In this article we’ll discover what branding is and why you should care about it. We’ll review a few examples of branding done well and a few general tips so you can enhance your own brand.
So, what is ‘branding’ anyway?
The word ‘brand’ and ‘branding’ is seen everywhere and often is misused. Sometimes you’ll see signs that say: ‘your brand here’, when really they mean ‘your logo here’. At times, a new client will say they need to develop a brand when what they really need is a revised logo and stationary items (in the industry we refer to this as identity systems design). The previous examples are the ladyfingers in your tiramisu; the stuffing in your turkey meal; and the sugar in your chocolate chip cookies. All essential components, but alone they do not make the dish you desire.
A brand is who you are. It’s everything about you and your business. It includes everything from the moment someone walks in your door, to your online presence, to how often you post on social media, to what your employees are saying about you when you’re not in the room. Overwhelmed? Well… take a breath, because we’re not done yet! Branding also includes your logo, font, colours, style of photos, text (not just what you say, but how you say it), ad layout, stationary design, and more – oh so much more. As we said above, a brand is who you are. A brand is everything!
Yes, it can be overwhelming, and I’ve saved the best point for last: in the words of the brilliant author Marty Neumeier, “A brand is not what you say it is. It is what they say it is.” Meaning, your customers, your employees, and the general public say what your brand is, not you.
It’s critical to take a step back and look at your business from another perspective. Ask yourself:
What are my customers saying when they leave my business?
What are my employees saying when they go home at night?
What are the members of the public saying when my business name gets brought up socially?
People personify brands. They trust them. They relate to them. They believe in them. They fall in love with them! Most importantly, a strong brand stands out in a crowd. With today’s technology chances are, someone, somewhere sells the exact same product or service you do. So why do they go to you? Actually think about it. If your business was a person, how would they (your customers or your employees) describe you?
Would you be cold or friendly, professional or casual, ordinary or striking?
Would you look organized, professional, and well-designed?
Why should you care about your brand? Because how a brand is perceived can directly affect its success, regardless of what you’re selling. Meaning, you could be selling the best shoes in the world – comfortable, stylish, affordable, (insert other shoe adjectives here) - but if your brand has negative perceptions by your potential customers, your bottom line could be in trouble.
Thankfully, there are many companies who do this branding thing right. Here are a few examples of a companies or products that have absolutely nailed it:
Skittles has done an excellent job of branding. They’re fun, quirky, and certainly appeal to their audience (13-17 year olds). They stand out. They’re different. They make things fun… and kind of weird… and that’s the point. They know who they are, who their consumer is, and therefore are able to take calculated risks with their branding that have certainly paid off. Here are a few of those fun weird ads I am talking about:
Mr. Branson is the founder of Virgin Group, entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist (plus someone I would love to meet!) He’s obviously successful, but doesn’t come across as stuffy. He’s identified himself as a risk-taker and an idea man, and at the same time exudes a personality that makes me think we could grab a beer sometime. He thinks big and has the guts (and money) to follow through with his ideas. He’s also made risk-taking a part of his personal brand and has done several crazy (and brilliant) stunts such as: trying to fly around the world in a hot air balloon (he was unsuccessful), driving a tank down Fifth Avenue in New York City (to announce Virgin Cola), jumping off the roof of a hotel casino, dressing as a female flight attendant for a competing airline (after he lost a bet), and more!
The guy is nuts…and that’s ok! He’s a wise business-man who attributes much of his success to surrounding himself with the right people, taking on projects he’s passionate about, delegating in areas he struggles with, and never taking no as a final answer. Mr. Branson is an excellent example of personal branding done right.
Now that you understand branding a bit more, here are a few tips and tricks to help you become a branding master:
Consistency is key
Whatever you do, do it consistently. This means through your design (your logo, colours, fonts, etc.), the language you use, your company’s core values, times you’re open, what you offer, should remain consistent. Consistency makes things easy for your current and future customers to know exactly who you are and what you offer.
Get to know your audience
By knowing your customers, you’ll be able to identify the mediums and language to use in your marketing plan. For instance, Snapchat works well if you have a younger demographic (under 25 typically), but might not be worth your energy if your demographic is age 45+. Knowing who your audience is also helps with predicting their needs and following trends in the industry.
Make it easy for them
Your mission should be to make it easy for your customer to purchase from you. Whether that’s as simple as opening at the same time each day, using a re-targeting method online (where the last website you visited all of a sudden has ads on the next three sites you visit), or re-arranging your goods to make co-ordinating products top of mind, there’s power in making things easy for your customer.
Build by association
Find a group of businesses in the community who hold similar core values to you who currently have high brand value. Then, partner with them. By linking with another established brand you’re not only engaging your audience further, you’re appealing to your new partner’s audience too. This builds not only your message, it increases your awareness in the community, and builds trust with overlapping audiences.
Branding. It’s more than just a buzz word - it’s the way your business is perceived by your clients, your employees, and the general public. By intentionally and professionally branding your organization you’ll be able to connect to your customers on a deeper level that will help enhance your organization’s bottom line if done right.
About the Author
Jill Kelly is co-founder of 1450 Marketing Collective, and brand strategist & owner of Red Bicycle Communications in Lloydminster AB/SK. Jill has had the pleasure of working with top clients from across the country on their marketing and branding needs.
She's lived in Lethbridge, Calgary, and Halifax but has always called Lloydminster home. A proud 'mom' of a mixed breed dog, Jill spends her time off reading, hiking, and drawing when she's not working on the next big thing for her clients.