I am sure you have heard the term “branding” thrown about a lot but do you know what it is? I suspect that in some cases you may have had conversations with people that make it seem overly complicated so that they can sell you consulting services. Fact is, you already know plenty about brands. If you think about it; as a consumer you have plenty of experience with brands.
So as a business person, this knowledge can be used by you to create a brand that people can easily identify, get to know and eventually choose.
What Is Branding? How Do I Use it?
Simply explained it is the art of distinguishing a product or a service from their competitors. It creates something that is easy to recognise and that people will remember to react to. Think about some strong brands out there like ‘Apple' they are not the the only tech company out there however they are one of the most identifiable brands in the industry. Or McDonalds there are many, many other burger chains out there however they have worked hard to create a brand that is globally recognized.
Branding gives your business a clear message that people will remember you by. Business with a weak or no brand are simply easily forgotten and will eventually just be another business mixed in with all the others and doesn't stand out from the crowd leading to a sense of invisibility. Catherine Kaputa, in her latest book “Breakthrough Branding” says that branding is all about building a recognizable identity, and associating it with benefits and positive consequences.
One thing that was highlighted very well in the article by Matt Hanses of Uplifting Marketing (“You Don’t Create Your Company’s Brand—You Discover It”). “Too often, people try to ‘dream up’ a brand for their company. Instead, a brand should reflect the company’s business plan, its mission and values. It has to be authentic. Therefore, when you brand a company…you’re trying to capture its core identity.”
It is also important to be clear and honest with your branding, people will eventually see through a misleading brand and that can be very damaging. For example tea and coffee, there are many who like tea and many who prefer or will only drink coffee. There are many who are tea drinkers who may also appreciate a good coffee. However you cannot brand tea as coffee because as soon as you drink it, you would realise it isn't what it says it is. Similarly you can't put an image up and assume people will see it as a brand. It is more the case of presenting the core values and attributes of what that product represents and then presenting that to your market in a strong and reconisable way- now that is a brand.
Remember – Brands Are Emotional
Think about any brand that you are familiar with and ask yourself why you like it? For example with computers there are two very distinct communities those who like PC'S and those who like Apple. The feel of the two id very different from the operating systems to designs. Apple's design and ‘feel' is very unique. Not only is Apple a tech product but it is also a whole experience. Which other company has shops where you make appointments to go to? Or has such well though designs and purposeful clean feel to every apple shop around the world?
With branding what the customer perceives or perhaps want to perceive in themselves has a lot to do with it. It connects to the values that the customers have and what they are comfortable with.
Branding is centered around having ‘the best' service/product. It is to do with the feel, the experience and the image that the brand portrays about having the product or service. People most commonly buy with their emotions. The perceived quality of the products is in the mind of the customer. In order to make a brand powerful you first need to build a strong perception of quality in the minds of you potential clients/customers.
As Al and Laura Reis stated in their book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, two examples they highlighted was…
- Specialization—dealing in a specific type or range of product or service. “Narrow the focus,” say Reis and Reis. “A powerful branding program always starts by contracting the category, not expanding it.”
- A Higher Price Tag—Rolex has been nailing these two points (and others) for over a hundred years. They, as well as Starbucks, are among Forbes’ “The World’s Most Valuable Brands.”
In the book Al and Laura Reis identified 20 more things to know about building a strong brand. However, you can achieve a lot by initially focussing on the first two points.
Entrepreneurs – ‘You Are the Brand'
How do I “brand myself?” Branding yourself means making increasing your visiblility, and communicating personal values and what your stand for, with clarity and consistency. It’s especially important to highlight your uniqueness in some easy to remember way. This is so that people make the connection to you and your products/services in case they need them.
Branding yourself does not mean that you have to pull off the publicity stunts that have made Sir Richard Branson and his brand Virgin readily identifiable and beloved figure. You can create videos and, like Branson, be the founder and the “face” of your company.
Keep in mind that brands are an emotional thing for people so your brand is only as good as your customers who love and appreciate you. So give them a chance to “meet” you. Having a special customer relationship model that’s hard to copy can propel your business growth. According to Guy Kawasaki, enchanted customers elevate your brand, like advocating a good cause. This builds an emotional connection with your customers/clients and gives them a chance to like your message.
(Not only does it create an emotional connection, but statistics show that video—in your emails, landing pages, home page—significantly increases conversion rates as well.)
There’s only one you. Your uniqueness (which is part of what makes your brand) will come across to people through video.
It would be great if entrepreneurship and branding were a science, because it would be simpler that way with a specific formula to follow. It is an ever changing process.
As an entrepreneur you can’t afford to hide behind an impersonal website. Social media s connect your customers to one another, and you, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and is often a place where people will look you up as part of their journey to trusting you and your brand. Because they want to know that you are a real person and see if they like you. So it is important that you take charge of your brand. If you don't someone else will, more than likely not branding you in the way you want to be branded. Do you want the impossible task of undoing a negative brand?
It is important to leave you with the thought that, what people remember is the brand/the name. To build success in the long term you need both a strong brand and high-quality products or services.
Creating a strong brand doesn't have to be complicated. If you view your business as it actually is: your mission; your integrity and ethics; your values; your own personality; what makes you better or different than your competition, and what kind of experience you would like your customers to have.