Branding is the ongoing process by good companies to craft, and maintain, their identity with audiences. New business owners might question how much energy should be applied to building their brand. The answer is, to put it simply, as much as possible.
Quite often, I take the time to carefully answer the question, “Why is branding important to your business?” Branding moulds how customers perceive a business. It goes beyond the marketing of specific products or services for sale; branding frames how people think about and react to your company in a broad sense.
An established brand creates an identity that provides an edge in the market and that audiences can connect with. According to a survey by global marketing research company Nielsen, about 6 in 10 consumers favour new products from familiar brands. The top brands convey trust, confidence, quality, credibility, satisfaction, and more desirable attributes — all of which ultimately result in more leads and sales.
Top brands stand out
If we think of the most successful, well-established brands we see every day: Nike, McDonald’s, Google, Amazon, Apple, and many more. All these brand continue to generate considerable revenue, even if, in some instances, they don’t do much that’s new or unique (e.g. Microsoft). Their established brand alone provides significant value.
Their branding is so well ingrained into our awareness that we trust them to deliver on promises. Whether or not that is a reality is almost irrelevant. These brands have built a positive reputation in their customer’s perception through a prolonged dedication to building a brand message.
Businesses of any size benefit from having a well-planned brand identity, which, as noted, is a process. It involves a variety of tactics, including creating logos that leave lasting impressions, of course. But the logo is not a brand in and of itself. Creating a marker is essential to brand-building, but not the only aspect.
Promise and value proposition
Nearly every business, small, medium or large, operates on promises to customers, who in turn acknowledge this by delivering revenue. That promise could be anything from the lowest prices, fastest service, the biggest range, attentive customer service, guarantees, or any number of attraction points.
Branding brings added value to a business by promoting, whether directly or indirectly, core principles that resonate with its audience. Beyond directly advertising a product or sale, a company is always conveying a bigger, all-encompassing message with strong branding.
Consider, for example, certain well-known brands and a single word you might use to describe them. For a national bank, it would be “trust”. Car-makers promote “reliability”, or maybe “fuel efficiency”. Athletic apparel companies sell “performance”. They beat these associations into our minds through consistency and repetition.
Does your business – on its own, not dependent on a single product – convey a positive impression in customers’ minds? If you don’t know, you probably should spend the time and energy to find out.
Because in any market there is competition, and with it, customer can choose which brand they purchase. Ultimately, it can come down to how they perceive your company if it’s between your business and a competitor.
Yes, logos and graphic design are a big part of branding. Think of the subliminal messages good symbols have built-in. Wings indicate speed; a whimsical font type can suggest fun; golden arches could portray inviting. The list goes on.
What does your company logo or overall branding bring to mind?
Build authority through branding
Building authority means getting customers to trust your brand. Delivering on promises nurtures credibility. Trust is huge in business for many reasons. Among them, the potential for sales based on the brand alone regardless of what’s being sold.
Should your business succeed in building authority, it will enjoy a competitive advantage within your sector. And in today’s ultra-competitive marketplaces, companies should aim to secure all benefits they can get.
Doing so does not have to be complicated. It just involves an ultimate goal and initiating various elements to craft the image or identity you wish to portray.
It’s even easier today with modern website design and a holistic approach to digital marketing. A strong brand strategy incorporates many elements, which are touched upon below.
Web design and digital elements that support it, including social media, email marketing, a blog, and the like, are all part of a good branding program. You can use your website and associated tools to effectively establish your company as the trusted authority among your client base.
Elements of branding
For branding, most successful companies engage a holistic approach, meaning all the parts are interconnected and carry value toward an ultimate goal. This effort can involve many elements, including:
- Promise. A key-value your company offers customers, with which all other branding elements aligned. If you say your customer service is the best, then the logo, slogan, advertising, marketing copywriting and everything else should be in tune with it always.
- Logo. Listed up high here because it’s often what people associate with the word “brand.” While very important, a logo is just one of many avenues to pursue in a good branding program. But it is very important, sometimes central, to brand positioning. Since its inception, Nike has relied on the swoosh. Apple has not deviated from its iconic yet very simple logo.
- Slogan. A brief statement, often repeated, representing the company can be just as important as the logo. Sometimes called a tagline or catchphrase, think “Just Do It,” or “Got Milk?” Some can be longer and explain the whole thrust of a business: “Can You Hear Me Now? Good.”
- Marketing. Some see branding as mere marketing, but in fact, it’s the opposite: marketing is a part of the overall branding of a company. Marketing images and words, and even their shapes and colours, should align with the company promises noted above.
- Online. Any packaging of your product or service should be consistent with the key-value – including websites, social media accounts, email marketing, blog articles, customer reviews, and more. A professional website designer can do wonders in this realm.
- People. Often a branding process involved training employees properly in terms of what they say, how they say it, how they look, and more. Think about how Starbucks employees greet you when walking through their door. With proper training, this can extend to social media outreach as employees promote their work to friends. Your people can become your brand.
- Voice. Sometimes it’s not just what you say but also how you say it. Your brand voice and tone are the personalities of your company. Financial advice firms must be serious, but ice cream shops need to be fun. For some very successful businesses, just the customer’s feeling is the top promise (think Disney).
- Consistency. Once all of the above touchpoints are covered, continue to convey the message clearly in everything you do. Deviations can blur or distort the message and lessen its impact. Avoid confusing audiences.
Getting started with branding
Another question I get asked all the time is, “How does an initial branding process work?” Explaining some of the steps could help answer the first question we pondered here: Why is branding important? Consider:
You’re trying to align people’s perceptions with your brand. Start by firmly establishing what you want them to believe about your company. It’s like a personality with a human being: it can have likes and dislikes, wants and desires.
There’s nothing wrong with a company that wants to save Mother Earth, wants to get you out of your car, believes in social equity, uses only organic produce, etc. Just make sure enough of your client base feels the same way, then let them know repeatedly.
Get to know intimately how your product or service fares in your market. If there is an untapped niche, it may be an angle to brand toward. Use real data, such as surveys or customer reviews, to gauge your market’s mood and create a branding plan accordingly.
From there, position your brand by consistently stating or displaying what makes it different from the rest and desirable to engage with. This defining process involves communicating what your brand believes in, the benefits it provides, the value to be delivered, and the general good feeling between the company and audience.
Then ensure your brand identity accurately encapsulates everything mentioned above:
- A clear and memorable logo that stands out.
- A tagline for people to remember.
- Other tools in line with the key message.
Ensure the message is disseminated by launching it to the public through all available avenues, including advertising, social media, presentations, and promotions. That key message should be evident in all these efforts.
As the brand matures through consistent application of the actions above, remember to manage your brand. That means reviewing to ensure proper usage of the logo and associated company images or taking action to protect legal rights (such as copyright if applicable).
Brand maintenance can be vitally important. Too often, small businesses start a branding or rebranding process, only to lose focus or interest once the flurry of early activity passes. Market and business circumstances change, and your business should be prepared to shift along with it.
If you deliver a positive brand experience consistently, people remember. In a nutshell, good branding does three things for a business:
- It attracts new customers or clients;
- It bolsters return business (e.g. customers or clients purchasing more than once); and
- It nurtures a long-term allegiance to your brand.
All of these provide significant market advantages for any business.
Brand strategy for long-term success
It’s hard not to be impressed with brands like Coca-Cola, which get incorporated into every day conversations even if they don’t specifically mention your company name. “Please get me a coke” can mean a request for a soda, any flavour. There are “band-aid” solutions to many problems, and not all of them involve stopping bleeding or protecting wounds. These phenomena did not happen overnight.
Yet, making it happen is do-able, even for brand new businesses. Once again, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to do the research and truly determine what your company’s identity is to be. That is the foundation to work from, with the public, to ensure everyone is very clear about it.
Branding helps ride out rough waters
An immense value for branding is how it helps get businesses through difficult financial times. As companies cut back, maybe they cheapen an item’s production or eliminate customer service positions.
If your company has done the legwork to establish confidence and trust, even if there are sporadic blips in performance, the overarching perception of a “good brand” remains.
This is critical in today’s digitally driven world. With customer interaction now as fast and public, as a few keyboard strokes, companies are almost required to monitor their company name and brand.
We see it all the time when a brand neglects or ignores feedback from its client base. To do so is to perish. Companies perceived to be unresponsive or unapproachable often get dismissed by the purchasing public.
In the end, a solidly established brand helps overcome potential objections from your client base. Your brand alone should attract people to you.
Final words on branding
The question of why branding is important can be summarized this way. It’s telling the client base precisely what makes you different. That is, not just a robotic machine that spits out gizmos or information without a care for human needs or emotions.
Branding is vital for connecting. That’s what business is all about, making connections with people or organizations that may need or want what you provide. Any business transaction is a connection between two entities, whether its people or organizations.
If you exert the energy to solidify that connection with the audience you want to reach, you can magnify growth and success. It’s just a matter of deciding to pursue a real brand strategy, devote the time and resources to create a branding plan, and execute that plan consistently.
Get to know your brand identity
If you don’t know your brand identity or wish to create a new brand identity for your business, reach out because our expertise and help are available.
Just as “trustworthy” or “fun” might pop into customers’ minds when they see certain brands, as a business owner, you should have “branding importance” at the top of your thoughts. This is especially true if your competition does not have a strong brand promise.
If so, a huge opportunity is there ripe for the taking. You can get ahead of the field with a branding process to send buying signals to the customers you want. All you need to do is shape your brand image and elevate it to the top of the list in customers’ minds.