You’ve probably heard the phrase “build your brand” at one point or another when you were first establishing your business. But what is a “brand?” Well – depending on who you ask will determine what answer you get, and you may also get contradictory answers from one source about another. Take for example some of these responses from a quick Google search:
OK Google: What is branding?
“…the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.”
“…the art of aligning what you want people to think about your company with what people actually do think about your company. And vice-versa.”
“…the encapsulation of a company’s mission statement, objectives, and corporate soul as expressed through the corporate voice and aesthetic.”
Three different definitions from three different sources. “Branding” today’s marketing ecosystem has become too vague to lay a concrete meaning on it. In some regard, all three of those definitions mean the same thing which is correct – just phrased with more unique verbiage – but at its core branding is just what image your business presents to its customers or clients.
Think Like Your Consumer
Think back to when you first began your business – did you have post-it notes with potential names? Scouring the internet for inspiration perhaps? What did your search for logos look like? One thing you may have not considered is how your consumers would perceive your business. Building a successful brand comes down to 3 key points: Recognizable, Memorable, Trustworthy.
Nike, Air Jordan, Apple, Google, the list goes on and on for some of the most recognizable business brands that exist today. Of course they have gone through iterations throughout the years but they’ve made successful businesses off of being recognizable with merely just a logo. Having an identifier for your business that will let your consumers immediately connect an image to you, or your business, is an important aspect to being successful.
While a nice logo is piece of the successful branding pie, a logo is only as good as it is memorable. Take for example the Nationwide jingle – “Nationwide is on your side”. You probably hum this tune to yourself without even realizing it sometimes (or that may just be me…) but nonetheless, when you hum that tune or hear those words, you think to the Nationwide insurance company. Do you need a catchy jingle or motto if you’re a small business? Not necessarily, but if your goal is to grow nationally – or even internationally – it will help tie your image to something that consumers can think about and is a representation of your businesses message.
This point is less about what your consumer sees, and more about what they receive. If you’re a bakery for example, your consumers are going to want to receive delectable treats that look and taste good. If you’re an auto detailer, your consumer is going to (hopefully) receive a cleaner car back than when they brought it to you. Whenever you’re working with a consumer that is receiving either a good or service from you as a business, your brands trustworthiness is going to make or break you.
“Customer Satisfaction Guaranteed” should not need be displayed on your website – it should be part of your culture. When you treat your consumers right, they’re going to give high praise to their friends, leading to organic growth.
Have A Strategy
Before you start paying for Facebook ads or passing out flyers in your local market, you need to establish a solid brand strategy to get your target customers familiar with who you are and what you do. Your brand strategy is going to include things like your logo decision, company color scheme, your brand’s mission statement and commitment to customers, how you’re going to market your brand, and so on. Think of this as a roadmap for your identity. You may be asking, “How do I make qualitative decisions on things like personality?!” Well, you don’t. Your consumers are going to be the ones measuring how up to par (aka quality) you are operating compared to how you present your business. Your consumers are going to be measuring a lot of aspects on your business realistically, so having a solid strategy will aid in exceeding their expectations.
Separation From Competition
No matter the industry sphere your business exists within, you’re going to have competition. Inclusive to your brand strategy on how consumers are going to receive your image, you need to make a separation of your brand from its competition. What makes your business special? Why should a consumer choose you over them? What do you offer that other’s do not? Again – it’s beneficial to think like your consumer here. If you were looking for a good or service that your business provides what would be the biggest selling point to you and is anyone else doing it? If not, offer it! It may not seem like a lot to you but offering something your competition does not will drastically help potential customers become actual customers.
I want to preface this point by saying if you plan, or are operating on, any basis other than uniform consistency – good luck. Now, you’re more than likely going to establish social media accounts for your business to function as a marketing platform (which is perfect by the way), but remember that these platforms are still your brand’s image. If you have a customer ask a question on a Facebook post, answer it the same way you would if they were in your store. Any form of inconsistency in how you interact with customers can – and will – raise questions into how trustworthy your business is and can tarnish your hard work if severe enough.
Go Forth And Brand!
Building a brand will take a lot of time, along with trial and error. You’re going to make mistakes, find missed opportunities, and learn a lot as you travel through finding your perfect brand image and assets. While anyone can create a brand, the 4 steps above are going to be the basis for a successful brand. Think like a consumer of your product / service and find opportunities to make your image exact. Have a strategy – don’t go into it without some kind of strategy, otherwise you’re going to fall into the “1 step forward, 2 steps back” cliché. Separate yourself from the competition to stand out in the crowd to your target audience. Lastly, stick to consistency and let your customer’s do most of the marketing for you through referrals and word of praise.