For those of you who don’t yet quite understand the whole concept of branding, as good a place as any to start is with how the American Marketing Association defines the word: “Name, term, sign, symbol, design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.”
In simpler terms, branding is the art of creating a name for yourself that sets you apart from the herd. You want to not only strive to have your target market choose you over the competition, but you also want them to see you as the only one who can provide the product, service, feeling, or solution they desire. If not the only one, then at least embrace the fact that what you offer makes you the better choice.
For example, take a look at some wildly popular brands. What comes to mind when you think of tissue? Kleenex, of course! Kleenex has done such a stellar job of branding that Kleenex has practically replaced the word tissue in the English language. Ditto with Windex. Do you need to clean your windows? Most don’t say, “I need glass cleaner.” They say, “Hand me the Windex.” H&R Block is another company that’s done an excellent job of branding over the years. Where else does one get their taxes prepared? And Google is pretty much synonymous with “search” and has, purposefully and smartly I presume, become an action verb as much or more than it is a tool for basically living one’s life.
Get it? This stuff works.
Can you imagine what it would feel like to have that sort of sway over consumer decisions? Heady stuff, isn’t it? Can you hear that money machine going ka-ching, ka-ching?
So perhaps your product or service will never replace a word in the English language. Nonetheless, shooting for the stars is the best way to assure that you will at least make a name for yourself, one that won’t easily be forgotten. To secure this lofty state requires marketing smarts, time and research, passion, perhaps a little luck … and did I mention sticktuativeness? Those ingredients can go a long way toward making sure that the brand you choose perfectly exemplifies your company, its offering and its goals.
The benefits? You are uppermost in the minds of your customers — current and potential. You gain customer loyalty as your image and brand grow and become more stable. Consumers pay for images. Pay you.
Branding A Small Business
Can one successfully brand a small business? Absolutely. In addition to Google during its beginnings, another great example is Starbucks. Utilizing almost zero advertising over their first decade, they developed such a strong brand that their competitors got the shakes, and today are all pretty much just lumped together products in the Big Guy’s rear-view mirror. (And these competitors are not closer than they seem or would have you believe.) From Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks, “A great brand raises the bar — it adds a greater sense of purpose to the experience, whether it’s the challenge to do your best in sports and fitness or the affirmation that the cup of coffee you’re drinking really matters.”
A blogpost concerning branding wouldn’t be complete without reference to the importance of effective Internet outreach. Checking all the boxes for creating your brand wouldn’t be worth two hoots and holler without, in today’s world, the creation of a robust online presence. Your unique online charisma is key to growing awareness of and demand for your products and services.
Internet branding is far more than slapping together a website, folding in your brand elements, and being satisfied with your logo and persona. Attractive, logical, and clean website design is critical to engaging visitors. Ease of use is essential. Well-written, compelling web copy is a plus. If your branding is solid, but your website is cattywampus, your visitors will be clicking onto competitors’ sites faster than a politician accepting a check and blaming others.
Thanks in no small part to cyberspace, competition in the business world is stiffer than ever. Nevertheless, if you do your homework, if you create a brand that is strong, clear, concise, memorable, and impressive, with a growing reputation to back it up and a social media presence that is strong and appealing, before you know it you will have customers beating a path to your door.