Every business owner struggles with defining their business objective and ensuring their marketing efforts match who they want to be as a company. It’s important to begin and ask yourself what your business stands for, who you want to serve, and what you want to communicate to your customer. Those that get it right, not only have a business but a brand that resonates with their current and future customers.
But, what makes a business a brand? More importantly: is your business really a brand? These are important questions all business owners need to ask themselves when developing a brand identity and we’re here to provide some insight into how to brand your business and what branding means overall.
What Is Branding?
Branding is a lot more than simply having a business name, logo and catchphrase. One of the best definitions comes from Entrepreneur. They define branding as your promise to your customers, setting expectations for your product or service and how it differentiates you from your competitors. This means that your brand is derived from who you are as a company, and everything that your company does, from logo design, to marketing messaging and the stories your advertisements tell.
Take Apple, for example. Their business logo design, the overall design of their devices, and marketing message all fit within their brand identity. So whenever people see a new Apple product, they don’t have to think much, they automatically associate whatever Apple does with their brand and inherent values. Apple has even differentiated themselves from their competition, especially in the eyes of their customers. For example, they have made sure to differentiate their brand from Microsoft, painting them as more of the “old school” company. Apple is one example of branding at its best, communicating what their company stands for and most importantly, why they’re different.
The challenge for you is to think about your own business, market, and competition. Consider what comes to mind and how these answers might be able to form your very own brand identity. Branding a business often involves developing creative elements that will be used consistently in your marketing efforts to maintain a congruent look and feel across all of your advertising.
Another point to emphasize is that just because you have a logo doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a brand. While anyone can hire a creative team or graphic designer to come up with a logo, you need to make sure that logo reflects who you are as a business on a deeper level. It also has to fit in with the rest of your marketing or brand messaging. Whole Foods is a good example, as their logo meshes with their overall messaging as a healthy and natural grocery chain.
What About Marketing?
Marketing is a great way to create and develop your brand. What’s important is that you utilize marketing to create your brand image and maintain a consistent point of view throughout. Marketing is an effective way to help brand your business because you can proactively reach out to those who are likely to respond positively to your brand. Consider the following tips from Entrepreneur about using marketing to build your brand:
- Tell a Story - People don’t want to hear buzzwords, they want to hear fun, interesting stories. This could be about you, your business or your customers.
- Take a Stand - Taking a stand means telling your customers a simple message and standing behind it. This could be as simple as “We offer the lowest auto repair in the city.” People trust brands that keep their word, and taking a stand is the first step towards earning that trust.
- Defy Expectations - This is where your marketing should help set your brand apart from the competition. In order for your brand to stand out from the competition, you’ll need to pick some aspect of your business that defies industry expectations a tell that story.
- Focus on Design - While “great” design is somewhat subjective, the design in your marketing collateral should fit it with your brand identity and serve to strengthen it.
Does Branding Require Strategy?
There should definitely be a strategy behind branding your business. More specifically, branding your business requires an effective marketing strategy that fits in with how you plan on going to market. When you lay out a marketing plan, you’ll be able to develop your branding within that framework and effectively get the word out. Here are three basic branding strategy steps that will help you create a basic framework:
- Set Yourself Apart - One of the main goals of branding is to let people know why they should buy from you and not the competition. So think about what sets your business apart, and try to “own” a word. Think about how Volvo owns “Safety” or Coke owns “Enjoy”.
- Know Your Target - Before formulating your branding strategy, you should gather all the information you can about your target demographic. Most importantly, what are their needs or wants and how is your product or service in a unique position to provide value in that regard?
- Develop a Personality - This means going beyond simple mission and vision statements. You want your brand to reflect the personality of your company in an authentic way, so make sure management and employees are all on the same page about what the company stands for. In many cases, branding emerges organically from this process.
Branding Best Practices
The best brands are typically those that are differentiated and stand out from the pack. In today’s world consumers attention spans are shrinking because they are exposed to so many different messages wherever they go. Here are a few best practices to help your business stand out:
- Simplicity - Attention spans are shrinking in today’s digital world, so the more simple and powerful your branding is, the better it will connect with consumers. For example, the homepage of your website should have a simple message about who you are and what you do, avoiding distracting clutter that will confuse new customers.
- Consistency - Regardless of whether or not you’re marketing on the internet, TV, radio or print, your branding should be consistent across all channels. This means that some of the copy on your website should be used in radio ads, the color scheme in your retail space should match your website, etc.
- Recognizability - Finally, make sure to do as much market research on the competition as possible so that your branding will be unique and recognizable. When people come across your branding or marketing, they should instantly become aware of who you are and what you do.
What makes a successful business a brand goes well beyond a cleverly designed logo: it’s a reflection of your company’s values and personality. By following some of the strategies and tactics outlined above, you’ll be on the path to developing a brand that reflects you and your business in a way that will help you develop meaningful, long-term relationships with your customers.