What Is Branding?
To understand branding, it is important to know what brands are. A brand is the personality of a business. In fact, you can use the well-understood word “personality” as a direct substitute for “brand”. That instantly clarifies the meaning. Branding is a set of marketing and communication methods that help to distinguish a company or products from competitors, aiming to create a lasting impression in the minds of customers.
Advertising professionals work on branding not only to build brand recognition, but also builds good reputation and a set of standards which the company should strive to maintain or surpass. Branding is an important part of Internet commerce, as branding allows companies to build their reputations as well as expand beyond the original product and service, and add to the revenue generated by the original brand.
When working on branding, or building a brand, companies that are using web pages and search engine optimization have a few details to work out before being able to build a successful brand. Coordinating domain names and brand names are an important part of finding and keeping visitors and clients, as well as branding a new company. Coordination of a domain name and brand names lends identification to the idea or image of a specific product or service, which in turn lets visitors easily discovery the new brand.
Branding is also a way to build an important company asset, which is a good reputation. Whether a company has no reputation, or a less than stellar reputation, branding can help change that. Branding can build an expectation about the company services or products, and can encourage the company to maintain that expectation, or exceed them, bringing better products and services to the marketplace.
What Should a Brand Do?
Comparison shopping involves more than just checking prices. Most shoppers also are concerned with the quality of the product and trustworthiness of a company. Does this company offer an exceptional product? Do they stand by their goods? Do their products earn positive reviews? Depending on how important the purchase is, a customer may ask all of these questions and more of each business that offers a product they want.
Of course, a complete investigation into every business is time-consuming, and even the shrewdest customer only has so much time. They’ll skip the investigation if they see a quick and informative answer to their questions.
Branding is not just about getting your target market to select you over the competition. It’s also about getting your prospects to see you as the sole provider of a solution to their problem or need. In its essence, branding is a problem-solver. A good brand should do the following:
- Clearly deliver a message
- Confirm the brand’s credibility in the marketplace
- Emotionally connect target prospects with a product or service
- Motivate the buyer to make a purchase
- Create user loyalty
Branding and Understanding Your Customer
To succeed in branding, you must understand the needs and wants of your customers and prospects. You can achieve this by integrating your brand strategies throughout your company at every point of public contact.
Think of branding as though your company or organization were a living, breathing person. Imagine this person explaining who they are, why they’re valuable, and what they specifically have to offer.
As consumers begin to identify with you, your brand will live in the hearts and minds of customers, clients, and prospects, and they’ll connect on an emotional level.
The Importance of Branding and the 3 Key Questions
Your brand is the source of a promise to your consumer. If you, are billing yourself as the manufacturer of the longest-lasting body spray, your brand has to live up to that.
It’s important to spend time investigating, defining, and building your brand.
In developing a strategic marketing plan, your brand serves as a guide to understanding the purpose of your key business objectives and enables you to align the plan with those objectives. Branding doesn’t just count during the time before the purchase—the brand experience has to last to create customer loyalty. You can create that by answering these three questions:
- Did the product or service perform as expected?
- Was the quality as good as promised or better?
- Was the entire customer experience positive?
If you, can get positive answers to these three questions, you’ve created a loyal customer.
Beyond Loyal Customers
Branding not only creates loyal customers, but it also creates loyal employees. A quality brand gives people something to believe in and something to stand behind. It helps employees understand the purpose of the organization they work for. They feel like they’re a part of something significant and not just a cog in a wheel.
A Basic Checklist to Evaluate Your Brand
How do you know if your brand is strong enough to give you the internal and external value that you need? Start by asking yourself the following:
- Does the brand relate to my target audience? Will they instantly “get it” without too much thought?
- Does the brand share the uniqueness of what I am offering and why it’s important?
- Does the brand reflect the promise made to my target audience and hold value for my internal audience?
- Does the brand reflect the values that I want to represent to my customers?
Let these questions serve as a guideline in the development of your brand. If you, are not sure about the answers then you may want to revamp your branding efforts.
When developing a brand campaign, companies work to increase customers’ awareness of their reputation. This involves communicating what the company does and how well it does it, and providing a way to bring that information to mind in an instant.
This instant aspect might be communicated through a logo that appears on all company material—product packaging, company website, business cards and stationery, e-mail address, and (for slogans) phone answering system. The brand name/logo should be ubiquitous, so that customers associate the company and its reputation with every product and service that company provides.
Brand marketing is as much about product quality as it is about communication, with poor product quality, affecting a customer’s perception of a brand is far more than good quality can. This attention to quality must extend to every aspect of the company’s interaction with customers, including the company website and social-media activity.
Internet marketing of a brand cannot be done as an afterthought, with little investment; any deficiency will reflect on the company’s reputation, and all its products and services.
Setting goals for brand marketing involves identifying what the company desires to be known for, and then developing a consistent message across multiple advertising channels. Is the company innovative? Energetic? Rugged? Creative? Sophisticated? The personality or character of the company brand should resonate with the core values of the target customer.
Brand campaigns should have a number of defined and measurable objectives.
For example, a company may want their brand to represent industry leadership/innovation (as measured by media references to that effect). Seeking to accomplish this objective, marketers might create press releases, publish articles, and use social media to highlight company research and development efforts.
An athletics equipment company, on the other hand, may wish their brand to represent “triumph.” They might use social media like Twitter or Facebook to announce what awards they’ve won, or to follow the achievements of athletes who use their products. The fans who follow these athletes will identify the athletes’ successes with the name of the brand they represent.
An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. But what exactly does “branding” mean? Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.
Are you the innovative maverick in your industry? Or the experienced, reliable one? Is your product the high-cost, high-quality option, or the low-cost, high-value option? You can’t be both, and you can’t be all things to all people. Who you are should be based to some extent on who your target customers want and need you to be.
The foundation of your brand is your logo. Your website, packaging and promotional materials–all of which should integrate your logo–communicate your brand.
Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages. Where you advertise is part of your brand strategy. Your distribution channels are also part of your brand strategy. And what you communicate visually and verbally is part of your brand strategy, too.
Consistent, strategic branding leads to a strong brand equity, which means the added value brought to your company’s products or services that allows you to charge more for your brand than what identical, unbranded products command. The most obvious example of this is Coke vs. a generic soda. Because Coca-Cola has built a powerful brand equity, it can charge more for its product–and customers will pay that higher price.
The added value intrinsic to brand equity frequently comes in the form of perceived quality or emotional attachment. For example, Nike associates its products with star athletes, hoping customers will transfer their emotional attachment from the athlete to the product. For Nike, it’s not just the shoe’s features that sell the shoe.
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:
- What is your company’s mission?
- What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
- What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
- What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?
Do your research. Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.
Once you’ve defined your brand, how do you get the word out? Here are a few simple, time-tested tips:
- Get a great logo: Place it everywhere.
- Write down your brand messaging: What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should be aware of your brand attributes.
- Integrate your brand: Branding extends to every aspect of your business–how you answer your phones, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your e-mail signature, everything.
- Create a “voice” for your company that reflects your brand: This voice should be applied to all written communication and incorporated in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off. Is your brand friendly? Be conversational. Is it ritzy? Be more formal. You get the gist.
- Develop a tagline: Write a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand.
- Design templates and create brand standards for your marketing materials: Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. You don’t need to be fancy, just consistent.
- Be true to your brand: Customers won’t return to you–or refer you to someone else–if you don’t deliver on your brand promise.
- Be consistent: This tip involves all the above and is the most important tip on this list. If you, can’t do this, your attempts at establishing a brand will fail.