Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small irrespective of industry.
An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in an increasingly competitive marketplace where the difference between products and services have increasingly become marginal. But what exactly does “branding” mean? And how does it affect a business like yours?
Simply put, your brand is not just your promise to your customer. It is your promise to your customer from the customer’s perspective. Your brand starts from what you tell your customers to expect from your products and services and how it is different from your competitors’ offering. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and eventually from who customers perceive you to be.
Are you the innovative maverick in your industry? Or the experienced, reliable one? Is your product the high-cost, high-quality option, or the low-cost, high-value option? You can’t be both, and you can’t be all things to all people. Who you are should be based to some extent on who your target customers want and need you to be.
Brand Strategy and Equity
Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages. Where you advertise is part of your brand strategy. Your distribution channels are also part of your brand strategy. And what you communicate visually and verbally are part of your brand strategy, too.
Consistent, strategic branding leads to a strong brand equity, which means the added value brought to your company’s products or services that allows you to charge more for your brand than what identical, unbranded products command. The most obvious example of this is Coke vs. a generic soda. Because Coca-Cola has built a powerful brand equity, it can charge more for its product–and customers will pay that higher price.
The added value intrinsic to brand equity frequently comes in the form of perceived quality or emotional attachment. For example, Nike associates its products with star athletes, hoping customers will transfer their emotional attachment from the athlete to the product. For Nike, it’s not just the shoe’s features that sell the shoe.
Defining Your Brand
Defining your brand is like a journey of self-discovery for a business. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the questions below:
What is your company’s mission?
Who is your target customer or target market? Be specific.
What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?
Do your research. Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.
Because defining your brand and developing a brand strategy can be complex, consider leveraging the expertise of a professional. .
Once you’ve defined your brand, how do you get the word out? Here are a few simple, time-tested tips:
Get a great logo. Place it everywhere. Make sure your selected logo colours, icon and tagline resonate with your target customers.
Write down your brand messaging. What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should be aware of your brand attributes.
Integrate your brand. Branding extends to every aspect of your business–how you answer your phones, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your e-mail signature, everything. Your logo, website, packaging and promotional materials should all integrate to communicate your brand.
Create a “voice” for your company that reflects your brand. This voice should be applied to all written communication and incorporated in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off. You get the gist.
Develop a tagline. Write a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand.
Design templates and create brand standards for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. You don’t need to be fancy, just consistent.
Remember who defines your brand. Never ever forget that your customers perception of company’s products and services defines your brand more than what you say. So, from when the customer first hears about your company’s product or services, to when they make a purchase, all through after-sales to repeat business and refer a friend or family, your brand is being defined and established.
Customers won’t return to you or refer you to someone else if you don’t deliver on your brand promise. Delivering on your brand promise is therefore the most critical aspect in defining your brand.
Be consistent. I placed this point last only because it involves all of the above and is the most important tip I can give you. If you can’t do this, your attempts at establishing a brand will fail.
In conclusion, we must remember that brands are not built in a day. They are built daily by consistent actions that fulfill the brand’s promise to target customers. For companies looking at building truly successful brands, efforts must be applied to ensure customers get the product and service qualities promised the first time and at every other time.