You've heard the term tossed around countless times in meetings, emails, and on social media. Maybe so many times that it's beginning to lose its meaning. Or perhaps it just doesn't seem that important.
The word? Branding.
It might be easier to start with what branding is not. Branding is not an asset, such as a logo, artwork, or graphics. Branding is not a company's brand guidelines, a promise, or a product.
So then what is branding exactly?
Let’s turn to Marty Neumeier, branding expert, author, and graphic designer. He said:
“A brand is a result. It is a customer’s gut feeling about a product, service or company. It ends up in their heads and in their hearts.”
Simply put, your brand is like your reputation, and every single one of your customers has a different idea or perception of that brand. Marketers and designers will say that it’s something that they do—telling a story, designing an identity, making a claim, or pitch. But that’s not what it is. The brand is the result of that. Ask yourself, what have you achieved in the minds of your customers after someone reads the story, sees the logo, or hears the pitch?
What’s the reputation you created through the products you put out, the look and feel, the messaging, and the company culture? By communicating your values through every medium, asset, and customer touch point that exists in your business, you can connect to the ideal customer, drawing them in, making them feel emotionally connected to your brand. So much so that they love the brand, want more of it in their lives and want to tell others about it.
Branding defines your reputation.
Branding allows you to distinguish yourself from competitors by making a memorable, lasting impression. It is an opportunity to delight your customers with user experience and customer experience. Delight your customers and give them reasons to want to do business with you over and over again.
Branding sets you apart from the competition.
The foundation of compelling, effective branding is a strong idea. One that you feel emotionally connected to and deliver with confidence. Your customers will recognize that your brand is authentic, trustworthy, and worth the investment.
How Does a Brand Connect to its Ideal Customers?
Through brand strategy. It is the roadmap that aims to find, attract, and delight that ideal customer, turning them into a raving fan in the process. In this roadmap, you define your business goals and objectives, and determine the tools that will be used to help achieve that, e.g. a logo, website, packaging, sales funnel, and the product itself.
When these components work seamlessly together, what results is an attention-grabbing, memorable brand that creates loyal customers.
Why is Branding Important?
Branding drives new business and increases your brand's presence in a highly competitive world. Branding is powerful. How people perceive your brand is dependent upon your brand strategy. Perception is everything; it has a direct impact on the success of your business.
Branding is how people get to know you. Consumers love familiarity and they connect with brands they know and feel emotionally attached to. According to Sprout Social, when customers feel connected to brands, more than half of them (57%) will increase their spending with that brand and 76% will buy from them over a competitor.
Branding is the emotional connection between your company and your customers. Think about those commercials that really tug at your heart or make you feel truly inspired. Nike has mastered this skill with ads that relate to all of us, even those that aren't star athletes. We feel good about ourselves when we watch a Nike commercial.
Branding Generates New Customers
Word of mouth is a powerful advertising tool, one that exceptional branding provides. Why? Because people love to talk. Every day, all day, people are asking their families and turning to social networks for brand recommendations.
There are entire websites dedicated to business referrals and recommendations. Social media features allow users to ask friends and families for advice on everything from the best restaurants to their favorite gym to the most talented web designer.
And people usually can't wait to share their recommendations. Sometimes people talk about their favorite brands—without being asked. Why is that? Well, remember when we talked about how branding is how a customer perceives your company? Strong branding means those customers see your company as trustworthy, dependable, and delightful. And they want to talk about it with others.
Branding Increases Business Value
Branding is essential when trying to generate future business and increase customer lifetime value. Great branding delivers results, with increases in revenue growth, profit growth, and a higher shareholder return. If you take a look at Apple’s customers, they will automatically buy any future product, without even knowing what it is.
Branding Provides Direction and Motivation for Employees
A brand strategy gives your employees the tools and direction they need to be successful. It gives them purpose and clearly defines their mission. Not only that, but branding provides YOU with the motivation and direction to continue pursuing your goals every day.
Branding Creates Trust Within The Marketplace
Well-strategized branding that is professional and polished builds trust with both current and potential customers. Customers perceive a company as an industry expert through strong branding. When people trust a company, they are loyal and will spread the word. Trust leads to more profitability.
Branding to Rebranding
In order for a business to stay relevant and experience long-term sustainability, rebranding is necessary. A strong brand can successfully rebrand thanks to its loyal customer base. Take LEGO. In the early 2000s, LEGO was drowning in debt and losing the interest of their main audience, children. LEGO, a strong brand that had been around since 1992, knew it was time for a rebrand.
Lego found a way to connect with kids once again, this time through LEGO-themed movies, engaging stores, and venues, and digital channels. LEGO was dubbed the "Apple of Toys" thanks to its successful rebranding campaign. Other examples of strong brands that successfully rebranded are McDonald's, which added salads to appease the health-conscious; Target, who brought affordable designer clothes; and Old Spice, who made an "old man's" deodorant popular with younger generations.
All of the companies have one thing in common—exceptional branding that paved the way for a successful rebrand.
How Do You Measure Brand Effectiveness?
Through engagement. There’s something called a brand ladder, and it measures how consumers regard your company. In this ladder, there are four rungs and over time you’ll want to move your customers to the top. In ascending order, they are:
Are consumers satisfied with your product? Do they trust you and are willing to purchase?
Are your consumers unexpectedly excited by your product or service such that they want to tell others?
Do your customers feel like they belong with your brand and company culture? Do they start to form emotional attachment?
Can your customers live without your brand? Have their lives become better because of your company?
Branding. It’s an elusive concept that takes a lot of strategizing, discipline, and design thinking. It’s the culture you create, the philosophy you live by. It's the fuel that sparks the fire. Branding is not easy. If you need some guidance with how to piece everything together, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.
Should You Create Your Own Branding or Work with a Creative Agency?
Branding can be a pricey endeavor. Depending on how large or small your operation is, and whether you're a startup or a solopreneur. If you're not a designer, we recommend working with a design freelancer, or a creative agency who has experience with brand identity. By working with them, they'll be able to have a discovery call with you and go over brand strategy, which will make sure that your brand identity will match the vision you have for your brand or business.
Branding is a fun process, and a critical one that will set your business up for success from the get go. Do it right the first time, and you'll never have to change it. The result will be an image of your business that will resonate with your target audience, and will develop the reputation that your business will need to be successful.
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