Almost every business has a trading name, from the smallest market trader to the largest multi-national corporation. Only a minority of those businesses however, have what could be classed as a ‘brand’ or a ‘brand name’. Branding is a word commonly referred to by advertisers and marketing people, but what does it actually mean, how can you get it, and most importantly; how will it benefit your business?
There are many different definitions of a brand, the most effective description however, is that a brand is a name or symbol that is commonly known to identify a company or it’s products and separate them from the competition.
A well-known brand is generally regarded as one that people will recognise, often even if they do not know about the company or its products/services. These are usually the businesses name or the name of a product, although it can also include the name of a feature or style of a product.
The overall ‘branding’ of a company or product can also stretch to a logo, symbol, or even design features (E.g.: Regularly used colors or layouts, such as red and white for Coca Cola.) that identify the company or its products / services.
The Nike brand name is known throughout the world, people can identify the name and logo even if they have never bought any of their products.
However, not only is the company name a brand, but the logo (The ‘tick’ symbol) is also a strong piece of branding in its own right. The majority of people that are aware of the company can also identify it (or its products) from this symbol alone.
The clothing and running shoe company Adidas is well known for using three stripes on its range of products. This design feature branding allows people to identify their products, even if the Adidas brand name and logo is not present.
How Can Branding Benefit My Business?
Recognition and Loyalty
The main benefit of branding is that customers are much more likely to remember your business. A strong brand name and logo / image helps to keep your company image in the mind of your potential customers.
If your business sells products that are often bought on impulse, a customer recognising your brand could mean the difference between no-sale and a sale. Even if the customer was not aware that you sell a particular product, if they trust your brand, they are likely to trust you with unfamiliar products. If a customer is happy with your products or services, a brand helps to build customer loyalty across your business.
Image of Size
A strong brand will project an image of a large and established business to your potential customers. People usually associate branding with larger businesses that have the money to spend on advertising and promotion. If you can create effective branding, then it can make your business appear to be much bigger than it really is.
An image of size and establishment can be especially important when a customer wants reassurance that you will still be around in a few years time.
Image of Quality
A strong brand projects an image of quality in your business, many people see the brand as a part of a product or service that helps to show its quality and value.
It is commonly said that if you show a person two identical products, only one of which is branded; they will almost always believe the branded item is higher quality.
If you can create effective branding, then over time the image of quality in your business will usually go up. Of course, branding cannot replace good quality, and bad publicity will damage a brand (and your businesses image), especially if it continues over a long period of time.
The Sunny Delight drinks brand was one of the biggest in the UK just a year after its launch. However, constant bad publicity about the quality of the product has severely damaged the image of the brand, and sales have dropped for each of the past several years.
Image of Experience and Reliability
A strong brand creates an image of an established business that has been around for long enough to become well known. A branded business is more likely to be seen as experienced in their products or services, and will generally be seen as more reliable and trustworthy than an unbranded business.
Most people will believe that a business would be hesitant to put their brand name on something that was of poor quality.
If your business has a strong brand, it allows you to link together several different products or ranges. You can put your brand name on every product or service you sell, meaning that customers for one product will be more likely to buy another product from you.
Sony sells televisions, music equipment, consoles, camcorders, DVD players, video players, and etc all under the Sony brand name.
You can also create separate brand names for your product ranges, allowing people to see your brand name, and then use the range brand name to work out what they wish to buy.
Cadbury’s makes a range of confectionary under many different sub-brand names such as Dairy Milk, Boost, Flake, and Time Out. All of these are sold under the product brand, but all feature the Cadbury’s brand name on the packaging.
Brand Awareness and Consistency
Developing Brand Identity
What are the Disadvantages of Branding?
If you wish to create and maintain a strong brand presence, it can involve a lot of design and marketing costs. A strong brand is memorable, but people still need to be exposed to it, this often requires a lot of advertising and PR over a long period of time, which can be very costly.
There are also costs involved with the creating of a brand image or logo (Paying for a designer, printing new letterheads / business cards etc.), and although most of these are only one off costs, they are still relatively large for most small businesses.
The exposure of your brand can be left to word of mouth, this will save you money, but will also greatly slow down the exposure your brand receives.
One of the main problems with many branded businesses is that they lose their personal image. The ability to deal on a personal basis with customers is one of the biggest advantages small business have, and poorly designed branding could give customers the impression that your business is losing its personal touch.
Every brand has a certain image to potential customers, and part of that image is about what products or services you sell. If you are known for selling just one product, and you want to sell another product, will you be able to do so effectively?
If you sell computers, would your brand name be suitable for selling vacuum cleaners? If your brand is focused too strongly on one product, it can limit your ability to sell other products.
The process of creating a brand will usually take a long period of time. As well as creating a brand and updating your signs and equipment (E.g.: Stationary, vehicles etc…), you need to expose it to your potential customers.
It is commonly shown that people need to see an advert at least three times before they absorb it, which means you will need to advertise and promote the brand for a considerable amount of time before it will become well known.
How Do You Get Branding?
Memorable Brand Name and Logo
The vast majority of brand names are short and memorable names, which are easy to remember. They can often be shortened versions of the full company name, or something completely new aimed at selling a particular product or service.
- The Coca Cola Company uses the brand name Coca Cola.
- The electronics brand JVC is the brand name for the Victor Company of Japan Limited.
- BBC is the brand name for the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Creating a distinctive logo also helps to make your brand more memorable, a symbol or image is usually much more noticeable than text.
People are much less likely to remember the words “Alan Smith’s Groceries and Fruit Stall” than they are a smart logo for “Smith’s Groceries”. By creating and developing a brand, potential customers will be much more likely to remember you, no matter how small your business.
The cost of paying an external company to design a logo varies from a hundred to many thousands of pounds (depending on the company you use); but the cost of a brand name is free unless you wish to pay for research into names (as many large companies do)!
Professional Looking Image
The overall image of your business is a crucial part of creating strong branding. As branding creates the impression of a larger business, your image should reflect that of an established company.
All business stationery (Such as business cards or letterheads) needs to carry your businesses brand name or logo. There is no point creating a brand if you do not use it, although this does not mean you need to make it excessively large, sometimes subtlety works just as well (especially in more serious businesses).
Creating a brand is not just about the name and logo; can someone look at your products/brochure/store and know that it is for your business without seeing a name?
Even the best designed branding will be of no benefit if people (potential customers!) are not exposed to it. There are four main ways in which people become exposed to and remember a brand:
Advertising in magazines, newspapers, trade journals, or even on the radio or television will expose your brand to a large number of people in a short space of time.
There is no better way of exposing your brand, but substantial advertising is very expensive, particularly in the long term. Advertising planning should always take into account the type of business you are in, and who you are aiming to sell or expose your brand to.
Public Relations exposure can inform a wide range of people about your brand through trustworthy sources such as newspapers. A news story that references your brand (E.g.: A toy company provides a branded survey showing that Toy X is expected to be the biggest seller this year.) is given to the media outlets, which then decide whether or not to run the story.
PR is not as expensive as advertising, but results can vary considerably depending on the type of business you run, the availability of stories, and even what is going on in the news that week.
If you choose an external company, you must always be sure of their ability and experience, otherwise you are effectively throwing money away. If you choose to carry out PR internally, it costs next to nothing, but the results will often be poor without some training and knowledge.
Word Of Mouth
Highly satisfied customers will generally tell other people about your business, this can be used to help spread your brand. Be careful however, as unsatisfied customers will usually tell more people about their experiences than satisfied customers will.
Word of mouth exposure is free, and helps to lodge your brand name and image in your potential customers minds.
Advertising and promotions can also encourage word of mouth; many businesses run competitions or ‘teaser’ advertising that often makes people talk about the advert (and therefore your brand).
Discounts given when an existing customer introduces a friend are another common way of increasing word of mouth exposure.
Period of Establishment
The only real form of exposure that you can have no control over is time. Even the best branding will not be remembered by everyone the first time they see it. Over months and years, a brand becomes more effective and will be more easily recalled.
Just because your branding might appear unsuccessful after two months, does not mean that it is not working at all. Most of the world’s best-known brands have been established for over 50 years!
Protecting Your Brand
One key aspect of creating a brand is trade marking. This protects your name, logo, and sometimes design features against being copied or misused by another company.
Pay dear attention to your branding programs from the outset, because they work to strengthen the "link of trust" between your company and its buyers.
Shaping Your Brand Image
To start, consider first the personality of your company. Is it sexy or sweet? Tough or tender? Is it more like John Wayne? George Clooney? Andy Griffith?
Name: the First Step
How different would you be if your name were Clem or Matilda? Your company name sets a tone for your brand, right from the start. Names can be generated from invented words (Xerox), initials (IBM) and founder's names (Johnson & Johnson). Some of the best names, though, communicate a benefit (U-Haul or Budget Car Rental).
Logo: Your Company's Symbol
A logo is a distinctive symbol or mark that visually represents your company. To get one that passes muster with the quality police, I recommend hiring a design firm. Because your logo is one of the first visual brand elements your buyers see, put some time and money into it.
If your logo will appear on fax cover sheets, fax it to yourself. If it will appear on billboards, enlarge it to 5 feet and see what it looks like (don't laugh, I actually did this for a client). Put your logo through the quality-checking paces before you use it. You will be glad you did.
Taglines: A Memorable Definition
In 10 words or less, a good tagline can communicate the core essence of a brand to the market. And for small businesses, it can be one of the most efficient marketing weapons in their arsenal.
A tagline is simply a short description of a business's reason for being. It could incorporate elements of its expertise, its target audience, even the markets it serves. A tagline can be both direct and subtle—whatever it takes to get the prospect to say to themselves "Oh, I get it."
If you are unfamiliar with taglines, work with a copywriter or marketing consultant. In an hour or two, they can take the core essence of your company's brand and translate it into a memorable and pithy tagline.
Once you have a tagline, always connect it to your logo as a standard practice. Place the tagline either below your logo or alongside it. But, wherever your logo appears, your tagline should be there with it.
A solid brand will:
- Deliver your message clearly
- Confirm your businesses’ credibility
- Connect your business to your target market emotionally
- Motivate the buyer
- And cement user loyalty
To become a more effective marketing organization, you need to first discover your brand, and then determine the ideal way in which customers and prospects perceive your business. Finally, you need to arrive at ways in which your brand can add value to the company, your customers, and your employees.
Discover what a brand is--and is not. A brand is not a logo. A brand is not a product. According to marketing expert and author, Al Ries, a brand is “a singular idea or concept that you own inside the mind of the prospect.” In other words, it’s gut feeling a prospect has about your product, service, or company. A brand is a promise: a promise of specific benefits and value; a promise that is meaningful and relevant to your users; and a promise that is different from your competition. Your brand resides within the minds--and hearts--of customers, clients, and prospects. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions.
Review your industry’s marketplace. Take time to evaluate the space in which you operate. With your marketing department or senior management team (depending on the size of your company) jot down the opportunities you see on the horizon and the threats to your current business model and product or service offerings. Which opportunities and threats do you think are most promising or relevant to the future of your business?
Review your place within the industry. Now, with that same team of participants, assess your company with regard to how you currently do business and how you acquire and serve customers. Then review the products and services you currently offer. From this discussion, develop a list of strengths and a list of weaknesses that you think are the most promising or relevant to your future.
Discover your current brand. Determining where you are today--what your current brand looks like--is critical to developing your brand strategy. Your brand essence will serve as your measuring stick in evaluating your marketing strategies and materials. If you have corporate vision and mission statements, this is a good time to review them. Then, focus on your target audience when evaluating each of the following points.
- What does your company specialize in?
- Describe the products and services you currently offer and define the qualities of these products and services.
- Characterize the core values of these products and services. Are they aligned with the core values of your company?
- What types of people do your products and services attract?
- What does your target audience think about your current brand?
Define your desired brand. Once you know where you stand today, it’s time to figure out where you want to go. What do you want your business to become? Branding starts with goals; all successful brands are aspirational. They aspire to be something. To begin building your brand, you need to have clearly developed objectives for what you want your company to look like in the next year, five years, and ten years.
Powerful brands are grounded in authenticity and relevance. Your business success is directly proportional to how well you acknowledge what your customers really want and how diligently you apply your company’s strengths, values, passions, and vision.
Place the brand within a new realm. Brand realm is the “space” in which your brand exists. Brand realm, or “architecture” is not corporate structure. It’s a system--like a family tree--that helps your prospects and customers navigate easily within your company and make the right choices. Determining your brand realm is a systematic way of organizing the identity of the different products, messages, or elements of an organization so that people both inside and outside of the your company understand how its customers are being served.
Brand realm gives structure to--and communicates the relationships between--your company including its divisions, business units, joint ventures, as well as its products and services, all with the objective of adding value to the brand. How do you want your customers to see you?
Finally, deliver the branded experience. You have a choice. How consistently you present your new brand will either strengthen the company or weaken it, depending on how you “live the brand.” The brand experience is strengthened when it is instilled into all your products and services--and at every customer touch point--including packaging, logos, your tagline, your corporate culture, in employee training, etc. The brand experience is weakened when it is ignored, or worse, through inconsistent usage, mixed messages, uncaring attitudes, and impatience.
Every employee has the responsibility to be a steward for the new brand. Your customer’s notion of your brand is formed from his or her first experience or “imprint” with your company or with your products or services. Every customer interaction is a chance to enrich the brand.
With your new brand strategy in place, you can begin integrating it into all your marketing and communications--everything you do and are--and watch the effectiveness and efficiency of your marketing efforts soar.
When we speak of branding most of the time people try to relate it to big business house, however, the fact is that every business needs to establish their brand in order to survive the competition. This is nothing new; experts and management gurus had been preaching the same sermon for years now but what they have not told is why you need to brand your small business? How is branding going to help you to establish your business? How can you establish your brand without spending a fortune on it?
You might be having a very small business but would you like your client to perceive your business as a small time entrepreneurial effort? Definitely not, and your business cards, letterheads and other marketing collaterals does just that. They create an impression to your clients that you are an established business house of considerable strength and not just a mom-n-pop shop.
While you have read till this much, you might have started to plan to get a few home printed business cards or visit the website where you saw the preformatted business cards being sold for peanuts. Beware! The quality of your business card is an indication of the status of your business and your clients are intelligent enough to understand the difference between a standard designed perforated business card and a professionally designed business card printed on good quality card stock.
Most of us, including you, would prefer to consider the stability of a company before making a purchase decision. Once you have established your brand with a professionally designed logo, business card and other marketing efforts it becomes much easier for you to build your credibility among the customers.
Branding - Logo
Getting a professionally designed custom logo is one of the very important elements of branding a business. A logo is not just a symbol or a piece of graphics; it is actually your corporate identity. A properly designed logo can leave long lasting impression on your clients and will never let your business slip out of their minds. It also makes your business easily recognizable. Just think, wherever you see the Golden M of McDonald’s do you really need to think twice, what company is that referring to? A good logo should ideally exude the nature and attitude of the business.
Once you have got a logo for yourself it becomes easier for you to establish your brand. You can use that logo in your business cards, letterheads and other accessories. Don’t you think it is going to make a difference if the pack that you use to deliver your products to your customer has the logo of your company on it? And if you are using a reusable pack, your customer might just use the same pack to pass on some other goods to one of his friends- what happens then? Yes! Your logo gets noticed by one other person, you add one more name to the list of your potential customers. You are on your way to establish your own brand.
Similarly with business cards, as they get passed on from one person to the other, more and more people knows about your business and the potential customer base increases.
Having a business card or professionally designed logo also shows your commitment towards your business.
A short, easy to remember punch line is another useful tool for branding. Getting a tag line printed on your business cards or your business stationery makes it easier for people to understand the nature of your business. Ideally, your tag line should not only say about what you do but also speak about your USP.
Having said all that, the ultimate question that most of the small business people would have is, how much does it cost to get all these things done? I’d say, “not much”. Money is always a problem for most of the small businesses (that’s why they are small, otherwise most of us would like to open a Microsoft and be as rich as Bill Gates) but if you know where to look for, you really don’t need to spend a fortune to get a professionally designed logo or a business card. There are loads of websites that offer them really cheap and some even allow you to decide the price that you want to pay.
So, if you think you are tired of being a “small business” and its time to grow up, take the first step; establish your brand!
Branding is not one aspect of your marketing campaign. It is the combination of everything your business stands for. Branding is not created with a single, stand-alone event -- rather it is created over time through a series of strategically thought-out actions.
Branding - The Myths
Let's take a few minutes to shatter a few common myths about branding and to introduce constructive, proactive branding principles that you can build on.
Branding Myth #1 - Your USP Is Your Brand
Absolutely not. While your USP (Unique Selling Position) might be used to help convey your brand, it is not - in and of itself - your complete branding strategy.
Branding Principle #1 - Your Brand Is All Encompassing
Your brand is built, and conveyed, with every action you take, with every product/service you offer, with every piece of communication you send, and with every contact you make with your customers.
Branding Myth #2 - To Be Remembered, You Must Have A Logo
Also not true. Look at companies like Marlboro (cigarettes), Puffs (tissue), and Ziploc (plastic bags). They simply use a specialized font with the product name. No swirls, no images, no "logo." While logos certainly are not "bad," they are also not mandatory.
Branding Principle #2 - Customers Remember You Primarily By How They Are Treated
The most innovative logo, the most attractive colors, and the world's best logo designer will do you no good if you don't offer excellent service. Customers remember you and your company by the way they are treated. Was their shopping experience good? Were all their questions answered? Were their problems solved to their satisfaction? These things go way further to help customers remember you than any logo could ever hope to.
Branding Myth #3 - Once Your Branding Strategy Is In Place, You Need Do Nothing More
This is probably the biggest myth of them all! So many online businesses are led to believe that once they have an amazing USP, and a snappy logo they have accomplished everything in the realm of branding.
However, just the opposite is true. Your branding strategy is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Defining your strategy is just one part of that process.
Here are some basic tips to help you define and implement your brand.
- Decide how you want to be perceived by your customers. Do you want to portray an image of trust? Loyalty? Dependability? Innovation? Wide selection? Speedy service & delivery?
- What makes YOU perceive other companies that way when you shop? Is it their selection? Customer service? Pricing? All of the above?
- Make a list of the qualities you and your employees must display to customers in order to portray your desired brand.
- Share the list with everyone in your organization and ask them to develop specific ways they can support the brand.
- Compile a final branding strategy and share it with everyone in your organization.
Successful brands are those who are well defined and that have the support of the entire organization. Brands based on myths are those that simply have a spiffy logo, a "killer" USP, and the hope that the customer will "get it."
A strong Business Plan may not guarantee success; but it could certainly prevent failure!
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