You know the importance of brands, you see them in your everyday life however, do you realise how years of exposure and experience have built up your perceptions of those brands and have shaped the interactions you choose to have with them? This post will give you a greater understanding of what a brand is and how you can brand your business for success.
What is a Brand
A brand is the combination of tangible and intangible benefits that work together to create a value. That value is known as brand equity. Your brand encompasses your name, logo, colour and sounds. It distinguishes you from the competition and when successfully executed will foster positive connections to your consumer.
Every time you see, hear, touch, smell or taste a brand, you are forming opinions and as those opinions are processed, you develop brand perceptions. Put simply, brand perception is how favourable or unfavourable a consumer feels about a brand at any point in time. Brand perceptions are constantly shifting; think of your experiences from being a child to now, how has your brand perception of McDonalds changed? As a child you probably felt it was the best place to go for lunch, as you got older you started to feel differently. You formed different opinions about the McDonalds brand and your perceptions evolved meaning you might not connect with the brand like you once did.
Building a Brand
Building a brand is not a short term strategy. To be successful, brands need a balance between time and investment to grow; limited time and high investment is one strategy but for most of us starting out we build our brand with limited investment and so we need to appreciate that it will take time.
With limited investment, word of mouth becomes the most cost effective way of building a brand. The more people are talking about you positively, the more desirable your brand will become. Social Media has increased the simplicity of maximising word of mouth promotion, but don’t get caught up in the numbers game. Having 3,000 “likers” on Facebook means little unless they liked you to connect with your brand, not just to win a prize or to get a like back on their own page.
Just as people invest in property to build equity from its increase in value, we aim to build equity in our brand to increase its value to our consumers. The equity comes from perceptions of trust, quality, reliability and value for money. As these perceptions grow in our brands favour, so too does the value of our brand. The more valuable your brand is perceived as being, the more desirable it is to your consumers as your brand equity increases so too will demand.
How to Brand
5 Brand Strategy Truths
1. Stand For Something
What to name a new business seems to be one of the most widely debated topics during the start up phase, with everyone having an opinion and the business owner struggling to make what seems like the most critical decision. My advice is to take a breath and relax. Your brand name doesn’t need to be too clever, cute or catchy. Think about the brands you come in contact with. The most traditional come from family names – Arnotts, Kelloggs, Myer while the modern seem to make no sense at first but over time they became familiar – Ikea, Apple, Nespresso. The most important factor for a brand is ensuring it stands for something, something you can explain and something that will make a connection to your customer, adding value.
2. Get To The Essence Of It
Brand Essence is a single statement that defines what your brand stands for. The Brand Essence will guide everything you do, from what you sell, to how you promote, to the tone of every message you send out. The Brand Essence will become the reason why consumers choose you instead of the competition. Crafting a unique, inspiring and motivating Brand Essence will engage your consumers and create loyalists. Your brand essence, if succinct, can become your tagline complementing your brand name and logo.
3. Repeat Yourself, Repeat Yourself, Repeat Yourself
We all know that the more times our brand is seen the greater recall it will have. After all, repetition goes a long way to developing memory (remember learning your times tables – we recited the same lines over and over again until we could sing automatically “3 times 5 is 15, 4 x 5 is 20”, along with some mumbling here and there). Brand everything you can. Anything that leaves your desk should leave with a brand on it, as every product is a mini advertisement for your business. If you make a product, ensure you attach a label with your brand on it (and your website if it will fit). If you import a product put a label on it “distributed by” with your brand. Develop a digital signature so every email goes out with your brand name and how to find you. Repeat it enough times and it will start to be remembered.
4. Consistency Is Critical
Brand is King. All Hail the King. We must worship our brand identity and pay our respect to our brand with consistency. This means your logo should present the same across your business cards, website, flyers and beyond. Websites like Canva enable you to create designs for web or print: blog graphics, presentations, Facebook covers, flyers and so much more. By setting up a few templates you can easily carry your logo and brand across several mediums.
Further than that, if you use a tagline then you need to consider when you will use it. It may not be practical to always use it, but as long as you keep it consistent e.g. always on printed materials, but not on your product you will still be maintaining consistency. Develop a short brand identity guide and send it with your logo if someone else has requested to use it. Have your designer give you a version of your logo on a black background and one on a white background. Stipulate in your brand identity guide when to use each so external parties know what to do if your logo won’t work on their very dark website
5. Brands Can Evolve
In most big organisations, every 12 – 18 months they research the market and get a read on how their consumers feel about their brand. They compare this to the previous year and to the competition and create strategies to exploit their strengths and defend any weaknesses. This can mean a tweak to the logo to appear more modern, a change to the tagline to reflect a new brand essence or an update to the product mix to be more competitive, and so thereby evolving the brand. Many small businesses worry about making changes to their brand, but it is important to remember that brand evolution is natural and is a sign you are shifting to remain competitive. Generally I would say any small change is survivable. You can change an element of your business name but not all. Aim to think big at the beginning – will Tony’s Travel Bags service your business long term? Or are you better starting as Tony’s Terrific Bags with a tagline “Bags for every adventure” that could evolve to “Bags to suit your lifestyle” if you decided to add handbags, business bags and wallets to your range.
How to brand your business will depend of course on the unique factors such as your target market, your competitive environment and your offering. Get in touch today and tell us about your business and we can work with you on strategies to increase your brand equity.
How successful is your brand? Has your brand evolved since you first started your business?
Stay tuned for our revision of C is for Competitors.