What Is Branding Anyway?
Branding is something that large companies do, isn't it?
It doesn't apply to a small business like mine, or does it?
Yes, it does, not only does it apply but it's pivotal to your success, let me explain. First a definition of branding:
A name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of these that identifies the goods or services of one seller or group of sellers and differentiates them from the competition. Kotler et al. (1999)
Think of branding as what sets you apart (differentiates) from your competitors.
There are recognizable or tangible elements such as your logo, livery, signs, email, brochures, and stationery, but equally important is the interaction or experience your customers have with your company. Every time you interact with a customer, this has an impact on how they perceive your brand.
How do we set ourselves apart from our competitors?
Simply, we create unique brand interactions and positive experiences and combine this with consistency across all the tangible elements to ensure we are portraying the required image to our customers at all times.
This process is how branding can help you achieve your business goals.
Don’t Start With Your Logo
Ok, so you’re just starting with a new business, you need someone to design a great logo and some business cards, and you’re all set, right? This is perhaps one of the great misconceptions about branding.
Think about the Titanic, how did it sink?
It was torn open tragically by an iceberg.
It wasn’t the white bit of ice above sea level that tore the hole, but the huge great ice mountain that was lurking beneath the waves.
So what does the iceberg have to do with creating my brand? Think of your new brand as that iceberg. There is a bit of it that can be seen, about 10%, but so much more that cannot.
With your new brand the logo, your business cards, and all the other visible elements make up the tip of the iceberg, but there is so much more going on beneath the surface that can’t be seen, these are the experiences, touch-points, values and intangible elements that make up your brand.
It is these elements that shape your customer’s view of your business, so they deserve a great deal of attention.
Remember, your ultimate aim should be to position your brand in a unique space inside your customer’s minds so when they need your product or service you are their 'go-to’ brand.
The five steps are the starting point on which to achieve this position for your new brand.
Plan Your Brand In Five Easy Steps
So how do I create my brand?
Start by reflecting on the following five questions and make sure you write the answers, if you are a solo entrepreneur ask people around you for feedback/insight, this can be especially helpful for sense-checking your answers.
- Who is the brand being created for? Be as specific as you can about your target audience: Demographics, geographic location, lifestyle, likes, and dislikes.
- What is their problem or need? Focus on the need only at this stage.
- How does your product/service solve the problem? Write a statement of the key benefit? How does what you do solve the problem in question 2?
- Who are the major competitors? Write them down, and evaluate how they try to set themselves apart in the marketplace.
- What makes you different? Why should your customers choose you? Be honest with yourself, your points of difference are vital to the success of your new brand.
Once you have completed the five steps, you will have a clearer understanding of your new brand’s raison d’être (reason for being). Who your target audience is and what the differentiators are that set you apart from the competition.
Armed with this information, you can then think about how you want your target customers to think/feel about your brand and how your brand will be positioned relative to your competitors.
Then, and only then, should you define how the brand should look.
"Your ultimate aim should be to position your brand in a unique space inside your customer’s mind so when they need your product or service you are their 'go to’ brand".
Remember that it is the experiences your customers have with your business that define the associations with your brand in their minds, so make sure all elements of the customer journey are carefully planned, and managed and that your brand is represented consistently, in both the visible and non-visible aspects of what you do.