What’s in a brand?
Negative or positive, everyone and every business stands for something. You can't always control the opinions others form about your business, but you can influence them. The challenge is to ensure your brand represents what you want it to stand for and that it's viewed in a positive way by your customers.
There's a perception in small business that a brand is the company's logo or its advertising campaign. However, branding is much more than that. Branding is about the relationship a business has with its customers. A strong brand can influence the customer and create value for the business. For the customer, the value of a brand is in the promise that it makes. A brand can evoke experiences, emotions or perceptions - either positive or negative - and this ultimately influences the customer's purchasing decisions. That's why a strong brand is a powerful tool for building business.
Branding can be applied to almost anything; large corporations, small business, not-for-profits, cities, regions, products, services and even individuals. Think about the brand that is 'you'. What do you stand for? What do people think about when they think of you? Is this how you'd like to be viewed by other people? Sometimes how an individual or business sees their brand and how the customer sees that brand are two different things. To have a successful brand, you need to be focussed on what it is you're trying to communicate and your brand needs to reflect this vision. What is it that you're trying to do? What do you offer that your competitors don't? Why should customers buy your product?
What are the benefits of a strong brand?
In the competitive marketplace, a brand can help to differentiate your business from your competitors. A brand should be viewed as a corporate asset because it can:
- Create emotional attachment to your product or business
- Help to differentiate your business from the competition
- Provide a consistent focus for your marketing efforts
- Project credibility in the marketplace
- Create customer loyalty
- Make purchasing decisions easier
What should I do about my brand?
Here are some tips for brand building:
- Every element of your marketing strategy needs to reflect the brand. Your business name and logo are integral to the branding strategy, and especially important for small business. Your business name and logo are too important to leave to someone else, so make sure that you take an active role in their development.
- Look at how your other marketing activities can be integrated with the brand; for example: websites, newsletters, product packaging, advertising, events and public relations. Do these activities communicate the brand values? How can they better reflect the brand? Look at design, language, themes and purpose.
- Most importantly, it's you and your employees who must actively deliver the brand promise every day. Customers must be able to rely on your brand to deliver the same positive experience every time; otherwise you will lose their loyalty. Make sure your employees understand the vision for your brand and how it relates to their daily responsibilities.
- Don't expect to build a brand overnight - it takes time. How long it takes essentially depends on how the market receives your brand. Some of the best brands in the world have taken 10 to 15 years to build.
In the end, branding comes down to establishing a good reputation in the market. Your reputation is your biggest corporate asset. Think long-term and stay focussed on your goal and you'll build customers for life.