“Any damn fool can put on a deal, but it takes genius, faith, and perseverance to create a brand.” - David Ogilvy
Everyone has heard the word “brand”, but very few people could fully describe what it means, and, as pointed out in David Ogilvy’s quote above, fewer still know the work required to create one. So how do we define a brand? In essence, brands are built in the relationships a company has with its constituents – be they consumers, staff members, or a board of directors. A brand is more than just the images and marketing a company uses – it is also made up of the perception of a company’s personality and principles.
Explore the elements of branding. There are two major sides to the branding equation – what a company tells constituents about itself (brand identity), and what the overall public opinion of that company is (brand image). Though the two areas are unique in their processes and challenges, they are often intertwined and both directly lead to the overall value of the brand itself. Brand identity includes such elements as the company name, logo, and slogan, but can be extended far beyond that to any elements that are part of the overall marketing scheme. Such things as a company spokesperson, themes in colors or shape, or jingles associated with a company fall under the brand identity. Brand image, on the other hand, is much more subjective. It relies on the public perception of the brand, and may be influenced by a business’ perceived values, political actions, or consumer reactions to marketing campaigns. When working to create a strong brand, it is important for businesses to look at the whole picture, as the culmination of all of these elements is what your customers will eventually see.
What type of branding is right for you? Though there are no set rules to creating a brand, it is important to define the way you wish to represent your company. An important step in doing this is to develop a unique selling proposition. A unique selling proposition is the point of difference between your business and competitors. It should convey the values of your company while giving consumers a reason to give your products and services a chance. Once you have a way to differentiate yourself from your competitors, though, there are still a number of avenues you can take to sell your brand to customers.
Many established businesses center their branding around the strength of their company name alone. While this can be a powerful way to put stock behind the brand, it typically requires that there already be an established identity for that business. So-called attitude branding, on the other hand, relies more on the brand image, playing to the emotions and feelings of consumers. This type of branding generally says more towards the overall personality of the company. Alternatively, some companies are taking a “no-brand” approach – establishing a simple, generic look to their marketing and packaging in hopes of letting their goods speak for themselves. While this method plays against conventional marketing wisdom, it has seen success in some product fields.
Of course, these are not the only examples of different routes companies have taken to launch their brand. As with most areas of business marketing, branding relies as much on experimentation as it does establishment. Your brand should be limited only by your creativity and the amount testing you’re willing to do.
Market across the whole spectrum. Building a brand requires businesses to put themselves in the shoes of their customers and view all of their marketing as a consumer would. Taking a holistic view to all areas of advertising strengthens brand recognition and the value of your business as a whole. It is essential for modern companies to recognize the interdependence of different areas of marketing – websites, for example, are only valuable as a marketing tool if you have some means of luring consumers to them; be it online ads or a mention during a radio spot. So-called “integrated marketing” helps to create a nexus within an advertising campaign, spreading the word across a number of different media. Companies must go beyond marketing to new consumers, however, and spend some time creating buy-in from their staff as well. If employees truly believe in the products and services your business sells, they are more likely to adhere to as well as expand your brand’s personality.
Lead the charge. The last decade has seen an explosion of new technologies made available to businesses and consumers alike. With the rapid expansion of the accessibility and mobility of Internet tools, marketing has very much become a two-way street between you and your customers. Social media allows you to have a direct link to your desired customers, while giving them an avenue to leave valuable feedback for your company. This emergence can greatly alter the public perception of your brand as you can exemplify your business’ personality and unique selling proposition. However, vast communication tools will require more transparency from businesses – if consumers disagree with your company’s values or feel that you did not fulfill promises, it is now possible for them to spread the word with only a few keystrokes. As such, the dawn of the 21st century has created a brave new world for advertisers. Now, more than ever, it is essential for start-ups to focus on what truly defines and unifies them as a brand, and work to find new and innovative ways to promote themselves.