You only need to look at a recent Southwest Airlines flight delay for a quick lesson in the power of a strong branding strategy, one that’s consistently cultivated over time.

No complaints could be heard from passengers at an Indianapolis International Airport gate, even though their flight to Orlando had been delayed by three hours. For loyal customers, it’s hard to  get mad at Southwest for messing up spring break — especially when the brand get so many things right.

A Southwest attendant told passengers, “our fault,” attributing the delay to equipment issues — not the inclement weather that caused other airlines to delay flights that same night. An apology followed, along with a $100 voucher for each passenger for the inconvenience.

This type of brand authenticity, along with Southwest’s two free checked bags policy, no fee policy for changed flights, a no blackout dates rewards program, and entertaining announcements from attendants, has steadily won over customers during the past few decades.

And that strong brand strategy has paid off for Southwest. Today, it flies more domestic passengers than any other U.S. airline. And it was recently ranked as the second best U.S. airline, winning top scores for customer satisfaction and baggage and change fees.

Clearly, Southwest understands the importance of developing a strong brand, as well as managing and guarding it closely.

While your company may already have a solid branding strategy, investing time to make it even stronger can lead to more brand differentiation, higher rates of customer retention, and increased brand advocacy.

Consider these six ways to build a stronger branding strategy — one that establishes your company as an industry leader.

1. Elevate brand messaging to its appropriate role. The company’s brand should be used to guide everything from your team’s content marketing strategy to internal communications and customer service policies.

Set the foundation for a strong brand strategy by consistently communicating its importance throughout all departments. By reinforcing the brand vision through messaging and employee behaviors, your team can play a more active role in shaping the perceptions customers have of your company.

2. Learn what your customers really want. When Southwest first entered the highly competitive airlines industry, it stood out by skipping on the first-class seats option and ramping up the easy-going, super friendly customer service. The company focused on a low-cost option that helped to diminish any perceived barriers to traveling by air. The success that followed revealed Southwest’s understanding of its targeted customers.

Strategically use a martech stack to gain deeper insights about your customers. An in-depth analysis can help you identify your customers’ top frustrations, challenges, preferences and needs. Look outside of the standard industry solutions for ways to better meet them.

It’s also possible that your company already is outperforming competitors in answering customers’ needs. However, if your content marketing is not clearly communicating those advantages on the right channels to the right customers, you could be missing out on important opportunities to win over more prospects.

Invest in a more comprehensive content strategy, including fully developed personas, that clearly highlights the aspects of your company that are most relevant to your customers.

3. Make it easy for your customers to provide feedback. Be a strong advocate of customer feedback. Provide a platform for customer input through social media or surveys. It will help you determine how well you’re doing. By more aggressively pursuing customer input, you can gain the tools needed to improve customer experiences as well as earn third-party validation about the relationships you have with your customers.

Identify those customers who have emerged as your strongest brand advocates. Ask them to take it a step further by being featured in brand content around customer testimonials, including case studies. A customer testimonial can deliver an emotional message about the connection prospects can expect from your brand — a better way to shape the answer to that “Why?” question.

4. Work hard at keeping current customers happy. Analyze your content strategy to determine how well your team is delivering on the needs of current customers — long after the Decision stage of the buyer cycle. The goal is to keep customers happy. Exuberant even.

Again, use martech, including analytics and content intelligence platforms, to gain insights that help you anticipate and meet the needs of your current customers. Don’t let a competitor provide an option that lures your customers away.

As research has consistently revealed, building a high-performing company — one that shows a strong ROI — requires a high rate of customer retention.

5. Work equally hard at keeping your employees happy. Invest in internal messaging that helps increase engagement around the story and mission of your brand. Employees who come to work energized and motivated around the “Why?” of your company are the key people who will help build upon that brand story. They become among your top brand advocates.

6. Invest in a strong brand management strategy. A strong brand message demands that you consistently reinforce it in all your assets and deliverables. Develop a marketing strategy for how you will move forward in ensuring that your brand is managed and monitored. It may require that you appoint an employee or a team of employees to monitor and communicate the progress of your branding strategy.

Gain deeper levels of brand differentiation, higher rates of customer retention and increased brand advocacy with a stronger branding strategy, one that clearly communicates your brand advantages. Start by exploring how content intelligence can help you more quickly reach your branding goals.

Contact us for a demo to learn more.