In case you were blissfully unaware of the impact social media has had on the marketing front, here are some mind-blowing statistics for you to chew on.

According to Brandwatch, the internet has approximately 3.17 billion users; 2.3 billion of them are active social media users-which is 176 million more than last year. 91 percent of retail brands are generally aware of this fact and use an average of 5 social media channels to grab the attention of all these folks...

...because of this, the average person sees hundreds (if not thousands) of ads per day.

The last decade (or hell, just the last five years) has seen an incredible shift in the way companies market their products; with social media, robust search engines, and access to mobile technology, we're literally drowning in content-most of which slips right under the radar. And yet, content marketing is one of the main drivers of businesses today.

It's a puzzling scenario for sure, but the simple explanation is that businesses succeeding in marketing are those with a clear, undeniable perspective...or in other words, a strong brand.

Some leaders will go to their grave proclaiming they know their business identity, but the truth is, their marketing efforts just aren't paying off the way they should. And there's no shame in that. Sometimes, when you're too close to your business, it's difficult to know the way it is perceived from the outside.

Experts like Raquel Baldelomar, Founder and Managing Director of Quaintise, and Matthew Dinnerman, Partner and Director of Strategy, help companies realize the strength of their brands every day. Quaintise is a Santa Monica, California-based branding, marketing, and PR agency that works with intricate business models to convey a brand's message to the right target audience in a meaningful way.

Here are their five steps for building a strong brand identity:

Step 1: Conduct a Thorough Brand Audit

"The first step is to determine where you stand in the marketplace and to understand who your customer is," says Matthew Dinnerman. To do so, a company leader must uncover what is most important for driving growth and analyze how the product or service is actually viewed by consumers. Additionally, an in-depth competitor analysis - including a review of competitor websites, search engine optimization, brand identities and advertising - informs who they will compete with for market share, how to differentiate, and what strategies to employ.

Case in point. Clearpath, a Dayton, Ohio-based company that provides a digital pathology software solution for dermatologists, hired Quaintise to create its brand identity and marketing strategy. "We needed a strong identity that represented the revolutionary services the Clearpath technology offers the dermatology community," says Clearpath Director Dan Angress. "We positioned the brand as a leader in the field by developing a corporate identity that illustrated its modern and streamlined technology. This showcases Clearpath's value to customers." Based on the branding effort, Quaintise has helped Clearpath increase web traffic more than 20% per month. In addition, Clearpath is now receiving a steady stream of leads from interested dermatology practices nationwide.

Step 2: Establish Your Unique Value Proposition and Messaging Statements

In order for a branding effort to be successful, a company must first identify its core philosophies, such as its mission statement and values. It's also important to determine your brand's value proposition to the consumer. This is the foundation of building a brand that truly represents your organization.

There are several ways to arrive at these strategy cornerstones. "We work closely with our client's management, stakeholders and customers to analyze and condense gathered intelligence into descriptive messages that embody the company and brand's meaning", says Dinnerman. "We capture the essence of the company and brand though this process. We look for a unique and original voice to represent the brand."

For example, there are constant changes in the online travel space, which is why brands need to establish an intrinsic value that will stand the test of time. This is something that Villaway, a luxury vacation rental marketplace for the jet set, partnered with Quaintise to do-build a brand that is distinctive and timeless. To that end, Quaintise developed the tagline: The Best Way to Stay. This tagline connects to Villaway's core values, says Joe Liebke, CEO of Villaway. "The brand is built on the values that appeal to the most important constant in the luxury vacation marketplace-customer satisfaction." The tagline goes hand-in-hand with creating an experience that is memorable and unique.

Step 3: Develop Your Brand's Creative Elements

The next step is to create the look, feel, and voice of the brand that will be carried through all marketing channels - from the website, to social media, advertisements, and packaging. "A brand's visual vocabulary will be reflected in your colors, fonts, logo and overall style," says Raquel Baldelomar. The brand voice should be distinctive, resonate with your customers, be consistent and stay true to your company's values.

One way to ensure that you are building the right voice for your target audience is to evaluate their profession, social preferences, age, gender, and who else is selling to them. For example, Quaintise was hired by COPE Health Solutions, a healthcare consulting firm, to update the company's brand identity. Allen Miller, CEO of COPE Health Solutions, says the brand voice was crucial to the success of their rebranding campaign. "We work closely with many leading health care providers throughout the country and our COPE Health Scholars program touches the lives of tens of thousands of students annually. Our brand has to speak to our audience from a position of leadership and innovation," he explains. "We worked closely with Quaintise to find the perfect tone and balance for our specific needs. Their process is thorough and precise."The rebranding effort yielded impressive results. COPE saw a 100% increase in newsletter subscribers, a three-fold increase in web traffic and had more than 10 major media placements during this past year.

Step 4: Implement Strategies to Establish the Brand Identity

A brand identity is built over time. You must implement several strategies to help grow brand awareness and strengthen the brand. It builds a robust social media presence using all of the appropriate channels to communicate directly with the desired target audience whether on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram. The agency creates a PR strategy that provides placements in the right channels, such as trade journals, mass consumer publications, television and print interviews. It develops a content marketing strategy that tells the story the company wants communicated to its target audience.

Make sure your company's web site and online reputation match the brand's goals. Also, ensure your websites are mobile and search friendly, load quickly, and contain multiple contact points to connect with clients.

Step 5: Analyze and Refine the Brand Identity

While it is crucial for a brand to establish an intrinsic value to the consumer, it does not mean it shouldn't change over time. To remain competitive, companies must routinely analyze and refine their brand to ensure it's delivering on the promises of what the company stands for. "One of the benefits of digital advertising is the ability to track, target, and test new strategies and tactics," shares Raquel Baldelomar. "Your brand identity should not just be a mission statement on the wall and logo. Your brand is a reflection of your thinking, your character, and your values."

As with any art form (and business IS an art form!) the one thing you can bring to the table that no one else can is your own, unique perspective. If you water down your message to please everyone, you will get lost. To make sure that doesn't happen, visit and re-visit these five steps to constantly ensure that your business is an accurate reflection of you.

Published on: May 13, 2016