The Basics of Branding
In today’s fast-paced, information-saturated world, the competition for consumers’ attention—and wallets—is intense. For any one product or service category, there may be seemingly endless choices that all appear to be very similar in terms of features and quality. If you own a B2B or B2C business, you may be wondering how to make your product or service stand out in the marketplace, and convince potential clients and consumers to try, purchase and repurchase what you have to offer. Certainly one of the key elements in any successful marketing endeavor is branding.
This is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot in marketing circles these days. Branding is what builds awareness for your company’s product or service. It creates customer loyalty, and keeps people coming back and buying from you again and again. Without it, your business will struggle to stay afloat. There’s no question that branding is one the most valuable assets for any company. Still, there’s some confusion out there about what branding really is.
What is branding?
In a nutshell, branding is the set of perceptions consumers have about a business and its products or services. It is what sets a business apart from others in the same market niche, and tells consumers what they can expect from the company.
Advertising legend, David Ogilvy, defined branding as “The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.” Another famous ad man, Leo Burnett, once described branding as “anything that leaves a mental picture of the brand’s identity.” Even though these were observations made several decades ago, they still hold true today.
Sometimes people think branding is simply a company’s logo and graphic design, but there is much more to it than that. Your company’s website, product packaging, the quality and price of your products, advertising, publicity and social media communications, along with your customers’ in-store shopping experiences (or –in-clinic patient care for medical practices)—all help communicate your brand persona. In short, branding is all of the ways you establish an image of your company in the public’s eyes.
Why is branding important?
It doesn’t matter whether you have a retail store, manufacturing operation, cleaning service, medical practice, or a consulting firm, branding is an vital component to your success. Here are some of the top ways branding can benefit your business:
* Branding differentiates you products or services from the competition.
There may be many other companies producing the same type of widgets you do, or offering very similar services. Branding helps consumers solidify their purchase decision, when they have multiple options to choose from. It is through branding that you communicate to your prospects that you are the best or even sole provider of a solution to their problem or need.
* Branding builds recognition, credibility and trust with your target market.
People are more likely to do business with companies they know and trust. If your branding is easy to recognize and consistent, and your website and other promotional materials look polished and professional, consumers will feel comfortable purchasing from you. Branding builds trust, which generates loyalty, and that leads to repeat business.
*Branding helps geminate new customers.
When your customers are truly “sold” on your product or service, they will tell others about it and in effect, become walking advertisements for it. But this won’t happen if they can’t remember the name of your brand. Having a strong, well-established brand enables you to get referrals or word-of-mouth business.
*Branding creates focus.
Your branding helps you create clarity and stay focused on your marketing objectives, and guides your overall business thinking. You’ll be much more likely to see what marketing strategies and tactics will and won’t work, because you’ve established a comprehensive brand with tight standards in place. This saves you time and money, because you’ll be less likely to waste your marketing efforts on off-base ideas.
* Branding inspires your staff.
Having clear and consistent branding provides motivation and direction for your employees. When your staff knows your company’s mission and vision, they will be much more likely to follow your lead, strive to achieve the goals you have set, and feel the same company pride that you do. Strong branding creates loyal employees, and gives them something to believe in and stand behind. This can spur employee productivity, and drive business growth.
How to build an awesome business brand
Of course, great brands don’t “just happen.” They are built over years, through strategic planning and hard work. Here are some suggestions to get you started in the right direction:
* Carve out a unique identity for your brand.
Review the benefits and attributes of your product or service, and pinpoint the space in the market niche it occupies. Ask yourself: What product features are most valued by your customers? What impressions do your customers and prospects have of your business? How do you want your target audience to view you? What specific problems does your service or product address? Use this information to establish a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) for your company. This is the benefit(s) you provide that other brands do not, and how you are better than the competition. Once you’ve identified your USP, it should be integrated into your branding strategy. All of your promotional materials should reinforce the message to consumers that your brand offers this unique benefit.
* Don’t try to appeal to everyone.
Sometimes businesses make the mistake of trying to offer everything to everybody: They have the highest quality service AND the most discounted rates. Their products are the very best on the market AND at the lowest prices. The problem is, when you try to be known for everything and you attempt to appeal to everyone, you’re not a first choice (or even a second or third!) for anybody. It is vital that you narrow your niche. Not everyone is going to be interested in your product or service, and that’s okay. Choose a specific set of people to market to, and provide a tailored solution for them—one that they can really get excited about.
* Know your target market.
Always keep your customers in mind. Understand their habits, needs, wants, concerns and challenges so you know how to best serve them and provide for them. Show your customers that you truly care about them and then create content, services and products with them in mind. Be the solution to their problems, and incorporate this message into your branding. Success is more likely when you put your customers’ needs first.
* Lay claim your colors.
Choose two or three colors to represent your brand and create visual associations. Be sure they are appropriate colors for your message. For instance, if you’re offering an innovative, new product, use bright and exciting colors, rather than “blah” hues like gray. If you’re offering a surgical procedure, use calming colors such as blue, rather than alarming colors like red. Use these colors in all of your marketing messages, from banner ads to shopping bags. Customers will begin to associate these colors with you, which will help them remember your business.
* Maintain consistency.
Make sure every aspect of your company that reaches a potential customer is in alignment with your brand principles. Establish company standards for logo usage, color palettes, typography, tag lines, style of writing, slogans, etc., to use in all of your marketing materials. Consistency makes your branding memorable and long-lasting, and puts your customers at ease because they know exactly what to expect each and every time they experience the brand. If any facet of your business deviates from your branding (i.e., you send “mixed messages” with your promotional materials), it will confuse your client base.
* Think long-term.
Remember: Brands aren’t built overnight. This is why your brand strategy should focus on long-term goals, rather than short-term tactics. Provide a dependable product or service. Be true to your brand. Strive to live-up to your tagline. If you meet customers’ expectations, they will return to you again and again. When you’ve got clients who are loyal for the long haul, they’ll be the ones to champion your brand to others and skyrocket it to cult brand status. On the other hand, if you over-promise and under-deliver, your customers won’t return to you—or recommend you to anyone else.
Need some professional assistance?
Does your branding need some solidifying? Are you launching or revamping a website or product? Wondering how your business can build a powerful brand that drives growth? Does all this seem like more than you want to try and tackle on your own? If so, the team at Hughes Media can help. We can provide everything from brand strategy, graphic design and website development, to digital marketing and media services, to build and grow your brand.
We have a wealth of experience building strong brands from a wide range of industries. The first step is always to understand where you’re at now. We will analyze market trends, evaluate the competitive landscape and study the behavioral tendencies of your consumers to create a marketing strategy that elevates your brand, builds connections, stimulates engagement and inspires action. Ultimately, we will deliver a custom-tailored solution that positions your brand message in front of the right people, and keeps it there.
To learn more about how we can help you with your brand strategy, call us at 404-848-0487 to schedule a no-obligation marketing evaluation and strategy session. Or, fill out our online contact form, and a Hughes Media representative will get back with you shortly. We look forward to talking with you about how we can improve your branding…and boost your business!