“Brands are the most valuable yet often intangible assets in business today. Ultimately, your brand is a promise of delivery”
‘Personal Branding’ and ‘Company Branding’ are buzz words often thrown around in small, medium and large business alike. Everyone seems to recognise the existence and need for branding – but most people aren’t able to tell you what it actually is, and perhaps more importantly, why it’s so important to your business.
Quite simply, a brand is a promise of delivery. Delivering on your word as a company. That’s it, short and sweet.
When coaching and consulting to businesses, one of the first things I stress is the strength of branding as a fundamental marketing tool- you need to use it to your advantage as much as a general direct marketing campaign. It’s a tool used by the biggest and the best companies globally, and it creates them millions and even billions every year.
So what are the key objectives that a good brand should achieve?
√ Delivers The Message Clearly
√ Confirms Your Credibility
√ Connects Your Target Prospects Emotionally
√ Motivates The Buyer
√ Concretes Customer Loyalty
To succeed in branding you must understand the needs and wants of your customers and prospects. This is done by integrating your brand strategies through your company at every point of public contact and throughout your team culture.
Look at it like this; when most people think ‘brand’, the first companies that come to mind are Coca-Cola, Nike and Virgin. Sadly, this has the negative effect of disenfranchising most small businesses from thinking that they too can create and develop their own brand – they think ‘it’s too big, it’s too expensive and it’s too hard’. But that couldn’t be further from truth. In fact, when creating a new brand, the bigger the company the hard it can be – great news for small business owners!
A key thing to remember is that your branding must be what I call ‘inwards out’. It can’t be a front face ‘marketing’ tool that is promoted to your potential customers and not actually adopted by the inner systems and culture of your business – it may seem like an easier route to take if you do it this way, but believe me – this approach never works in the long term. An example of this is a company like ‘i-select’ which has created a brand that is young, accessible, fun and humorous through its television and radio marketing campaigns. However, when you actually pick up the phone and interact with them they are not dissimilar to a Telstra call centre. When this happens a kind of chasm is created between your promoted brand and the actual brand experience of your customer, and this is the quickest way to lose them! You brand must be communicated and followed through. If you’re a fun brand – be fun from “Hello” to “Goodbye” on the phone, all over your website, on your staff uniform, products, communication and everything in between. DELIVER on your brand.
Start off with these 3 simple steps:
WHO ARE YOU? Brand identity, often referred to as corporate identity, is the way your company looks. The visual ‘marker’ that allows your audience to quickly recognise you in the market place. Expanding on this, it is the emotional reaction you create in your audience when they see or think of your brand. So what are you? Are you in the category of a Virgin brand – Fun, Engaging and ‘sticking it to the big man’? Are you comforting and trusted like a Volvo brand? As a side note – colours pay a key role here so research these before you really launch your brand.
Communicating the brand:
SHOUT IT OUT LOUD! What medium can you use to communicate the brand both internally to your staff and externally to potential and current customers? Can you create a viral marketing campaign? Or unleash a quirky guerrilla marketing campaign? Perhaps be really innovative and use your brand values in training, rewarding and managing your staff? Remember that your staff are walking, talking marketing boards; they are the brand.
Managing and Maintaining your brand:
KEEP THE MAGIC ALIVE Assess your competitors and see what they are doing RIGHT. Ask unhappy customers why they are not fulfilled and resolve their issues. Regularly review your products/services and ALL communication to make sure they fit in with your brand values and your client base. Take the initiative and spend time to invest in experts to help you or aim to seek out the right knowledge and information to educate yourself on the topics necessary.
So what can we learn from the big players?
Large company brand value figures can provide insights into their marketing strategy and help them determine which regions, products or customers they should be investing in. The rating is similar to a credit rating. It measures the strength, risk and future potential of a brand relative to its competitors.
There have recently been some sharp declines in the value of Australian retail brands. The strong Australian dollar, decreased consumer confidence, and increasing competition from international online retailers have been blamed for the sector’s woes. This is reflected by the declines of over 20% in the brand values of David Jones and Harvey Norman. There have, however, been very clear winners in Coles and Bunning’s.
Apple has leapfrogged Google to become the world’s most valuable brand and is now at an impressive valuation estimate of over $70 billion (USD).
Study the top brands in the world like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Coca-cola, Amazon, Facebook, Virgin and IBM. What makes them great and what can you learn from them for your business?
From a business perspective, a brand is the very core of your business – the heart and soul of what the company is about. Think about the big brands and the way they deliver. Obviously they have big budgets, but they have also developed their brands over time, so there is no reason why you can’t begin to develop your company brand now.
In a world of increased competition, it is essential to find a position and direction for your company moving forward and to establish an authentic way to engage people.
It is amazing how many SMEs do not pay attention to developing a cohesive brand for their business as they grow and I’ve seen time and time again how this can create problems as a company begins to move away from the initial business owner being seen as the brand.
Create a distinctive brand for your business now and you can develop a company that gets recognised for all the right reasons, and by all the right people.