Before I get into what effective branding is and why it is so important, I feel it’s probably best to first define what a brand actually is. If you ask most people they will probably say things like ‘It’s your logo, your colours and your website”… some may even go further and say “it’s the words you use and your tone of voice” …or “it’s what people say about you in reviews and testimonials”.
What is a brand?
Essentially, your brand is every possible thing that effects the way people perceive your company. This includes you as a person, how you talk, behave and even how you dress. Furthermore, it may appear that not all of your brand perception is within your immediate control. The famous quote states “your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what google says it is”. So things such as where google ranks your site in its search engine and how it views the user experience of your website all tie into the effectiveness of your brand.
Effective branding is one of the cornerstones of any viable marketing strategy whether you want to grow or simply keep hold of your customers. It creates an enduring perception in the minds of your customers and helps you stand out from your competitors. Beyond just a great logo, good branding increases the value of your company, provides your business with a purpose and a sense of direction, and makes winning new customers easier.
The world’s best brands
When you think of the world’s best and most memorable brands, you’re likely to think of Apple, Coca Cola or McDonalds. These are examples of great brands that have permeated our culture and have really got into our heads. But why? Well, let’s look at Apple first.
Since the 80’s, Apple has been synonymous with quality, luxury and simplicity.
The language and tone of voice Apple uses is not one of technical detail and rarely do they talk about their products in terms of features and benefits.
Instead, their adverts focus on the effects their products have on people and, crucially, how their products make people look. This creates a sense that if you are an Apple user, you are part of a cool club of people who are ‘in the know’ and have the best products in the world. This may not all be true but consider this: What other company has thousands of people camping outside their stores overnight in order to pick up a pre-ordered product?
What can we learn from the best brands?
Bringing things back to earth for a moment, what lessons can small companies or startups take from the success of Apple’s brand? Without the funding to hire large branding agencies and with limited resources, businesses often make common branding mistakes. These include things such as not defining clear brand guidelines, which in turn neglects to give potential customers a strong first impression.
Many companies get lost in the details of what their products or services are and what they do. Instead, you should be thinking about what your customers feel when they buy from you. What emotional states are you creating within your customers and what does that mean for them (not you). Beyond this, most businesses fail to consistently brand themselves across multiple channels and platforms.
Think about McDonalds and how you pretty much have the same customer experience in every restaurant. From the way each restaurant looks, to what’s on the menu and how your food looks when it arrives. McDonalds have mastered the art of consistent branding.
Your Brand and Value
You should be producing value with whatever you do. You don’t have to be Apple to have an amazing product. Even lower end products can produce a lot of value to customers.
When thinking about the value that you can add, ask questions like;
- What sets your product, service and company apart from your competitors? What is the “Unique Selling Point” (“USP”)?
- What value do you provide and how does that value differ from that provided by your competitors?
- How do these benefits tap into your customer’s emotions?
- Is what I’m producing for my customer that is giving enough value for the price I’m charging?
- Is my brand in sync with how I’m marketing myself?
Remember, you are as much a part of your brand as anything else and Personal Branding should be a large part of everything you do. It should be weaved into your life. It shouldn’t just be in the clothes you wear but in your every action with friends and business colleagues.