When I talk to people who have no idea about marketing and they’re trying to get their small business going, the first thing I hear is how they need to do some branding. The problem is a lot of people don’t understand how branding really works. Some people think that a logo, a theme colour or even a slogan is enough to have a brand. Ooh boy aren’t they mistaken.
What is branding is far from simply being known for this design or that colour. It is an entire system of offerings that is beyond simple look and feel and that’s what we’re about to learn today.
What Branding Is Not
Let’s start with what is not branding. A brand is neither an event or something that you do once. It’s beyond look and logo, much to everyone’s chagrin. Here’s the reason why.
Your brand is expected to keep changing and keep evolving as time goes by. Whilst there are some ways to create a business that stands the test of time, changes will happen day in and day out.
What this means is that instead of relying on a single point in time when you’re getting your brand out, it’s best for you to create a name that is synonymous with something.
Why a Brand is Not Just About the Product
A good example of this is Coca Cola. Through the years, Coca Cola has not tried to sell you soft drinks – but what they’re trying to sell is “happiness”. Hear me out: whilst the primary product that Coke sells is carbonated beverages called soft drinks, what their brand is known for is trying to make people happy and smile with their drink.
By creating a brand name that revolves around selling happiness rather than just a product, it gives them a name that can be made synonymous with a value that everyone wants.
Brand is Not Just Visual
As for their look and logo, Coca Cola is recognisable through the distinctive script as its logo and the bottle itself. Whilst the look and feel of Coke has been what they’ve developed so long in years, it’s not their brand.
The look of the bottle is there to deter infringers from trying to make people think some fake product is Coke. The branding behind Coke is still the idea of “open happiness”. The logo and physical appearance itself has no true value, other than its visual association with the values of Coca Cola and its “refreshing” flavour.
What Is Branding
What is branding? It is what people’s think of your business. Yes, it’s as simple as that. It doesn’t matter if you have the coolest logo or the largest event every year. Your brand is only as good as what a buyer thinks of you.
If you have poor service, even the most good-looking logo in the world will only be associated with your subpar product and service.
If you have the best values and even the best reputation in your customers’ minds, people would keep flocking you even if you lack in some departments. You are who people think you are and your brand is what people think of you beyond what your business looks on the surface.
Creating a Brand Strategy That Lasts
The question then is: how do you truly create a brand name that stands the test of time. There’s a number of things that you can do, but the gist of it is the following.
- Why are you unique?
- What do you do better?
- Who wants your products and services?
Branding is your identity and knowing the clear ins and outs of your very own identity and telling that to the world is valuable to how you create a positive perception for what you offer.
Why Uniqueness is Great for Brands
What makes your business unique is not its outward appearance. Whilst that’s a component, what makes a business unique is their product and way they deliver it, creating a “brand”. In a market where nearly all ideas have already been taken, it’s important to make the delivery itself uniquely yours.
A classic example of differentiating your brand is Apple. For the longest time before its current status, Apple in the 90s was just admittedly another Microsoft competitor that had a very small share of the market.
They were a market leader in the 80s until IBM decided to allow Microsoft to be used for any PC seller willing to use it. Developers followed suit and created what the market is today: a Windows dominated computer landscape.
Eventually in the mid to late 2000’s, Apple started to surge not just with smart adaption of current technologies but also clever branding: they created a brand that does not talk about technology but about the emotion that the technology represents.
How Apple Created a Global Brand
Apple’s products are no different from the smart phones that were starting to emerge in the mid-2000s but they created a brand unlike any other: it creates emotional investment – sophistication with technology, exclusivity and innovation. It does its best to make sure that its users love it rather than just treat it as another tech brand.
According to a Virgin article, Apple “choose not to mention any features of their new product, yet convince their audience that this is the ultimate tool for creativity.”
If you look closely, none of their products are unique in their field, but rather what they sell is the idea of being within the Apple ecosystem and how people perceive Apple as a “status symbol” and you need to buy-in to the hype every time.
This can be done with your business. By creating a compelling strategy that tells people of the metaphorical values that your products and services aim to give to customers, this creates a strong brand. Just like how Apple does not sell technology but rather exclusivity and creativity, your brand needs to forget about selling a product, but rather an experience.
Solving Problems with Your Brand
Branding is also all about being needed. Problem resolution is the most straight forward way of creating a following for your brand. Tide can make your white clothes whiter through better cleaning. Intel delivers performance. Moz wants you to be found through their tools.
By finding a problem that gives people headaches everyday and presenting your product as a solution to their problem, it creates a brand that creates a lasting bond with your potential customers.
Through branding, you would want to find the right problem to solve first. Google is there to search what you need to learn right now with fast results. Facebook is there to build social networks between you and your families. Gumtree is there to help you sell what you need to sell without going out of your home.
Your brand strategy needs to underscore the problem and magnify it. Yes, magnifying it is important. Why you may ask? Problem magnification gives you the ability to create urgency for your customers. Urgency creates a customer more willing to take your answer for their problem – which is your supposed product offerings.
As long as your offers actually resolves problems, it creates value for your brand and a loyal customer who believes they found the right product for them.
Niche and Laser Targeted Brand Marketing
The last part of the triangle that defines what branding is comes from niche. Niche is the idea of finding the right people who are interested and value your offers.
By creating laser targeted campaigns that talk to specific subsets of people instead of trying to cater to everyone, your message gets through a bigger percentage of people further.
A good example that we tend to use for niche is comic book and movie company Marvel. Marvel’s success comes from the smart use of their brand to pull in people who already have a vested interest in what they have to offer.
Most of their demographics stem from the nerd subculture and young viewers between 5 to 34 years old, median income and mostly male. Whilst Marvel tends to try to pull customers from all over the customer pool, this specific niche gets double the attention from one of the most successful movie companies and currently the one of two giants of the comic book industry.
By understanding your likely customers’ age, profession, hobbies, income and what they do on the daily, it creates your business a slice of people who are likely to believe what you believe in. These people will buy your products, market your brand through word of mouth and fall in love with your brand without much convincing.
Target the right niche and do your best to understand their needs, then create a brand that entails the very values they carry. This pushes for a deep-rooted brand that speaks straight to your customers’ core values as well as their personal convictions, encouraging further brand loyalty.
Improving Your Own Brand
Branding is not as simple as looks and feel. Whilst looks and feel tends to be good components of a strong brand, it’s better to rather create a brand reputation that revolves around being different, being the solution and finding the people who want what you have to offer.
As your business is how people perceive it, it is important for your brand to embody the things that you advocate – top to bottom. Your branding needs to reflect the very values that your customers have and how your offerings – both products and services, create its own ecosystem that keeps the users asking for more.