A brand is a visual and psychological statement about what your business stands for – the way in which you want your clients and prospects to associate your company and its products and service. To sum it up, a brand details who you are, what you do, and how you do it.
Having a brand MUST precede your marketing plans, as it helps you set your business goals as well as focusing on what is needed to deliver quality product and service to satisfy your customers’ perception of your business.
Creating a brand should ideally take place when starting out in a business – when the business plan is being formulated. But, it can take place at any phase of a business’s lifespan – especially when an evaluation is deemed necessary. It can be a “business makeover” if you like!
The core of a business brand incorporates the business’s name and its logo, as it is these 2 elements which are used in all advertising and other communication methods. Your business card, letterhead, signs, uniforms, invoices – these are all expressions of your business brand. Another vital element is your slogan, if you decide to have one.
NOTE: As social media grows in importance, the way in which branding works is undergoing significant change. It’s no longer completely up to the company to build its brand – increasingly it is prospects and customers who have the power to influence how a brand is perceived.
Never has the concept of “word of mouth” been more important than it is today. Already, new terms are being used to describe marketing approaches:
- Inbound Marketing, meaning drawing the customer or prospects towards one’s company and products via positive feedback and perceptions
- Outbound Marketing, the traditional way of telling customers what they should think and feel about your company and its products and services.
Nevertheless, you must have a branding plan in place to guide the initial impressions you convey “out there”.
What is a Branding Strategy?
This is not some tangible product or display your customers and prospects can see, but rather the image they form of your business – that which makes your products and services attractive to them. That image must be consistent whether they see your advertisements, look at your business card or letterhead, or visit your website or blog. Or your store or office.
It’s much more than just a logo or a name, it is a crucial part of your business which ultimately represents your business identity, and is truly essential when you are starting out. Having a strong brand means that people recognize what you offer and believe in what that is.
This is a way of communicating the difference between you and other, existing businesses that are in competition with you. Your brand must be easily grasped and remembered by potential customers. What you offer them must appear to be unique.
It takes into account:
- Nature of Business
Evaluate the nature of your business and the distinct attributes and images it wants to convey to the market. Know what your target market is and tailor your brand to that. Knowing who you need to communicate with can guide your choice of name and image that will produce the best results.
- Type of Service
Elements such as your business name, your logo, slogan, corporate colours are abstract things. The critical aspect in establishing a workable brand is the experience that your customer has with your product or service – an emotional and physical experience that will establish your brand in their minds.
Review and Management
A brand is not a static thing – it needs to undergo a review process from time to time. Your brand’s marketing approach must take into account how consumers’ needs and demands change over time. Especially, the type of feedback you receive from your social media marketing efforts.
Here are some aspects one should consider:
• your product benefits and features (there might be new products which must be evaluated)
• market competition
• changing customer needs and demands
• the marketing methods you use. Media is constantly changing and should be evaluated for suitability.
Whether you call it Branding or Corporate Identity, the ultimate success of your business depends largely on employing an effective – and accurate – business branding strategy.