Branding defines your company on a psychological level connecting emotionally with the consumer. Your brand should resonate on a personally with your clients, giving them the sense that you understand their needs/desires. Brand goes beyond just selling your product/service it should sell your company culture. Your brand alone can differentiate you from your competitors in an over-crowded market. (Coke vs. Pepsi, Target vs. Walmart, Levis vs. Wrangler)
Branding should be consistent and apparent in every form of communication for your company. Whether it’s visual imagery or written communication, everything your company does should reflect the overall brand feel. Think of your brand as a mission statement, corporate philosophy or mantra. (Zappos is a great example of company culture permeating into the customer service promise.)
Why focus on brand?
By focusing on your brand you define why you’re the best, what makes you unique and you expand your market potential. Aside from the technical keypoints of your business, your company will take on a personality which can give you the edge with your targeted demographic. Strong brands create loyal customers. This translates to people who will buy your product without considering a cheaper alternative. (Apple, Nike, Prada)
Branding provides the differentiation between the perception of a small business versus a corporation.
Successful branding begins through consumer education and doesn’t happen overnight. Think of it like an exercise program, only through consistent and persistent execution will you begin to see results in the longterm. There are 3 key phases to branding, and not every company makes it to all of the phases.
In the introductory phase or reintroductory phase for existing brands, consumers are first exposed to the brand through consistent use of the logo as well as a recognizable color palette and overall visual and copy style. In this stage, it’s necessary to take every opportunity to keep the logo mark (if any) and logo type together to build the association of the two. The overall marketing communication should be focused on what it is you offer, and what you do better than your competitors. A more direct but creative tagline should be introduced. More importantly, the tagline should appear in all of your marketing efforts at this stage. Consistency is especially key in the early stages, since you’re building an association with all of the elements of your marketing efforts. Think of this phase as the world’s longest first date, especially since you have so many new faces to introduce yourself to.
The retention phase is where you can start to explore the brand culture and do some creative experimenting with the foundation you’ve already established. By this stage, the consumer should be familiar with the company name and what you offer. Your branding efforts should start to focus more on the personality. You can start using the logo mark in unexpected ways, but it’s important to keep the the mark and logo type together at this stage as well. Taglines and messaging can start taking a more creative focus selling abstract ideals versus direct messaging at this point. The key to this phase is reinforcing brand loyalty since your key customers are familiar with your company name and services by this point. This stage can be equated to a relationship you’ve had for a few years, you know them pretty well, but you still aren’t ready to pee with the door open.
The majority of companies don’t make it to the final Pioneering phase. Not due to poor marketing or bad branding, but more to do with the type of industry they are in. This stage is usually reserved to the heavy-hitters that are really associated with a lifestyle/culture choice. (Apple, Nike, Coke) This is stage where the majority of the marketing focuses solely on reminding everyone about the company name. A lot of times the logomark is all that’s necessary, since consumers are so familiar with the company even if they aren’t a fan. Often consumers don’t know why they like one product over another, but they are dedicated fans. Experimentation is key to this phase. Have fun with the brand while never losing site of what you’re company is about. This would be the friend that you trust and can complete their sentences. You feel like you’ve known them for years, and maybe you have.
In the end, your brand is your company’s personality. Just as you value friends that you can trust and rely on through the years because you know them, your company will become a brand that your customers will learn to trust and rely on over the years.
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