Any entrepreneur, no matter what industry they are involved with, will need to get to grips with the power of branding. Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business as it creates a difference between one company and its competitors. Branding speaks directly to a business’s target market and creates perceptions in existing and prospective consumers. But what exactly is branding? Hint: it’s not just your logo!
Definitions: Getting Started
The word ‘branding’ comes from the practice of marking cattle to signal ownership but it has evolved to mean way more than that now. Branding is partly your promise to your customers about what they can expect. However, it is also the response from your customers to your interactions with them. So branding is a two-way street. A shared perception which comes from the planned and unplanned messages you are giving out and the reaction from your customers to that communication.
A great way to get started on your branding journey is by defining what you want your promise to be. What is your company mission? What features and, more importantly, customer benefits do you offer through your products and services? Which qualities do you want your customers to associate with you? Are you the most creative? The best value for money? High end luxury? Write this all down.
Brand Market Research
So far, so good. You have a clear mission, you know how your customers will benefit and you know what you want them to experience. Here is where many entrepreneurs – millennials and established business people – foul up. They assume that their customers will think the same way.
You absolutely must do your due diligence and research your market now. This can be uncomfortable at times – almost like a journey of self-discovery. Perhaps only a small segment of your potential market want what you are offering. Do you accept a smaller market share or compromise your brand? These are tough decisions but you will end up with a brand based on solid foundations.
Market research can be costly so start-ups may want to look around for an SME advisory group or development center at this stage.
Logo and Design
Only when you are perfectly clear about what your brand is can you start on developing your image and voice. Here is where the fun task of developing a logo, tagline and color scheme begin. Your logo is basically a combination of color, image and (sometimes) text which both symbolizes your brand and creates an immediate impact on the viewer. The best logos employ clever psychological tricks to create a subconscious response in viewers.
Your voice comes across both verbally – in the way you and your team interact with customers – and non-verbally, in the tone of your blogs, webpage and marketing material. When you are happy with your look and your sound it’s time to go to market.
Developing a Brand Strategy
Your brand strategy is at the heart of marketing. It lays out what you are communicating (visually and orally), where you are targeting your efforts and to whom. There are numerous online and offline channels for marketing your brand from free word of mouth publicity and low cost PPC ads all the way up to expensive TV promotion campaigns. Your final strategy will depend on your budget, your industry and your brand and is beyond the scope of this article.
Brand Equity: The Goal of Branding
So what is the goal of branding? Ultimately, you are creating an emotional connection with your customers that will add value to your products and services. This is what is meant by so-called ‘brand equity.’ It means that your loyal customers will either pay more for your product or service, buy more units or both. This will obviously pave the way to bigger profits – the ultimate goal of all business!
Consistency is the Key
This cannot be emphasized enough. If your brand is your promise to your customers then breaking that promise destroys the brand. So, if your brand is about being affordable, you need to focus on stripping to the basics, reassuring your customers that you are doing everything to keep prices down. If you are marketing yourself as the high end option, any attempt to sacrifice quality will be treated with suspicion. If you are a company of creative pioneers but your website is bland and unappealing something will seem wrong. And if friendliness is at your core, watch your brand nosedive when your snarky customer service rep starts upsetting customers.
By clearly defining your brand, really getting to know your customers, developing a sound strategy and keeping things consistent your brand equity will soar!