Business1st June 2017

What is a brand?

And why should I care?

I’ll tell you what it isn’t.

It isn’t a logo.

Or a strapline.

Branding isn’t just for major companies either, no matter what size your business is you’re probably already branding without realising it.

To be honest, branding can be confusing, but I’ve managed to navigate myself through it, so you can too, here’s the 411 according to Kym:

Branding is…

How people perceive you, balanced with how you want to be perceived by people. There’s an adage, often used in politics, ‘perception is truth’, this applies to branding too. The way people perceive your brand is their own understanding of your brand and company. If the way people perceive you isn’t quite the way you’d like them to, then it’s possible your brand communications aren’t working for you.

A way to communicate not only what you do but also what you stand for, your values, your purpose, your reason. (Not sure what your purpose is? Read this.)

The way you let your customer know what to expect when they purchase your products and services — it represents your reputation.

A means by which you can create an emotional connection with your customers. On point, branding compels them to feel something and ultimately, do something — ideally, choose you.

For some businesses, a brand is a story.

People in “branding” like to think about a brand as a persona. It has a personality and an appearance and your customers are going to judge it before they spend any time or money on said brand.

In the same way, you as an individual might have a story about your life, so does a brand. In the same way, as you have morals, ethics or principles that guide you, a brand has values. In the same way that you have ambitions, your brand has a mission and a vision, an aim for the future. In the same way, you present yourself to the world, so does a brand.

Tangibly, your brand is visible by a logo, colours, fonts, sounds, layouts, packaging. It can also be seen in your messaging, communication and tone of voice.

Intangibly, a brand is how your customers feel when they experience your products and services, and how they feel about you after that experience.

Building your brand…

A brand needs to be clear, consistent and believable (both by your customers and your team — everyone needs to buy into it). But brands take time to build — there’s lots of research to be done. Here are the basics:

– Understand your audience: who are they, what are they interested in, how can you best reach them

– Understand your competitors: who are they, where are they, what do they do differently to you, where can you capitalise on their weaknesses

– Understand your industry: what’s happening in the wider industry, trends, challenges, opportunities

Your visual identity is going to depend entirely on the factors outlined above. Pro tip: You don’t need to like your logo — it needs to do its job! It needs to represent the brand first, aesthetic follows. Some brands can do this in a single symbol — but very few have reached this level of brand power.

Why should I care about branding?

It’s a competitive marketing tool and an effective brand strategy can give you the edge — edge is good, edge means your customers are purchasing from you and not your competitors, edge means you stand-out where others fade into the background.

Consistent and strategic branding can lead to strong brand equity which translates to added brand value enabling you to charge more for your products and services. Basically, a strong brand usually equals a stronger bottom line. Provided, of course, that your product and services match the expectations your brand sets (full marks there for the number of times I managed to get the word “brand” into a single paragraph, eh?).

An obvious example of this is Apple versus, well, everyone else in the tech hardware space. Apple can charge more because it has built some serious brand equity, and because of this their customers will pay a premium price for their technology — it’s more than just the features that sells a smartphone, tablet or laptop…and gets people queuing at 3am for a new product launch.

Finally, a good brand strategy can translate into loyalty, your customers will purchase from you and keep coming back to purchase from you.

Okay, so what should I do to create a brand?

First up, some soul searching, consider some of these questions before you start developing your brand.

When you’ve answered these questions, you can move forward with creating your brand.

You might consider working with a designer to help you create your visuals and marketing materials, ensuring you have consistent colour palettes, typefaces, logos and ensuring they all play nicely together on the same page. A marketing specialist could help you refine your tone of voice, strapline, slogan or key messages. Specialists in these areas can be costly, but I would consider this an investment rather than just an expense.

Now? Just do it. Do what you say you’re going to do. Deliver on your brand promise. If you say you’re the most friendly, knowledgeable and honest smoothie maker in town, make sure you are just that — and make sure these values carry through in all you do for your business.

Things to do when creating a brand

Now, I’m no expert, but I have picked up a thing or two over the years, my Must-Dos are:

Be original — be proud of your business and who you are. Don’t attempt to directly copy an existing successful brand — it won’t work for you as it’s not your business. And you might be done for copyright/trademark infringement. You can be inspired but it’s more important to be innovative and bold and stand on your own two feet.

Differentiate your business from your competitors — research your competitors and be aware of what they’re doing, but don’t allow them to over-influence your decisions. Define what makes you different — what makes you better — then play that hand.

Keep it simple — don’t try and be too clever, you’ll lose your audience. Similarly, don’t be too vague otherwise your customers won’t recognise that your product or service might be the right fit for them. Finding the balance can be challenging, but you need to find it!

Stay consistent– your brand needs to stay consistent across all mediums and platforms so you can be easily identified. Consider having a set of brand guidelines created for both mission/values and design…and stick to them. Let them guide you. An inconsistent brand will do you a lot more harm than you think.

Get everyone onboard — tell everyone in your business — don’t keep it to yourself. Explain your brand to your team to make sure they “get it” and are communicating it through everything they do.

Be authentic — don’t try and be something you’re not, it’s incredibly exhausting and can damage your credibility. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to be all things to all people but you need to be firm on what you can offer and what you stand for. Be specific about what you do and do it well.

Be patient — don’t expect miracles overnight. Brand building takes time…a long time. Keep consistent and keep at it and if you do it right, love the results!

Play the long game — don’t expect to see the finish line. Branding is an ongoing process, learning and refining and learning some more. As your business grows or your industry evolves you might find you need to refresh your brand — be open to change. Your values probably won’t change as these should be an extension of you. but the way you express your values may change.

How about you? What are your branding yays and nays? How have you navigated this often tricky area? Love to hear your opinions in the comments.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter on @Kymberlee Jay

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