In this article we take a look at branding and some of the approaches you can take to building up a brand to help your business grow. We consider some of the burning questions every entrepreneur has when it comes to branding including; why is branding important?, what are the benefits?, and what actions do we need to take? All of this and more is covered here.
A brand is one of the most important parts of a business. The right brand strategy offers an edge over the competition. What does branding mean and how does it affect ambitious businesses? In straight forward terms, it helps customers understand you and how you are different from the competition. A brand tells a customer who you are and why they should come to you. A brand can tell a customer if you are experienced, exciting, reliable, high cost or low cost, high quality, easy to do business with, and many other things. You can't be all things to all customers. Brands help to target customers.
The basis of a brand is a logo. The logo forms a crucial element of your website, flyers, business cards, banner ads, signage and more. But a brand doesn’t stop there. A brand is your businesses voice and identity in the market place. Crafting that voice and identity is both a fun and very difficult part for every business owner.
Approach and Rationale
Defining what, where, when, and how you will communicate forms one half of your strategy, the other half is to whom this brand messaging will go to. Advertising, your distribution channels, and your ways of interacting are all part of your strategy. The key to success is to successfully identifying these variables and then consistently delivering on your messaging to secure long-term value for your business. Brands allow a business to differentiate from the crowd and retain a premium price over unbranded competition.
Good examples can be found in the retail of household basics such as bread and milk. In the bread market brands such as Kingsmill and Warburton's have successfully branded their products and can charge a premium price over the supermarket generics and retain prime shelf locations. For the most part, no milk producer has been able to match that level of successful branding and so they have no product loyalty and are relegated to less favourable positions on the supermarket shelf.
Customers that identify with a brand have an emotional connection with it. Economists call this irrational behaviour. As customers we should look purely at the total value of a product vs. its price. Branding distorts that process by creating a feeling of trust in the quality of the product or service. Celebrity endorsements are a great example of this. Large companies associate the positive feelings a customer has for a celebrity, for example an actor or sports personality, with their products. This association passes a proportion of that positivity of feeling over to the product, increasing the emotional ties the customer feels for the brand.
Discovering Your Brand
We use the phrase discovering your brand deliberately. Branding is rarely a quick one-time activity. It takes time and periods of intensive thinking. The starting point is always to answer the following questions:
What does your company stand for, the values the mission?
What are you doing that is different, better, simpler that others?
How do your customer benefit from your products?
How are you regarded now and how do you want to be regarded in the future?
From this basis you need to enter into a period of learning. Find ways to talk to your customers (or prospects) and understand more about them (their wants, needs, hopes, concerns).
How should you promote your brand?
Create your logo and use it in as many places as possible. Get it in front of people as often as you can. It often takes several viewings before a customer will recognise and relate to a brand.
Incorporate your brand with your general colour and other display themes.
Link your behaviours to your brand. Some of the best at this are technology firms that place great importance on displaying a relaxed but dedicated approach to working life. Whenever your team deal with customers they need to live and breathe the brand.
Be clear on your communication strategy, make sure everyone in the business buys into it. Everyone needs to be 'on message'.
Create tag lines that work in harmony with your brand. They should enhance the brand and products, giving more insight for potential customers.
Standardise your materials (email signatures, flyers, posters, letterheads, clothing, vehicle liveries etc) wherever you can. Consistency is key here.
Branding is an evolving science. Technology moves and branding moves with it. Each chasing the other, each pushing the other. It is at once easier to connect and more difficult to connect with customers. Building trust and relationships between a customer and company takes time. The audience has grown and with it the number of speakers. The world of branding is crowded… very crowded. Some estimates put the number of commercial messages the average person sees in one day at more than 3000. That’s 3000 other businesses competing for the time, attention, loyalty, and spend of your customers. Mobile devices have taken branding from the remote and occasional, to the personal and constant. Attention spans have dropped as a result. Fractions of a second make the difference between a sale and a fail.
So where can we go? A good start is to understand the trends in methods of communication in your market and make an effort to at least maintain that pace of change. Move messages through the same social-spheres as the key competition. Start by keeping up.
To connect with people now takes time and talent. Consumers want relevant information, if it is inspiring or innovative then all the better. To stand out from the background noise, a brand needs to help its audience to identify with it quickly and confidently. The boring, the mundane, or the old are all out. People and businesses want value and to a large extent that value revolves around their feeling of their own value.
Here are some of the key strategies to follow:
Focus on Uniqueness of Message
Identify ways that you can connect with people that are innovative and different from your closest rivals. That means channels but also tone of voice, imagery, multi-media content, entertainment and more. Re-packaging and grouping services into offerings that give more than their component parts is a favoured approach in this area. Start by looking at what your nearest competition are doing and more importantly not doing. Then identify what the best marketers in any industry are doing. Where is the gap? Can you bring something new to your market?
Focus on Relatability
Make it as easy as possible for people to understand you, what you do and what you are about. Keep it simple. Do not over complicate the runway to getting to know what you offer. People do not give the time to understanding the life stories of the CEO and why they are in business. They do not give the time to understand the 100 reasons why they should buy from you over the competition. It needs to be clear and up-front. No puzzle to solve, no mystery to unravel. Keep the messaging clean and to the point.
Focus on Giving
There is all too little depth to much of the services on offer to each of us every day. This drives fatigue and mistrust amongst consumers. They have been disappointed too many times. If you providing information that supports your services then make sure that information is genuinely informative. Brand messages that share quality information attract a following.
Give in other ways too. Start by saying thank you. Thank your customers for being part of your growth. Give updates that have heart. Share the journey.
Give to other entrepreneurs and good causes in your area or online community. Share your insights.
Together these actions demonstrate goodwill and display confidence. These are attractive propositions in an otherwise shallow arena.
Focus on Legacy
What is the 10 year plan? A lot of businesses are in this for the short-term. This year’s profits at the expense of the next. Next year will arrive though, and when it does your brand needs to have been nurtured and built up sufficiently. How about in ten years’ time? What actions are necessary now to be ready then?
The answers to this revolve around a brands philosophy. Not simply selling a service but positively impacting a community. The very best brands are able to achieve this by involving their customers in that plan.
Brand Development in Eight Steps
This is the processes of creating and sustaining a brand from conception to fulfilment of an order.
Identify your overall approach – Will your business grow through social media? Will you grow through paid for ads? Will you grow through direct networking? Once you have established your approach your brand identity can help support that end. A great brand is one which supports your approach.
Identify your audience – Research the market place and focus in on your perfect target customer. If there are insufficient customers in that segmentation you will need to expand the segment. The risk here is that your efforts will be more thinly spread amongst diverse customers. Time spent here understanding the market, saves multiples of that time in execution.
Understand your audience – Research their priorities, needs, and aspirations. Craft your messaging to resonate with them by getting the tone, channel, and point of delivery right for your audience. A great message is no good if no one is listening or recognises it as something to listen to.
Develop your logo – More than just a look and feel. A great logo encapsulates everything you are as a business into a single message instance. A logo is not a brand in its entirety, it is a representation of the brand.
Develop your content – Content marketing is well suited to the needs of many customers. Use content to attract and communicate with your audience more effectively. Content can build visibility and connections with people across the industry in ways that other forms of marketing cannot. Content marketing if done well, will inform, educate, and inspire your customers. All of which puts you well ahead of the competition when it comes to building a business relationship with the visitor/reader.
Develop your website – Your website is your store front, shop floor, brochure, sales team, and much more. It is amongst your most powerful assets to attract new leads and convince them that their time, attention, and money will be well spent with you. Some of the key measure for a website are: consistency with the brand, navigation and ease of use, performance/speed, responsiveness (desktop, laptop, mobile), and adaptability (new content).
Develop your marketing assets – Other than content there are numerous options open to you to connect with potential customers. Their effectiveness differs by industry, so testing is required over a sustained period to learn which elements should fit into your overall toolkit. Consider paid-for-ads, email marketing, printed materials (posters, flyers, and booklets), social marketing and updates, info-graphics, rich-media content such as videos, and webinars.
Monitor and review – Tracking your successes and failures is critical to brand development. You will not get it right the first time. Learning and adapting to change can only be done well, if there is a basis for the changes and suggestion being put forward. This means a certain amount of time should be spent on recording what you are doing through each of your channels and the changes you are making to your branding and messaging (give at least 5% of your week to this, 10% if you can). Overtime as you iterate and test, you will build up a database of outcomes. What happened when a particular change was made? Why did this change work or fail? You will only get to the bottom of this, and so increase your chances of building a great brand, by committing to a plan of tracking and recording.
In this article we looked at branding and some of the approaches a business can take to creating and sustaining a brand. We considered why these were important and at a tactical level how these can be achieved.
We hope you have enjoyed this article. If you would like know more about how to take this forward with your business then please feel free to get in touch with us we are here to help.