Although branding is important for long-term growth, expansion, and success of any company, very few people really understand what it means. Well, branding is basically making your business stand out in the crowd, where people will be able to relate certain products or services exclusively to your company, despite you having many competitors.
Unlike marketing, where your main focus will be to attract the customer for the first time, branding is more about making your company name memorable in their minds. You can consider your branding efforts to be successful, when people immediately picture your company logo and taglines, whenever your products or services are mentioned.
There are as many definitions of branding, yet only a handful of companies are able to create a brand that keeps attracting customers.
Why is branding important?
If you want to create a successful brand for your company, there are many ways to look at it.
Here is a useful way to think about branding:
- When people hear your company’s name, what will be their first thought?
- When people see two similar products, why would they pick your brand over the other?
Instead of haggling over the exact meaning of how to brand a company, if you think about it in terms of answering the above questions, you will spend your time more wisely.
Whatever brand you create, it must evoke trust among customers. People will only buy a product that they trust. You will want people to actively gravitate towards your brand, so that you can sell more products and maximize your profits.
Take a look at some of the most successful companies in any field (preferably the ones in similar business domain to yours). You will find that their customers instantly recognize their name. You will often hear the phrase to the effect of, “you can’t go wrong with ‘xx’ company.”
Once you identify the reasons why their brand is so trusted by customers, you will find a lot of answers for branding your company successfully. Here are some key points that can help you create a lasting brand that people will trust.
- What do your customers want?
Before you start your branding exercise, you will want to know about what your customers want from you. No matter how great your branding efforts are. If your products do not match their expectations, then you will have a hard time profiting in the long term.
Here are some key things you will want to learn about:
- What kind of demographic does your product cater to (young, senior citizens, kids, middle class, etc.)?
- What is your value proposition (better price, higher quality, reliability, etc.)?
- How much are your potential customers willing to pay for the product?
A modest amount of market research will answer those questions for you, and give you the vital cues about where to start with branding your business. A brand for luxury products will definitely be different from that of budget ones.
- What do you have?
If you have the perfect product that has all the qualities without any compromises, then you can let it speak for your brand to quite and extent. However in reality, you will have to make the appeasements, because your customer needs also keep changing.
What you will want to know is:
- What are the limitations of your products, when compared to those of your competitors
- What are the strong points that make your product better than others
- How does the disparity impact your product sales
The question is how to brand a company with the existing variations in what you and your competitors have to offer. To start with, you will obviously have to highlight your strong points. However, it will give you only a limited period to buffer your weaknesses. Even if your customers still choose your products, they will eventually see through your branding strategy. Therefore, companies always try to improve their products in order to plug the loopholes, and add more value to their customers.
Ideally, your brand should tell people about your priorities, and you will need to be transparent about it, so they can trust your company.
- Branding before marketing
As you keep introducing new products and services, you will have to develop new marketing campaigns to give them the required exposure. Now, different products require different types of push.
Some of them will need greater presence on news media, while others will rely more on PPC campaigns, or email marketing. Even as you utilize different platforms to market your product, you want to make sure that your marketing is always in line with your branding.
For example, if you are selling a luxury product, you will not want to send emails to every address you have in your database, because that would corrupt your brand.
Know your customers well, before you sell your brand. Therefore, you must narrow down the focus of your marketing, exclusively to those who will actually buy your products.
- Picking the right channels
Most company branding tips today given by the so called mainstream experts involves bombarding all platforms with marketing, so that the customers will notice. However, as statistics prove, this is only a road to disaster. First of all, you should take stock of the platforms that are available to you for branding.
- Television advertising
- Web ads
- In app advertising on mobile devices
- Social networks (Facebook, twitter, Google+)
- Video platforms (YouTube, Vine, Vimeo)
- Your own website
Now, if you are a small company, taking on all the above platforms for your branding will spread you too thin. Therefore when you are starting out, pick two platforms that you believe will give your business the best exposure. This again depends on what demographic you are targeting for your brand.
- Brand standards and guidelines
Your brand will eventually be present on all the major platforms including Facebook, Twitter, newsletters, emails and what not. If you want your customers to recognize the brand instantly, there needs to be a consistency among various platforms. You therefore have to form some strong standards and guidelines for your brand.
- How the logo is placed in your ads, letter heads, emails etc.
- What color themes are used across all your web properties, including social networking pages
- The font face and size used, relative to the size of the logo
- Where your tagline goes in every message
These standards will be uniform on all your communication, so your customers will always know that it is from your company, whether they receive a flyer, an email, or if they visit your website. Having consistent brand guidelines is one of the most important business branding tips that you will need to adopt.
- Propagate your brand through social media
You were told above that you have to pick one or two platforms first to start your branding efforts. One of those has to be online social networks. That is because more than half of your potential customers are probably on Facebook or Twitter. These are the best platforms currently to spread brand awareness quickly.
Of course, you are not the only company who is going to use social media to promote the brand. What will set you apart from the others are the contents, and the ways in which you communicate with your followers. You might want to hire a social media expert to help you leverage the platform for building maximum awareness.
- Reinforcing your brand through website
Even though your web presence will be spread across social networks and blogs, your website will still be the anchor. It will be the central place, from where the customers will be able to buy your products. Therefore, it is important that you use the website as your primary branding exercise:
- See to it that the design of your website strongly adheres to your branding standards
- Make sure that your site interaction is fluid, and it reflects your website’s values
Too many small businesses ignore the importance of a professional website that works smoothly and helps customers. A great website will help increase your brand visibility, and earn you higher positions on search engine rankings.
- Keeping it consistent
When branding your company, it is important to remember that your brand as a whole will have to rise above any individual product.
You might have a new product that is radically different from others, for better or worse. Still, you will need to make sure that your customers get the very same feel and experience that your most successful existing products give to them.
When customers find the same reliability, feeling and trust when using multiple products from your company, your brand only gets strengthened more.
As you progress along, you will notice that even small design choices for your product will be informed by your branding strategy.
- A standout logo
The most obvious way that company brands are recognized by people, is by their logo. Two companies may have the same name, but never the same logo. Your logo does not just differentiate your brand from others, but it should evoke feelings among customers.
Your logo should:
- Reflect your core value (simplicity, energy, reliability, variety, speed etc., pick one)
- Be distinctive (You can refer to other logos as inspiration, but never copy them even remotely)
- Translate well to different media (billboards, emails, web properties, etc.)
Creating a good logo should be the first tangible step towards building a good brand for your company.
- A concise and clear slogan
Coming up with a clear slogan that will advocate your core value is more difficult than it seems. There are entire departments in marketing companies that are tasked for simply coming up with effective tag lines. Here are some of the things that make a tagline stick to your brand, and helps in gaining recognition:
- It addresses your customer needs
- It matches in feel with your logo
- It conveys precisely one vision (e.g. A computer in every home, Microsoft)
Even though it is single line content, coming up with a good tagline takes time and efforts. It requires that you have clear-cut goals and values. The part about how to brand a company by using consumer expectations and your own strengths rings very true here.
All of these steps might seem like too much for a small business that is just starting out and wanting to create a compelling brand. However, when you have enough information and have a clear vision, the rest of the steps are just details of implementation, and they will get easier.