brand, you are letting others define your brand for you, and seldom will they define your brand the same way you would.

So, how do you make sure that you are the ones defining your brand?