A brand, it’s commonly accepted, is a promise. It’s a promise of quality, as well as consistency. You know that the next jar of your favorite hair product will be the same as the last right? That’s because branding is now shorthand for a bunch of other, real concepts, such as reputation, expectations, and attitudes – everything, it seems, except what branding really is.
Branding is the expression of the essential truth or value of an organization, product, or service. It is communication of characteristics, values, and attributes that clarify what this particular brand is and is not. It gives you a shorthand way of putting your product or service across to the marketplace, quickly and emphatically, with a name, a logo, a look or a slogan.
Branding goes way beyond just a logo or graphic element however. When you think about your brand, you really want to think about your entire brand experience; everything from your logo, your website, your social media content, the way you answer the phone, to the way your audience experiences your staff.
Over time a brand will come to embody all the attributes, history and image of your product or service. And though the value is unlikely to appear as a separate item on your balance sheet, the accountants will base some part of the goodwill you have built up on brand values.
A strong brand image will help you establish an edge over the competition and can open doors to new opportunities. For example, other lines can be bought in, branded and sold as your own products, i.e. Coca-Cola.
When you look at the broad definition of branding, it can be a bit overwhelming to think about what is involved in your brand. In short, your brand is the way your audience perceives you. It is critical to be aware of your brand experience and have a plan to create the brand experience that you want to have — a good brand doesn’t just happen — it is a well thought out and strategic plan.
It takes time to build a strong, consistent brand. The time it takes to build a brand is the time it takes your audience to come around to accepting your brand values. These may include the belief, for example, that your product or service will give better value or be more reliable than competing ones. They may also start to believe that they will be happier with your product or service than any others and that your product or service is the most suitable for people like them.
In today’s fast-paced world, it is more important than ever to promote recognition of a product or service. If you’re remembered as a quality provider, then you will be encouraging repeat business. Branding is a great way to promote this recognition because people are busy and tend to adhere to familiarity. If consumers recognize a brand that they have previously used and they remember being satisfied with it, then they are more likely to choose that product or service again. This is especially true in the tremendous hodgepodge of advertising going on today.
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 and consider the listed approaches:
- What is your brand’s mission?
- What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
- What does your audience and prospects already think of your company?
- What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?
– Individual product branding – Each new product is assigned a new name with no connection to other brands owned by a company.
– Family branding – New products are placed under an existing brand.
– Co-branding – The marketer partners with another firm that has an existing, established brand in hopes that the theory “two brands are better than one” will stimulate interest.
– Private or store branding – When suppliers produce products for other companies, and place that company’s brand on the product.
– No Name Branding – Also referred to as generic branding, this is a “brandless” product that is sold as a low-cost alternative to a brand.
If you don’t think branding is for you, you are not alone; however, your brand may be just as important to your relationships with partners and suppliers as it is to your audience and customers.
Today brands are everything, and all kinds of products and services — from accounting firms to sneaker makers to restaurants — are figuring out how to transcend the narrow boundaries of their categories and become a brand surrounded by an Alexander Wang -like buzz.
When it comes to branding, it is all about the impression you make. If you want to succeed, that impression should do two jobs – it should convey what is special about your business and it should show you in a positive light.
Of course, many small businesses make a good impression most of the time without ever giving a thought to their brand. But think how much more successful you would be if you gave a good impression all of the time.
What I am advocating is that you think about the impression you want to make – your brand – and actively take steps to manage it.
A successful brand invariably results in superior profit and marketing performance. A brand name is therefore a valuable asset which can set a product or service apart and add significant value as a capital asset. It’s all about applying your values to everything you do, clearly and consistently.
The message is clear. If you’ve got a business, then you’ve got a brand. What you do with it is solely up to you.