Branding is possibly the most important aspect of any business, large or small, retail or B2B. An effective brand gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets.
But what the hell does "branding" mean?
How does it affect a small/medium business like yours?
Quite simply your brand is how you're perceived by others. Not what you think your brand is, not what you want people to think your brand is, but what people actually think of your brand. It is what they say to their friends, how they feel when they interact with your business, it's everything that reminds them of your business.
It's their expectations of your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors'. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be but in the end is what people perceive you to be.
Are you the innovative maverick in your industry? 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 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. Become a problem solver for those people, offer them value and you'll be on the right path.
The foundation of your brand is your logo. Your website, packaging and promotional materials--all of which should integrate your logo--communicate your brand. Now a logo and the colour choices you make can draw on emotions and feelings deeply ingrained within people, ignoring that fact will limit the value of your logo.
Brand Strategy and other BSLet us look at Brand Strategy as the branding and marketing experts will want you to hear it.
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 apparently.
Consistent, strategic branding leads to a strong brand equity, 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. The most obvious example of this is Coke vs. a generic soda. Because Coca-Cola has built a powerful brand equity, it can charge more for its product--and customers will pay that higher price. Bored yet? i know I'm falling asleep[p writing this nonsense.
Let me rip open BS Brand Strategy and tell you how it is. You need to know the following:
Simple. Find out who you're targeting (don't guess or skim over that part!!! It's key) Connect with them and find out what they need and want to make their life easier. Then find a way to deliver that service/product to them in a way that surpasses their expectations. Then you have created a solid brand. You're offering more than a product or service, you're offering a feeling and friendship.
We are all human, connect with people on a human level and they will appreciate that, drop all the fluff and get real with people, they'll love you for it. And when you stop pretending and start being yourself, you'll be happier too.
Defining Your Brand BSNow, let us look at Defining Your Brand as the branding and marketing experts will want you to hear it.
Defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the questions below:
I think I just blacked out again. More waffle and keywords to confuse baffle and put it our of reach. Sod your companies mission, the companies mission is your mission. You have goals, desires and beliefs of your own, and that's what is driving your company. You are your brand, sod the companies mission it's YOUR mission, what do you want to do? Can that business achieve your goals? If not consider other options.
The benefits features of your products or services?! I'm not sure that's for you to decide. Your customers will decide the benefits of your products and services, not you. You can make all the claims you want, but if the customers don't feel the same way then you're flogging a dead horse my friend. Taylor your services and products around the customers you want. Adapt change and bastardise them until they fill the gap that you're trying to fill.
What do customers and prospects already think of your brand? Well that one I will give them. That's basically asking what is your brand at the moment? How will you know if you've not been connecting with them on a human level? You wont, so get yourself out there and engage them people like they're your best friends or loyalty will be nothing but a distant memory.
What qualities you want them to associate with your company is a bit of a hopeful approach if you ask me. It will help guide your initial dealings maybe, but surely the compass is your mission, that's the address you've tapped in to the Sat Nav, and like a Sat Nav, it don't always take you the way you want to go but you still have to embrace it. The customer will decide what qualities they associate to your company.
Let's take Red Bull for instance. They came out on the market to be an energy drink, something athletes would take and compete with the likes of Lucozosade. But when you say Red Bull people think Vodka, or at best extreme sports where lunatics try to kill themselves on motorbikes for a laugh. The second one is only because they use their huge revenue to sponsor these events, the first one is what it has become to most people.
Red Bull have used this and embraced what customers think of their brand rather than fight it off. After it doesn't prevent them from achieving their goals and arriving at their destination. Their mission reads:
Red Bull are dedicated to upholding Red Bull standards, while maintaining the leadership position in the energy drinks category when delivering superior customer service in a highly efficient and profitable manner.
So they simply want to maintain their position in the market while delivering superior customer service, be highly efficient and profitable. So by allowing the association with alcohol and making a large profit from this area, they have been able to pursue the extreme sports avenue and invest in becoming synonymus with it thanks to the profit made elsewhere.
Don't lose sight of the destination to get lost by the journey. Let your customers drive as long as you know where you're going.
Great place to start your branding journey: