How important is Branding?
“A great brand comes from a place of truth about what a business authentically represents, and about what its products means to its customers. It’s not magic, it’s insight.”
What is a Brand?
Ever wondered what it is that drives people to queue up outside Apple stores from the night before the launch of a new iPhone? Or why is the urge to own a pair of Nike’s or sport a Rolex so strong that you would happily forgo dine outs and your regular coffee to save up for it.
A brand is not simply the name of a product – it is everything that it represents.
Apple represents cutting edge technology and superb user experience
Surprisingly the same defining criteria could be applied to Nike or Rolex
Nike offers the best in active footwear and Rolex a unmatched status symbol.
A business (i.e. your convenience store or your drycleaners) is purely driven by need, but if you are offering something unique you give the buyer a reason to choose your product/service over another. Therefore a brand is really a unique identity – it is the look and feel, the voice and personality of the source itself.
So what are the key elements to create that sharp, authentic brand?
Brand manifesto – Your beliefs
Just as a great personality is enduring, a great brand engages on different levels.
It represents a persona, opinions, attitude, values and beliefs.
This is what would also define your brand manifesto, what is your philosophy or value proposition that identifies your brand. It could be a mission statement or set of values and this is really important also as a guide for employees, and whilst onboarding new team members.
A good practice and one that is really helpful is to make a vision board. You could sketch out on paper or on a whiteboard some images, words or sentences as to what your business stands for; what is the reason for its being, and what will be its core values. It is important to be specific here and avoid generic buzzwords, your manifesto is what you really believe in and what you hope to achieve not just for yourself but your customers as well.
People & Culture
“Your culture is your brand… A brand can’t just talk the talk it has to walk the walk.”
Someone famously said that you can’t deliver good service from unhappy employees.
That rings so true for so many big businesses i.e.brands.
Your people/employees are your most valuable asset; sadly this message is lost over time to employers and management. From the day of onboarding it is your employees that bring your brand to life every day. And it is crucial that your brand behaviour matches your brand voice.
People shape their opinions of a business/service not just through the media, but through its staff and workplace culture. Especially at the store front level, a business relies hugely on its employees to practice and promote a positive culture and environment. Whether you have five or five thousand employees the same concept applies.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
What is it that you are offering that the next business isn’t?
What is the one feature in your product or service that stands you out from the competition?
At a time and age when people are spoilt for choice and there are at least a hundred places offering the same product/service doing business is tough.
It is a good idea to look at the three basic metrics when your thinking of value proposition –
> Your offering
> What is the marketplace offering
> What the customer needs
A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered and is one of the biggest factors in lifting sales. It explains how your product/service solves problems and how it can do this better than your competitors. This benefit then sets out the reason why people should buy from you instead.
Creating your Brand Story
Indeed in today’s marketplace it’s not just about selling, its more about getting personal.
Really knowing and understanding your customer’s needs places you a notch above the rest.
And this is something that businesses are catching on to very quickly and implementing with tools like email and social media.
We humans love connecting to stories, and there is nothing as potent as the familiarity that comes with a good story. That is why your brand story is so important, it needs to tell your audience who you are and why you are doing what you do. This is a truly effective way of creating a bond with your customers and creating valuable “moments” with your business.
This is also a good chance to bring in your manifesto into the picture and really connecting the story back to who you are and your beliefs imbibed in your business.
Some great examples of storytelling in business –
Richard Branson: the CEO of Virgin Australia, a lifelong adventurer adds huge value to the Virgin group by being a “challenger brand”, his uniquely engaging content and compelling storytelling helps earn loyalty and trust.
SUGRU: The moldable glue brand uses a chronological photo series to tell the story of how its founder Jane Dhulchaointigh invented the unique material and really speaks to the maker community, its largest audience.
West America: This brand sells gear aimed at fellow adventurers, started by two best friends and motorcycle enthusiasts that travelled hundreds of miles, their website shares stories and photos from their trips.
According to Stanford professor and social psychologist Jennifer Aaker there are five major types of brand personality –
This is a great tip for defining your brand personality. At the same time it is important to remain authentic to your own values and pick the ONE personality trait that best defines your brand. Use this main trait to define other aspects of your brand for example, a competent brand might be time saving, value for money, efficient – you can then use these attributes to guide the development of your brand style.
Defining your brand voice
Your voice of your brand is not just the CEO or CIO delivering a good speech at the launch of your latest product or service. Rather it is what you say and how you say it and is inclusive of your voicemail message, how you interact with your customers on public platforms and language used in private conversations.
Imagine if your product was a person – what would they say and how would they say it.
This is crucial as it sets the tone of your future interactions with your audience. However, the core characteristics of your voice shouldn’t really change, it is important to have a clear brand voice.
For example, if your brand is recognised as authoritative and serious employing humour or sarcasm might confuse your customers. People love familiarity, they need to know what to expect!
Brand Look and Feel –
Here is an interesting theory on colour: research shows that when purchasing a product more than 92 percent of people place the most importance on visuals and 84 percent are influenced by colour. It is widely known that colour can affect your mood and improve comprehension. Therefore, the colour of your logo or the colour associated with your brand is vital. Although logo formats and strategies have evolved with the rise in digital marketing colour still does matter a lot.
Now that we have covered the basics of brand styling all that’s left to do is propagate it.
Let’s look at both our online and offline options.
Website – Your website is, quite literally, your store window. Every business today has a website it is a great way of reaching out to a wider audience and advertising your goods. The principles of brand identity, colour, and voice most definitely apply here. Also best practice is to ensure that the content is always up-to-date.
TIP: feel free to add a LOT of great photographs (visual works best!)
Social media – is a must in today’s world. Depending on what channels you choose to pick from the online maze, always ensure that your message is genuine and consistent. You can start with one or two channels i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or YouTube, you can always expand to more comms as you go.
Please do remember that once you start using these channels you must be present and engaged with your audience.
Brand newsletters – newsletters have always been a traditional channel for comms and are still important today. Whether you distribute printed copies or email PDFs it is really important that you put interesting content to ensure that it actually gets read. Once again, people enjoy reading stories and this is a great opportunity to share stories by staff and customers alike.
Transactional emails – these are emails to promote your product or notify your customers of an ongoing promotion or simply to list the latest products/services. Once again, a little effort towards keeping the content engaging goes a long way in picking up sales.
Videos – have become such powerful tools for disseminating information now, and its reach and impact makes it the perfect tool to introduce products and services. Do keep them short and snappy i.e. social-media-sharing friendly!
Business cards – Your business cards are your handy, pocket-sized promotions, it goes without saying that it must contain your contact details, social media handles and links to your website.
Loyalty cards – are very popular and if you are a coffee shop/cafe owner it is an absolute must. People love being rewarded and it encourages return visits to your store. It also gets carried around so make sure it has a standout logo and colours.
Postcards – are quite a fun way to not only promote your brand but also raise awareness amongst a larger audience. Provided your budgeting allows this you can mail them out or include in your packaging. Again colours, font, and design matter a lot.
Stationery – Yes I know emails have taken over and we use more PDF now, but the importance of the branded letterhead cannot be undermined. Whether it’s an offer letter to a new employee or a note to a prospective investor/shareholder a letterhead will exclusively define your business or brand.
Packaging – whether you are an online shopper or still love retail outlets, the “unpacking” moment is still special, even though you know already what lies within! What’s more if you have added a little token (stickers, branded postcards) you’ve added a special touch on a whole new level for your customer.
Ready to get branding? Good luck, and remember you can also refine your brand over time. Brands are not static they also respond to customer sentiment and the marketplace.