Your company has a name, a logo and perhaps a slogan. But does it have a brand? Branding is one of the most important concepts in marketing, and it goes beyond legal definitions such as trademarks.
As you build your business, being aware of its brand identity will be critical in steering its path. Even if you’re a sole trader, your own personal brand could be key to building a solid reputation.
What branding means
In business, a brand is more than a word – it’s an emotion. It’s the essence of what your customers think of you; their ‘gut reaction’ to your company.
For a brand to be truly successful, it has to live and breathe the values it wants its customers to associate with the business. Brand names may be easy to grasp, but the brand itself is defined by actions, rather than words.
Consider a store like Asda, the British supermarket chain. Asda is owned by US company Wal-Mart, and the two companies work hard to define brand values such as value for money, family and convenience. From the store layout to the advertising, and even the attitude of the staff, the brand is the living, breathing version of the company: the version it wants you to remember.
When you start out in business, it helps to define your unique selling point, or USP. This is the reason your customers will choose your products and services over the competition. It is the beginning of building a brand.
You’ll find it easier to build a brand if you’re offering something new. If your competitor offers cheap shoes, can you offer affordable shoes of a higher quality? Can you specialise in ladies’ formal shoes, or shoes for wedding parties? The niche will define the brand message you need to build.
Your brand will steer your marketing messages and the type of content you create. You’ll need to maintain laser-sharp focus on your ideal customer, and understand what your brand means to them. The brand message will be woven into every press release, every logo tweak and every blog post you create so that it sinks into your customers’ subconscious.
Is your strategy in place?
Every successful business has a marketing budget, but branding goes above and beyond. If your brand is strong enough, you’ll gain effortless referrals from customers who know others in their niche. You’ll retain more customers than you lose, and you’ll find long tail keywords much easier to locate.
When thinking about your brand, don’t think about what your business is. Think about what it means, and why you started the business in the first place. Inspire loyalty to your brand, both from your own staff and the people who spend their money with you.
And don’t forget: once you have a well-defined brand strategy, your customers will depend on you to deliver on the promises you’ve made.