What is a brand?
This is a non-academic, straightforward definition. A brand helps you recognize something internal. In the case of marketing, branding helps customers recognize companies for the values they represent. The brand tells a customer what they should expect and what they are going to get.
Why is brand important?
Crafting a brand isn’t just for big companies anymore.
At every level, your choice of brand identity can substantially affect how customers see you and how often or how much they buy from you.
Great branding sells more, commanding greater loyalty from existing customers and helping new customers trust you more readily. Branding helps you dominate your market.
It’s way more than a logo.
Think of a very attractive person. Sure they look great but that doesn’t tell you what is going on inside their minds or what the believe or worship. Their face won’t tell you these things. Their beautiful face is just the surface but it doesn’t tell you who they are or what they’ll do. That internal belief and purpose is what we mean by “brand.”
Branding is owning psychological real estate
Think of a popular dark carbonated popular drink. Chances are you think of Coca Cola or Pepsi. Think of a fast-food chain. Chances are you choose Burger King or McDonald’s as options.
These companies are successful because their brands have become synonymous with what they sell. They “own” or dominate certain psychological concepts on a massive scale.
When customers have a want or desire for a product or service, you want them to think of your brand first. The job in branding is to own a piece of psychological real estate in the customer’s mind.
Think of a vacuum cleaner brand. Think of a coffee chain. Think of a pizza chain. Whoever comes up first in your mind is the company that “owns” that piece of psychological real estate.
How to own psychological real estate?
1. Be the thing your customers love
2. Be ubiquitous
3. Pin your brand on a unique identity
4. Live up to the image in your actions, word, and deed
5. Be consistent
Be Something Your Customers Love
You need to associate your company, services, products, and business with a set of values that make customers want to buy from you. It’s about being what your customers want you to be. And that means research. We call this INSIGHT. The problem is most people don’t know what to do with research. They don’t understand how to apply it. That’s one thing we do well.
What are your customers looking for? What do they love about you? Why do they buy from you? Why do they choose you instead of the competition? What’s your company’s personality’? What Beliefs do you represent? Why type of Culture do you offer?
Answering these questions is crucial to crafting a brand that creates an emotional connection with your customers.
Your customer must see you often enough to become aware of your brand and to make a brand association that connects you with the piece of psychological real estate you want to own. Instagram, Facebook, and other Social Media is a very cost-effective way to connect.
That is, associating your business with a Purpose, Beliefs, Persona, Emotions, and Culture your brand represents in the clients’ or customers’ minds.
You can build brand associations over time by exposing your customers repeatedly to your brand’s values in your communications and advertising.
Pin your brand on a memorable identity
Think about your best friend. You recognize them because of how they look. And that helps you identify them apart from other people, right?
It’s the same with companies. An identity makes for a recognizable and memorable identity your customers can use to differentiate you from other companies. And differentiation is key.
If you’re just like everyone else, you’ll fade into the background.
You must live up to the image in your actions
But you must also make sure your company brand meets a customer’s expectations of you.
People have expectations about what fits and what doesn’t. For example, people want certainty, professionalism, and authority from lawyers when dealing with legal issues, so dressing casually doesn’t create the right impression.
What you say you have to fit with how you behave, what you look like and what you do.
Just saying it doesn’t make it so
Actions speak louder than words. You’ve got to be true both to the identity customers expect you to have and you’ve got to be able to live up to the values you promise to deliver. Then, getting your clients or customers to speak about you is Word-of-Mouth.
And somewhere in there, if you’re a small business owner synonymous with your brand, you also have to learn how to be yourself whilst juggling what customers need, want or desire from your brand.
If you don’t live up to customer expectations or you create a brand promise you are unable to live up to, naturally, you will damage your credibility and your company.
A brand creates a kind of promise. It’s a promise which you have to continually work to keep, in order to maintain the integrity of the brand.
You must be consistent in image and action, word and deed.
Customers love certainty.
We know when we buy coffee that we want it to be the same every time. We don’t go to a big burger chain because the experience is unreliable or different each time. We want the same great experience we had last time. Every. Single. Time.
Brands create a consistent experience that does just this and in all the places you have touchpoints with customers.
That’s why people often choose bigger companies. They’re not necessarily better than small businesses. But bigger companies have invested more energy in creating a consistent total brand experience of their company and a brand that inspires trust.
Stay consistent in image and values across all of your communications.
A brand isn’t just about a logo or a color scheme
It’s about the totality of the ways you present yourself to your customers. It’s about your vision, where you are in the market (and where you want to be).
It’s about what your customers expect from you and the total impression you want to make. It covers typography, colors, icons, graphic styles, tone of voice, personality, customer communications, how your employees deal with customers and much more.
Branding covers everything. And it’s a commitment. A big one.