Your Brand is Your Business: Why Great Branding is Essential for Success
When defining your brand you have to understand the difference between brand and marketing, keep reading to see how great branding builds businesses.
Most business owners and managers, from the smallest entrepreneur to the most high-powered CEO, understand the function and necessity of marketing. A company needs to market its product and advertise its services to stay competitive. Great efforts and fortunes are put behind campaigns trying to feature benefits and out-sell or under-sell competitors.
This is elementary, foundational, and the price of admission to succeed in business.
However, it’s only half (if even that much) of the formula for success.
The elusive concept “of branding” must go hand in hand with marketing and advertising to create true top-of-mind awareness and build a loyal base of repeat customers. The problem is that far too many executives simply don’t understand it. Or worse, they think they do, but they misunderstand its purpose or misattribute its benefits.
Some think that branding is synonymous with advertising (it’s not).
Others think that it is simply the ingredients in a marketing campaign (wrong again.) It must be understood that your brand is nothing short of the public identity of your business. To create a successful brand, we must first understand clearly what branding is, and what it isn’t.
Defining a Brand
It doesn’t matter if your company is a family-owned auto parts store or a firm of Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys.
Your brand, in the simplest terms, is the name of your business.
It is the single biggest asset that connects you to your current and potential customers. “Brad’s Grocery Store” gives the shop an immediate personality. “Prestige Investments” says something to aspirational clients. You have many choices about what direction to take the name of their company, but understand that once you’ve settled on your name, it will be your brand for as long as you have it.
To go deeper, the company name is the surface level of the brand. A brand also signifies the core values and attributes of, not just the name, but the company.
Going back to the example of the fictitious “Prestige Investments,” there are expectations of certain attributes associated with that name, such as “upscale,” “profitable,” “sleek,” or “luxurious.” Prestige Investments would be wise to embrace these terms as positive brand identifiers. The trick is that to maintain ownership of these concepts, a company/brand must deliver and live up to them consistently.
Understanding the Key Components of Branding
When it comes to the concept of consistency, there is arguably no more important characteristic of a brand. To understand why, we need to walk away from what a brand is and look at what branding does. Branding establishes and reinforces itself at every conceivable turn. This can range from the decorations on the front door of your office to your multi-million-dollar Super Bowl commercial. Your storefront, advertising, employee attitude and talking points are all components of branding. This is a bit broader concept than what many people narrowly consider branding: brand marks.
It’s true that brand marks are crucial to strong branding. These include logos, brand voice, proprietary fonts, a color palette, and slogans.
By the way, many people mistake “brands” for “slogans.” A good slogan is a “branding statement,” but hardly the brand. It belongs with the list of other items that support the brand.
Brand marks must be guarded and policed fiercely. Every new employee should be given a simple style guide outlining do’s and don’ts. A big company might define its logo with a catalog with Pantone colors, font weights and proportions, and variants for different mediums, while a small company can usually convey the key concepts on a single typewritten page. Whatever the case, invest the time into getting everyone on staff on board with branding elements and brand marks on day one.
Cutting Through the Clutter With Your Brand
Have you ever noticed a politician in a debate repeat certain key phrases over and over, or when an author is being interviewed and constantly repeats the name of the book? There’s a very good reason for this, which is the importance of frequency.
We are all hit with a constant, massive barrage of information throughout our days. It’s hard enough for us to focus on tasks at hand, let alone pay attention to someone trying to get it through advertising. When they do manage to captivate us, they take that opportunity to repeat messaging as much as possible without sounding like a broken record. An adage about advertising copy tells writers to “tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em, tell ‘em, and then tell ‘em what you told ‘em.”
You can see why this would be an effective technique when deployed skillfully or even just properly. However, you’ll soon realize that this is the same technique used by everyone. So many things are all just variations on a theme, so how can you cut through the clutter and stand out with your marketing?
This, right here, is the essence of the power of branding.
If you have invested time in evaluating your competition and discovering a way to differentiate yourself (with anything from price to attitude) you’ve set the wheels of the anti-clutter machine in motion. Next, you must build the script, the graphic design, the tone of print ads, the flash of digital banners and web design, and the tempo and sound of radio and TV spots to demonstrate clearly why your brand should be top of mind in its product category. There may be little discernable difference between you and your competition on paper, but if you have a solid brand and win the differentiation war, you can cut through the chatter and attract new customers.
Forming a Personal Relationship With Customers
Thanks to the rise of digital and social media advertising, brands must also now connect with customers on a personal level. Many have embraced content marketing to show value through practical use with just a dash of emotional manipulation. Others simply focus on having engaged social presences that interact with customers, respond to comments, get conversations going, and even field complaints. This must all be done with the same consistent brand voice and adhere to establish aesthetics, but when done correctly, it builds loyalty in a massive way.
Resurrecting a Brand and Re-Branding
Finally, a word about resurrecting a failing brand or re-branding to change perceptions. This used to be a nearly impossible feat to pull off, but in this world of e-mergers and vertical integration, it’s easier than ever to simply say “Company X is now Company Y. To learn more, follow the all-new Company Y on social media.” It’s harder to give an old, worn-out brand a new paint of coat and trot it back out under the same name, but it can be done. It requires, though, a much stronger value statement and difference point than a brand getting into that space for the first time.
Your business is your brand. Your branding builds the brand. Your advertising supports and maintains the brand. Decide what you want your company to be known for, brand around that concept, stay consistent, and never look back.