By chris | Tue, 11/22/2016 - 18:31
Before you can go about building a strong brand or transforming your brand into something your current and future clients can’t live without, you need to understand what branding really is.
What is a brand?
In the broadest terms, your brand is the way your customers perceive you.
In “Why Brand Building Is Important,” Scott Goodson states:
“Branding is fundamental. Branding is basic. Branding is essential.”
But what does branding mean? Goodson’s statement suggests, and I would agree, that your brand is the sum of your customers’ perceptions of your company.
Customers develop perceptions about your brand through their interactions with your organization on and offline. Avenues of interaction include, but are not limited to:
- service quality,
- customer service,
- and of course the logo.
A quick illustration of what branding looks like:
One of the earliest uses of branding comes from 2000 BC. Starting in this period, Egyptians began marking their livestock to show ownership. (Though it’s worth noting that some scholars point to instances of “weapons of specific ‘brands’” as early as the stone age.)
But, going back to our ‘marking livestock’ example, I would like you to meet Bessie, she is going to help us illustrate branding. Don’t worry Bessie still roams freely enjoying sun-dappled pastures, juicy grass, mooing, and licking salt.
In this illustration, we know who Bessie belongs to via the identifying mark (logo), but without all the other components, she really is just a cow with a mark on the rear flank.
In this illustration, Bessie is more complete, all of the parts (well most of them), are shown here making her a much more rounded cow… I mean brand.
Saul Bass, an American filmmaker and branding leader has this to say about logos and branding:
“Logos are a graphic extension of the internal realities of a company”
In other words, Branding is a sum of its parts, not just a ‘mark’ on the hind-quarters. Need an example, take a look at some of the work that went into creating the identity and designs for the 2016 North American DrupalCon in New Orleans. Or, better yet, watch the interview where Marketing Gorilla grills me about the process for the upcoming North American DrupalCon in Baltimore.
Now that we know what branding is, let's get back to what we really want to know: what are the key components about branding that you need to know if you want to build a strong brand?
The Principles of Building a Strong Brand
The principles of building a strong brand ultimately come down to understanding why branding is important.
Branding makes you memorable and recognizable. Be consistent.
Consistent branding throughout all your touch points helps bring recognition. Let’s face it, people will do business with and buy from companies they recognize or are familiar with.
Your brand helps you stand out from a crowd. Don’t try to fit in.
With the internet, and global market, you aren’t just competing with local companies. The hype and calls for attention are almost deafening nowadays. A unique and captivating brand will help you be that clear note amongst the global clamour.
Your brand defines your very being. Let your organization’s essence shine through.
From the logo and collateral material to customer service… all of these things tell your (potential) customer who you are. You need to make sure you are putting your best foot forward and telling the story that your customers want to hear and be part of.
Your employees should be your champions. Use your brand to excite and motivate.
A well laid out brand strategy and clearly documented usage and style guide will help your employees understand what makes your company tick, how it speaks, and how it needs to act. Ultimately your employees need to be proud and excited about the brand too, because if they aren’t, it’s going to be hard to convince your customers.
Great branding brings in new customers. Respect and engage your community.
Customers can be your strongest evangelists, a strong brand makes people want to share their experience and recommend it. These days people, eat, sleep, drive, and wear brands. This is where your brand can work for you even when you aren’t even trying, your followers and advocates will promote for you (don’t let them down, though - just ask Volkswagen).
A good brand lets customers know what to expect. Set expectations. Meet them.
A customer should know exactly what to expect each and every time they interact with your brand. It makes them feel comfortable. Keep them happy, and don’t let them down (but if you do, make it right).
Building trust. Your brand is a promise to your customer. Follow through. Deliver on your brand’s promise.
You are the brand, your employees are your brand, all your marketing, and touch points (videos, business cards, letterheads, signage, etc.) are the brand. Examine these assets and see what they say about you and what you are going to deliver to the customer. Your brand is a promise. A promise kept builds trust, and trust is crucial to a strong brand. Good professional design through all your channels is also essential in building trust.
“Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.”
Your brand is a roadmap that keeps you on track. Create a vision. Incorporate it into your brand and let it guide you.
It’s not uncommon to get away from your goals and plans. Straying from the path can happen without you even realizing it. Having a well laid out brand strategy can help you stay aligned with these goals and keep you on the right path.
The brand experience. The emotional effect. Don’t forget to appeal to people’s emotions. Like it or not, we all have feelings.
When customers interact or experience a good brand it can affect them emotionally. Everything is an emotional buy, so a good brand experience helps them feel good about every interaction with your company.
A strong brand adds value to your business. Commit to your brand. It’s not easy to track, but it can help your ROI.
Companies with a strong brand presence are worth far more than the sum of their physical assets. Just look at this chart from B2B International measuring brand value in 2009.
A strong brand can ensure continued business, help facilitate investments or borrowing of funds. At the end of the day the more you put into your brand value, the higher the ROI.
Your brand is important on so many levels, and you should never be satisfied with compromise when it comes to any of its components. Your logo design is the handsome and well-groomed ambassador for your company. However, if the rest of company it represents can’t live up to its image, you may just have a nice logo with a ‘proverbial’ cow attached.