What is a brand?
If we are going to build a strong brand then we need to understand what a brand actually is. We often use the word “brand” in association with products that are by very well known companies. “Branded goods” are often thought to be those that are produced by market leaders in a particular sector. In some sense, then, the idea of a brand has some connection with quality or reputation when used in this way. Others might think about a company’s logo or font as being their branding. But, it would be wrong to think of a brand as simply a logo or the visual appearance of a product.
Our brands are our identities. Brand identity emerges from a picture made up of many parts. It includes visual elements such as our logo, colour scheme, uniforms or premises, for example. But, it is much more than that as well. A brand is defined also by how the business behaves and who it relates with. Anything that a member of staff says or does, especially when in the public eye, creates an impression in people’s minds. The products that we sell, the prices we sell them at and how we interact with our communities (or don’t!) all speaks volumes for our brands. Every little thing is a part of the overall picture that people receive.
How to build a strong brand
Whether we are interacting with customers, hiring new staff or just being observed in the marketplace by others, we should be communicating a clear identity. Brands should not suffer from multiple personality disorder! Once we are clear who we are, we need to keep our identity as consistently as possible and ensure that our marketing and other behaviours cement that identity in people’s minds.
So, how do we figure out our brand identity? A brand represents the business and what it does. Just as our identities are made up of many factors, so are brands. Our own identity as individuals is a mixture of personal traits, the people we are related to and associate with, our behaviour, etc. It also includes our appearance – what we look like and how we dress. No one individual element is who we are. Our identity emerges from a complex puzzle of many pieces of the picture. So, it is worth thinking about both large and small aspects of our business when it comes to branding. Yes, certain things will play a bigger, more obvious role. But, we should not underestimate the cumulative effects of “the little things”. Building a high end brand with top quality products sold in an immaculate environment also includes remembering to say “thank you” to customers and giving them not just the products they want but a great level of service too.
If we want to build a strong brand we need to look at all the ways in which people will have contact with our brand and make sure that they all contribute positively to the overall picture. Once we have interaction going with customers then our service product need to be spot on. People need to get what they would expect and ideally we want to give them more than that. If people are impressed then it builds a lasting strong impression of our brand. It also makes them more likely to talk to others about us.
Before that, however, we need to focus on how people might encounter our brand for the first time. First impressions matter. Often the first thing people come across and the fastest thing for them to process is our visual identity. So, we need to have high quality visual elements in place. This includes a good logo, appropriately maintained premises (where applicable) and excellent images. Given that many people will meet a brand for the first time online, in magazines or on TV, the images we use are instrumental in forming their ideas about us.
Our marketing efforts need to emerge consistently from our brand identity. People will notice the inconsistencies. They may not always do so consciously, but they are sure to register. Mixed messages confuse people. They risk not knowing who we are. If they are not sure about our identity, they may find it harder to trust us. Brands need trust, especially high end brands. Marketing & branding need to fit hand in glove to communicate consistent impressions to the outside world.
If we don’t know who we are then we won’t communicate a brand successfully to others. If we fail to communicate a strong message, how will people know who we are or what we stand for? If our marketing varies from looking high end to looking cheap and nasty then what are customers to make of our identity? Can we really get away with a fantastically designed logo and shop front whilst using poor quality photos taken in a hurry on a phone?
Everything we put out there says something about who we are. If we want to build a strong brand then we need to pay attention to the details.
© Joe Lenton, March 2017