Your brand is the single most important aspect of your business, and continued success, regardless of what sector you're in. A powerful brand and subsequent strategy gives you a major edge in a world where even niche markets are hard to break into, and finding your place among it all is becoming increasingly hard.
But what exactly is branding, and how does it affect your business?
To put it simply, your brand is the story of you and your business, laid bare for the world to see. It tells them what they can expect from your services, your products, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors'. It's essentially how your customers perceive you and is the complete opposite to that cliche 'don't judge a book by its cover' because that's exactly what your brand should allow your customers to do.
Go to any website, from a company in an industry that you don't know, and if you can't even get close to understanding what they do within 3 seconds then that's bad branding.
Remember, before you even start thinking about branding you need to know where you want to position yourself. Are you the innovators in your industries? 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.
The foundation of your brand is your logo. Your website, packaging and promotional materials--all of which should integrate your logo--communicate your brand.
Brand Strategy & Value
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 strong brand value, 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.
One of the biggest examples of brand value is the device you're reading this article on. Chances are you're on either a Windows device, an Android device, or an iOS/Apple device. Now, which of those is considered the most premium with the highest price point? If you said iOS/Apple you'd be correct. If you said either of the others you need to remember that just because YOU have a preference it doesn't mean that is the common perception of that brand.
*Top tip - There is nothing wrong with thinking your brand is awesome, because it probably is, but if you're not positioning yourself as the premium brand in your sector, don't build your brand strategy around it. Your brand needs to speak to your customers and be aligned with their thinking, preferences and general expectations.
The added value intrinsic to your brands positioning 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 but the athletes as well (that's a whole other article though).
Defining Your Brand
Defining your brand is a journey of self-discovery for your business. It can be difficult, time-consuming and often leads you down some weird rabbit holes in search of answers. In short though, you need to know the following:
Your company's mission?
The benefits and features of your products or services?
Do your customers and prospects already have an opinion of your company?
What qualities do you want to be associated with your company?
Do as much research as you can, then research some more. 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. Ask them!
Defining your brand and developing a brand strategy can be complex, so consider leveraging the expertise of friends and family, local small business groups and networks, or even us (our initial consultations are FREE!).
Once you've defined your brand and have a clear picture of who you are, how do you get the word out? Here are a few simple, time-tested tips:
Get a great logo. Place it everywhere. No, seriously, PUT IT EVERYWHERE!
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 and you need to live and breath them.
Integrate your brand. Branding extends to every aspect of your business - how you answer the phone, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your e-mail signature, everything.
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. Is your brand friendly? Be conversational. Is it ritzy? Be more formal. You get the gist.
Develop a tagline. Write a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand.
Create brand guidelines for your marketing materials. Use the same colour scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. You don't need to be fancy, just consistent.
Be true to your brand. Customers won't return to you, or refer you to someone else, if you don't deliver on your brand promise.
Be consistent. We've placed this point last only because it involves all of the above and is the most important tip we can give you. If you can't do this, your attempts at establishing a brand will fail.