Gina Edwards

May 31, 2018

Look around you. Chances are, wherever you are, you can spot brands. From coffee to phones to shoes, we all have brands that we know, and more importantly, that we trust.

This is no accident — big companies and small businesses alike understand the importance of developing a brand that consumers (and potential new customers) can immediately recognize, understand, and build a relationship with.

While at first branding may seem like an afterthought in comparison to building the core of a business plan, it is actually the cornerstone of any business’s future success and requires careful planning.

Good branding makes the difference between businesses with staying power and those that fall off the radar. For that reason, taking the time to develop a cohesive brand identity is a must for business owners of any size, at any stage of the game.

If you’re curious about branding for your own online business, this piece will take a quick look at what branding is, why branding is important, and some elements of a strong brand.

What Is Branding, Anyway?

Branding has been around for a long time. More traditionally, we often thought of brands as simply the marketing collateral of a business: logos, slogans, jingles, and the like.

But the advent of the internet and social media has taken branding to new levels. Now, there are more ways than ever before for companies to connect with consumers and promote their brand identity.

Companies can tout their brand over Snapchat stories, Instagram posts, and Facebook ads. Through these multifaceted elements of communication, businesses establish their brand identity, or the characteristics that people associate with their business. Since there are so many channels through which businesses can promote their brands, it is key that their messaging be consistent throughout all of them.

That is the core concept of branding: Deliver a message about who your company is and what it does. No matter what form it takes, from a business card to a billboard or a Snap to your Story, that message is your branding.

Why Branding Is Important

Since I’ve covered a bit about what branding is, now comes the question — why care about it?

In other words, what about branding makes it so integral to the success of a business?

Makes a Promise

A great brand helps people understand what your company is all about. What does it stand for? What can people expect by buying your product or using your services?

Take Maxwell House’s slogan, “Good to the Last Drop.” It’s clear, concise, and states a firm expectation that consumers can count on when drinking Maxwell House’s coffee products.

While this slogan seems effortless, it’s challenging to distill down the essence of your company into a single sentence or phrase to represent your brand.

A good place to start is with word association. Brainstorm on your own, ask employees, or poll customers about what words they immediately think of to describe your company. There’s a strong chance that some patterns will emerge to guide your brand development.

You’ll know you have a great slogan for your brand if people can immediately know what to expect from working with or buying from your company.

Builds Loyalty and Recognition

One of the biggest advantages of developing a strong and memorable brand is that it will have staying power in the minds of your current or potential consumers.

Once an individual uses and has a positive experience with your business, it is much more likely that the next time they need to purchase the same or a similar product, they will remember your brand and return to your business rather than try another one.

Apple is a great example of this concept; just watch one of their catchy, contemporary commercials, and you can see how they speak to the consumer’s emotional reasons for using their products. Their smartphone and tablet sales encourage customers to stick with them for other electronics, too.

Having this “brand loyalty” can help you develop customers for the long haul, as they develop a relationship with your business over time. For this reason, making an impact in the minds of consumers early on, through something such as effective content marketing, can set the stage for a longer relationship.

Sets You Apart

Another effect of a well-developed brand is that it differentiates you from your competition. It can immediately relay to the buyer reasons why they should choose your product or service over similar ones.

There are many ways that your brand can set itself apart. Consider key differences in quality, customer service, environmental sustainability, price, and the like between you and your competition, and capitalize on the components of what makes your business yours.

Part of what helped the shoe company TOMS gain momentum was its unique “Buy One, Give One” setup, wherein purchasers “gift” a pair of shoes to someone in need every time they buy a pair for themselves. While the concept has caught on with other brands now, this difference helped set TOMS apart from other shoe companies in the same price range.

Consider what matters most to your desired clientele, and try to work that into your brand messaging.

Elements of a Great Brand

With the benefits of well-developed branding in mind, let’s take a look at a few elements that comprise a great brand.

Clear

No matter what platform you use for advertising, you have very little time to capture the attention and decision-making potential of a customer. For this reason, your brand should be incredibly clear and easy to understand right away.

If you haven’t done so already, this is a great time to develop the slogan or tagline for your brand. A good test to see if your message is clear is to ask someone who has previously interacted with your brand to explain what your company does.

You may need to go through several iterations of logos, slogans, or other branding collateral before you can successfully distill your message down concisely.

Credible

Be wary of overselling yourself to the point that you are making dubious claims about your products or services. Your goal for your branding should be to authentically represent your company in a positive manner.

Make sure the claims of your brand are backed up; the worst thing you could do is create a brand image that dissuades people from buying your product.

Catalyzing

Finally, one of the most important elements of a great brand is the emotions that it evokes from those interacting with it.

Does your brand elicit an emotional response from a consumer? Does it motivate people to take action, to buy your product, or pursue your service?

Often, a brand will focus on the emotions that cause people to want the product or service in the first place. Much like in advertising, your brand should be able to move people to action.

Spend Time Developing Your Brand Identity

While we all interact with brands in our day-to-day lives, we don’t often give much thought to the process behind the creation of the brand itself. Marketing teams across the world spend scads of money developing brand identities, messaging, and targeted communication in the hopes of nurturing this important relationship between businesses and consumers.

While branding is important for all companies, lower-priced business in the $50–100K range will require less heavy-duty branding than those aiming to sell in the $500K range. As mentioned above, the strength of the brand fosters a sense of legitimacy and value, so it becomes even more critical to have a strong brand identity as your business grows and expands.

Start by getting concrete about what your brand stands for and the message you would like it to convey. Think about what makes your business distinct from others similar to it.

Keep in mind the intended effects of branding — promise, loyalty, and differentiation. Your brand should speak to how your business or services follows through on the things your customers are looking for, and you can build a relationship with them from there.

Finally, make sure that your brand encompasses the three Cs: clear, credible, and catalyzing. In a short amount of time, your brand should communicate an easy-to-understand, honest, and motivating message about your business.

By focusing on these things, you can be sure to build a brand identity that helps propel your business forward.

Photo Credit: NeONBRAND


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Discussion
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  1. Mike Jones says:

    Hey Gina,

    Great article to highlight the significance of branding. How crucial is competitor analysis in branding? Does it essential to monitor or follow our competitors while branding? What do you think?

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      Hey Mike,

      Monitoring your competitors brand is always a good idea. You can get a feel for what the market likes and dislikes about that brand and how it compares with your brand. Being on the pulse of what they’re doing also breeds insight into what you can do. Be wary of falling into the trap of ALWAYS basing your decisions off what your competitors do. Sometimes to make yourself the winner in the race, you’ll need to think out of the box and just do your own thing which forces your competitors to keep following in your footsteps instead.

      Don’t let competitor analysis drive all your decisions, but do take it into account when you are making growth decisions.

  2. Mathew Adams says:

    Hi Gina,

    You are right. Branding builds loyalty and recognition. Facebook is an excellent medium for brand building. What do you say? Is there any stretch point for branding? What I mean to ask is, a well-reputed business still need to concentrate on branding, or it can saturate at some threshold point?

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      In terms of brand building, it is always good to remember that it is often a soft metric. You can’t track how good your branding is as robust as you can with an SEO or paid traffic campaign that tracks direct increase into ROI.

      For the vast majority of companies (small to medium), a proactive focus on brand building isn’t as big of a requirement. I would keep focused to ROI driven growth strategies/infrastructure.

      These actions alone will help create a brand for you anyways and keeps the lights on at the same time. Building a brand doesn’t need to be separate from an ROI direct marketing decision. You can brand your marketing funnels, customer service, and a legion of other things without taking away from any direct revenue producing activities so keep that in mind.

      This is almost always enough to build a solid brand for you, as long as you always remain aware that everything you do will affect your brand.

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