WHAT IS BRANDING & HOW DOES IT APPLY TO YOUR BUSINESS?
Branding is the process by which an entity (corporate or otherwise) develops a reputation. The most common element in branding is the “connecting of a specific image or visual element with a specific quality”.
Image is the foremost component when dealing with consumer recognition. Your brand image is the visual element that people associate with your company, products and services . When customers begin to identify a specific brand with a given product, service or quality, then the branding process is considered to have been successful.
Example: When you think of purchasing a new shirt, what is the first image or name to enter your mind? That is the result of successful branding.
This connection can be quite broad in nature or highly specific depending on how one goes about the process of branding. A brand can be built based around a specific product or service, or it may be built around a certain type of consumer,
Example: If I want a good cup of coffee on the go, I automatically think of Starbucks. However were you to chat with my colleague, he prefers that all Canadian trademark, Tim Horton’s.
Is one of us right and one of us wrong? No, it is all about what we as individual consumers are seeking.
Branding is the means with which one begins to identify your business to consumers. Identify yourself as a certain way to the right consumer group and you will succeed. It is all about the image one cultivates for their clientele and the association that people naturally develop with specific products and services.
This is where the Brand Reputation enters. The brand image (or visual stimulus for the brand) becomes associated with a specific quality. This quality is developed through hard work and the creation of a reputation as a brand.
Brand Reputation & Brand Image:
The successful brand relies on every aspect of day-to-day operations to define its reputation. For example ones employees, customer communications, end products and after sales service all contribute in part to what consumers think of a brand.
Successful companies provide quality products and excellent service. They treat after sales with as much importance as making the sale. Successful companies understand the need for repeat business and customer relationships. This consistency in service from start to finish builds their reputation and establishes them as a brand.
…and here is the crux, the HP could actually be better than an Apple, but people recognize Apple quality, they recognize the logo and everything that comes with it – and that is the second part of branding. Once you have the product, you need to develop the image.
Small Businesses have some advantages in this area. They are better equipped to build consistent relationships because they have fewer people representing their company and therefore less variability in the image being communicated. In contrast larger companies need to be able to control the way numerous cells and divisions are representing them.
Here is an example. I have a newer model truck. It comes from an established company with a reputation for excellent quality and re-sale. Their brand recognition is strong. However their local service department has struck out with me three times. Fair or not, the lacking of this one cell of their company has affected the whole in my mind. So much so in fact, that I may very likely purchase a different brand of vehicle in the future simply because of this consistently poor service.
Should I judge an entire corporation with good products so harshly based on one branch’s inefficiencies? No probably not, but will I? Perhaps and so too will every potential customer. That is a big sale to lose and all due to the ineptitude of several employees within a company of thousands.
Branding is all about consistency and this applies to more than just the logo. Yes ones visual image (logo) should be on everything, but that is not where it send. Ones business must be consistent in their message, promise to consumers and follow through.
As a rule the larger the company the more challenging it is to maintain consistency across the board. Yet when it happens it creates power-house brands.
Apple dominated the technology world for half a decade under Steve Jobs – a long time in the tech world. This was thanks to the consistent image they cultivated. Think about it, a fruit shaped logo commanded attention in our tech-reliant world. Was it because of their slick ad campaigns? Was it the chrome plated apple logo?
Those played a part, but there was far more to it. Consumers trusted their brand. The quality of their product, their excellent warranty policy and their after sales service built them up a great reputation. They didn’t just talk the talk, the walked the walk. When people viewed their infamous “Apple Guy and PC Guy” ads, they could relate to them. The results were consumers that were willing to pay a little extra to have that little apple on the exterior of their newest gadget.
Consumers are making purchases based on brand recognition. They are leaning towards what they know and trust. They want their money’s worth. They want both assurance and insurance on their purchase (aka good after sales and warranty). If one cannot offer this, there are others who will. It is all highly competitive.
There is more though. Consumers also want to cultivate their own individual image… and brand recognition is a key to just that.
Remember how cool it was to wear Nike and Adidas back in the 1990’s? I do. Air Jordans are still massively popular in certain circles. Nike t-shirts may no longer be all the rage, but they were replaced with the next big thing.
It is the same with just about any product. People choose what beer they drink based on what people may think of them. They make tech purchases, car purchases, clothing purchases, any kind of purchase based on the logo and everything that comes with it.
Brand image is a powerful, powerful thing. Harnessing its potential and making it work for you can bring your business to the next level.
How to Achieve a Brand Image.
This is where a good consultant and a good graphic designer pay off. Never underestimate either of these people:
1. A good consultant will help you navigate the hurdles to develop the strategy that is right for your product based on market research, customer targets and demographics, and the tools available for your budget. The number one mistake for some small businesses is assuming that they can do all of this themselves. Most small business owners are passionate about their business, but rarely possess the skills to approach branding their company in a knowledgeable manner.
There are so many avenues to broadcast your brand through that it can be a little overwhelming. A good consultant will be appraised of the available options. The great thing about many consultants is that they are willing to provide you with the tools you need based on your own unique requirements
Do not underestimate the value that a good designer can add to your businesses branding strategy, they are going to leave an imprint on your brand..
Most consulting companies, and marketing service providers will have one or more trained in-house designers. There is great value in batching your consulting and design services together.
2. A good graphic designer is part and parcel with just about every marketing firm. A good designer will set you up with not just a logo, but THE logo – it is what they do. It is the Holy Grail for a designer to see their logo go viral.
The number two mistake for some small businesses is misunderstanding the power behind good design work. Graphic designers make a point of following design trends and watching the newest in-writ methods behind their craft. They know when to use comic sans (never) and when to use Helvetica (always). They spend their day honing their craft and their nights agonizing over the perfect logo. A good graphic designer can take your brands image to the next level.
For example I once again look to Starbucks. Their swag is always in keeping with the latest cool looks and colours. They make money not just on their great coffee, but on all of the extras that unquestioningly go along with being a a hip Starbucks junkie (I keep telling myself that I didn’t just buy my candy red stainless steel travel mug because it looks sweet, it also keeps my coffee extra hot…)
Hiring a good designer can and will make the difference in your brands success. A good logo, smart design, sharp colours – all of these things draw the consumer’s eye to that invaluable spot – your business.
Why Graphic Design?
A strong visual presence is a must in every branding strategy. A professional, clean logo and design theme creates an identity that is immediately recognized. Name any mainstream brand and you will automatically remember their logo. Good design can provide you with this.
Branding does not need to be complicated and it does not need to be expensive, it does however need to be done right. Creating a recognizable business profile ensures consumer recognition and potential for repeat business.
Simplified: A companies visual image needs to be consistent everywhere that it is located. Printed or online, on business card or website, it must be consistent. The more people see a logo in relation to a goods or service, the more they will associate the two. Ergo consumers need to see the logo. The logo will be more visible if it is professional, clean and catchy. A professional visual representation always translates into sales, it is worth the investment.
To summarize, branding encompasses a number of facets all of which can be boiled down to two categories:
- The Brand Reputation: The reputation that a business garners related to their product, service and after sales service quality.
- The Brand Image: The visual element associated with a brand. Logo, colour scheme and any other visual elements used.
A strong branding strategy separates the winners from the losers. It directly impacts who consumers look to, who they notice and who they remember when making that all important purchase. Branding is an absolutely necessary investment for businesses of all sizes and all industries.
While all important, branding does not need to be all that difficult. There are professionals out there who can help you.
Still not sure? Think about it some more the next time you are looking for a pair of basketball shoes, filling up your car, paying with something other than cash or sipping a cool refreshing beverage.
Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists.