Somebody has told me that there’s a book out there claiming that branding is only for Apple. Are they serious? I can’t stop laughing!
I have not read the book, and I, of course, will not. I appreciate other people’s opinion and insights, but judging from the title, it has to be a joke. Right?
The issue that arises, though, is the idea that branding is only for the likes of Apple or Fortune 500 companies. I cannot believe that anyone could possibly buy into this preposterous idea.
I decided to do some research on the topic of branding to try and understand its quintessential essence:
We’re interested in online branding, though:
Internet branding or Online branding is a kind of Brand management on the Internet. In the Internet space, branding means creating a great user experience. Internet branding moves beyond logo, tagline, key messages and graphic identity into the customer’s real-time interaction with the brand, for the entirety of the online experience.
In this new world of branding, the Internet has become more than a gimmick or a mere line item on the communications budget. It can now play a pivotal role in enhancing brand relationships and corporate reputations.
Here is a further article from About.com/marketing:
The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol or 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.
Therefore it makes sense to understand that branding is not about getting your target market to choose you over the competition, but it is about getting your prospects to see you as the only one that provides a solution to their problem.
The objectives that a good brand will achieve include:
- Delivers the message clearly
- Confirms your credibility
- Connects your target prospects emotionally
- Motivates the buyer
- Concretes User Loyalty
To succeed in branding you must understand the needs and wants of your customers and prospects. You do this by integrating your brand strategies through your company at every point of public contact.
Your brand resides within the hearts and minds of customers, clients, and prospects. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions, some of which you can influence, and some that you cannot.
A strong brand is invaluable as the battle for customers intensifies day by day. It’s important to spend time investing in researching, defining, and building your brand. After all your brand is the source of a promise to your consumer. It’s a foundational piece in your marketing communication and one you do not want to be without.
Ok, so let’s put this into a scenario. Let’s say that we have a company called XYZ. They’re a marketing agency. Their main competitor is a company called ABC. Let’s pretend they’re targeting John at IQD. Both companies have a good website. XYZ has interesting topical articles with insights and tips. ABC doesn’t have an updated blog, just a select amount of articles that have spelling and grammar mistakes in them. Now, let’s say XYZ sends a thank you letter to John at IQD for his business. The package includes an envelope with XYZ’s logo, and details of their email address and website. When John opens the envelope, he sees a printed letter on special paper that is beautifully formatted and designed. ABC also sends a thank you letter to John. The envelope doesn’t include their logo, and when John opens the letter, he sees normal paper with a nicely designed header. The content is the same, but this letter has a small spelling mistake.
John is judging these two companies, consciously and subconsciously. XYZ appears to be a professional company. They seem to care about their clients, know what they’re doing, and are stylish and professional. The ABC company on the other hand, does not come off as well for John. They seem a good but cheap company. They want sales without trying. For John, reading these two letters, whether they have a three or five digit domain name doesn’t matter to him. It’s the quality experience that counts. Quality is just as much about content as it is about presentation.
To show your clients that your company provides quality products and services, you have to show them from the inside and the outside. To read about this in further detail, have a look at my previous article, Quality Without Content is Pointless.
This issue is all about branding.
Here is my current Twitter account:
My Twitter account features designs, consistency and quality content from IQD. This is branding.
Here is Adam’s profile:
Can you see the difference? Adam’s Twitter account is blank. Yes, it is full of quality content but there is no branding anywhere on his page.
If you cannot tell the difference between these two Twitter accounts, I think you may be in the wrong industry, and you should probably stop reading this article. The difference between branding and a lack of it really is that painfully obvious.
So why is branding so important?
- Create a difference, be unique, be yourself. And in this case I will use a cliche saying, everybody else is taken. (Article From DesignCounsil)
Branding is a way of highlighting what makes you different. You want to show why your brand is better and more desirable than anyone else’s
Effective branding elevates a product or organisation from being just one product amongst many identical products, to becoming something with a unique character and promise. It creates an emotional resonance in the minds of consumers who choose products and services using both emotional and pragmatic judgements.
Let’s look at Rachel’s Organic Butter, for example. The brand chose black for its packaging design so it would stand out from the typical yellow, gold and green colours (representing sunshine and fields) that are used by competitor products. The result is that the brand appears more premium, distinctive and perhaps even more daring than its competitors.
- Add value, to EVERYTHING
People are generally willing to pay more for a branded product than they are for something which is largely unbranded. And a brand can be extended through a whole range of offers too.
Tesco, for example, began life as a simple economic supermarket. It now sells a wide range of products, from furniture to insurance. A consistent application of the Tesco brand attributes, such as ease of access and low price, has ultimately allowed the business to move into new market sectors without changing its core brand identity.
This obviously adds value to the business, but this also works at the consumerist level as well. Consumers see added value in the new services thanks to their existing associations with the Tesco brand.
Of course, this can work in reverse too: if consumers don’t like the Tesco brand in one product area, they’re less likely to choose the company’s offer in another product area.
Here is a brilliant article on branding, by Marketing Donut. I would highly recommend that you read it (not now, obviously. But after you finish reading this). Here are some important and valuable insights that this article presents:
So how can I convince you that branding matters – whether you are a window cleaner, a solicitor or run a restaurant?
Perhaps the first thing to do is to tackle the wording. If you were to replace the word “branding” with “reputation” I might get your attention. You care about your reputation, right?
This is the word I was looking for: REPUTATION.
There are many small firms that have seen real financial benefits as a result of improving their brand. Fiona Humberstone, managing director of Flourish Studios, has worked with many one-man-bands and small businesses. “For instance, we’ve just worked with a plumber on his logo,” reveals Fiona. “He used it on some new business cards which he distributed in his area and immediately got three new jobs. We’ve also helped a management consultant with her branding. We redesigned her proposal document as well as providing a new logo and website. As a result, every proposal that she has made this year has been accepted – a 100% success rate.”
“Many small business owners I meet think that brands are something that only large companies need or can afford,” says Bryony Thomas of Clear Thought Consulting. “But your company name, the way you answer the phone, what your customers say when they’re asked about you – these things all build to create an impression of your company and what it’s like to do business with you – and that is your brand. So, you can either just let whatever impression you give happen haphazardly, or you can take control and manage it to your advantage.”
One small firm that has benefited by developing its brand is Gradwell, the Bath-based small business ISP. “I tended to pick marketing up on the rainy days, and then drop it again. I’d never really given it much focus,” reveals managing director, Peter Gradwell. “We had grown organically among tech enthusiasts, but knew that for major growth we’d need to appeal much more widely.”
There are so many articles out there on branding. Literally thousands. My point here is that branding is very, VERY important. If you embrace the idea of branding, as well as employing excellent quality of content and service, your bank account will reap the benefits. Branding is essential for success.
So, in response to the initial statement (joke?) that I was confronted with, branding is most certainly not just for Apple or for Fortune 500 companies. Branding is for every company. SMEs must understand that it is vital to embrace and understand branding. This is a colossal topic, but I hope that I outlined how and why offline and online branding is of the utmost important.
If you care about your reputation, you will take action today, not tomorrow.