This post is the first of a four part Spark Series on branding.
In the past few weeks we’ve established that branding is really important for all businesses and that lack of consistency is a pitfall that many brands encounter. But what is a brand exactly? Some people define it as the logo, design and packaging that are associated with a product or service, but the reality is a brand is so much more than that.
Successfully building a brand implies developing a concept surrounding your product or service that evokes certain associations, emotions, and expectations. It does not only relate to the design that you create, but a brand is actually built through every single encounter the consumer has with your product. It encompasses both the physical part of your identity such as your logo and design and the intangible part of your identity, which is the brand personality and values.
How do you build a brand?
Over the next month, I’ll be tackling this immensely important topic through a four part Spark Series on the basics of branding including:
- What is a brand?
- Crafting the perfect brand positioning statement
- Designing a brand
- Developing & implementing your brand strategy
What’s so important about brands?
Brands are powerful and key to developing consumer loyalty. They serve as the basis of the relationship between you and your customers, as a brand sets the stage with the promises you make to them. The more your brand consistently fulfills those promises and relates to their lives and needs, the more loyalty they will feel towards it.
Consumer perceptions are rarely ever made solely based on your product or service. Instead, consumers interpret a full understanding of your products via the brand that you create. No one judges Pepsi as fun, youthful and freedom loving brand simply based on the cola’s taste. Instead, this is an understanding developed via carefully designed packaging, slogans, campaigns, celebrity endorsements and the overall tonality of the brand. (Don’t worry – you don’t need Pepsi’s budget to do the same for your business.)
You can make the best pizza in town, but if the brand you have created to represent your pizza parlour seems dull, tasteless, and old fashioned then it is doubtful you will get much business. The opposite is also true. If your pizza parlour’s branding succeeds in attracting customers with fun, freshness, and promises of great taste but then the pizza is a disappointment in reality, then you can be sure your business will not be sustainable. Brands cannot be smoke and mirrors.
Giving You an Edge
They can, however, put you ahead of the competition. Consumers rarely objectively compare products side by side. Instead, the entire combination of your product offering and branding influences their perception of quality versus your competition. If both products are comparable in quality, the question in the consumer’s mind becomes “which brand best reflects my needs and lifestyle?” When this question is answered, your product is either put ahead of the pack or falls behind.
Brands also increase perceived worth. Massimo Dutti positions itself as a contemporary, sophisticated and upscale fashion brand. Its sister company Zara positions itself as cutting edge, fast, yet affordable high fashion. If labels were removed, I wager it would be difficult to differentiate in terms of style or quality between two items of clothing from these brands, yet through its image Massimo Dutti manages to command a higher price point than Zara. Negative brand image has the opposite effect, of course, and can force prices down.
Branding is crucial, but it’s not a cakewalk
Your brand is the reflection of the experience and effects you are guaranteeing for your consumers. Creating a brand is critical and challenging. The execution of a brand positioning that supports what you have guaranteed should be the driving force behind your strategy.
Small businesses often get so bogged down in setting up the company’s operational model that little time is spent on building the foundations of a strong brand. Without strong brands, businesses don’t survive.
So, where do I start?
To begin your branding journey, you must take the first step: crafting the perfect positioning statement. This will be our topic for next week, so come back next Wednesday and we’ll dive right in!
If you’d like to chat about your branding questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org!