Why does branding matter?

A lot of people ask me about branding, what it is, why it matters and if it should matter to them, their small business or their product.  While much has been written on the subject of branding, it can still be a pretty confusing topic for a lot of people.

What is Branding?

“Branding” occurs when any sort of element – auditory, graphic, or physical object – is instantly and universally associated with  a person, company or product. That element then becomes synonymous with what you should expect from that company.

So for example, when you see the Fed Ex logo – what do you expect? For most people, they expect that if they’ve given something to Fed Ex to deliver, it’ll absolutely be there on time.

You can brand a lot of things: your product (think cars… like a Prius for example), a business (think Brown – oops, I meant UPS), locations (think: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas).  Each of these conjure up a word associated with it. For Fed Ex, you might immediately think “overnight” or “reliable.” For Prius, you might think “Green” or “Fuel Efficient.”

You can also brand yourself… both in terms of a service you provide (ie: if you are a dentist, you might be known as a great children’s dentist or a very gentle dentist for the phobic.) but as an employee too – you are creating a “brand” about yourself as an employee. Think about it – what are the adjectives people use to describe you? Are you “the creative one?” “Detail oriented?” When the boss absolutely needs something done and done well – are you the one she calls?

Branding isn’t just about logos or slogans, contrary to what a lot of people think.  Branding is also about how that place, that company, that person makes you as the customer feel.  Do you have fond memories of going to McDonalds as a child? Does that dentist make you feel safe and comfortable when you climb into the chair?

Branding also occurs when a symbol that could, and should be, generic instantly comes to stand for a specific person, product or business. For example, the number of people who say “Kleenex” (an actual brand) when they actually mean “facial tissue”.

Who are You Branding?

There is also the thorny question of what to brand, when it comes to your business – but it’s quite simple… If your business depends greatly on your personality as well as your skills, you and your business should become one in the minds of your loyal fans.  You would focus on branding you.

If, however, you’ve created a line of pottery made with traditional methods, but you are planning to sell the business two years down the road – create your brand on the product, not your personality.

Give it a unique, “signature” branding stamp – such as a glaze color that no one else has been able to achieve, or a particular unique frog built into each mug handle – and concentrate everything (the company name, the logo, the “story”, etc.) on that element.

Then, when it’s time to sell, you hand over the secret glaze, or the formula for making each frog look the same, and you’re gone – cash in hand – with your company’s reputation still glowing.

Good Branding Is Consistent.

We’ve already considered the importance of consistency. There are many ways you can weave this consistency into your “message”. You can always use the same signature slogan… always use a particular color or color combination on your visual presences… Always use the same logo, even across several (related) sites…. Always exhibit the same personality traits.   The biggest issue is understanding what it is you are choosing to do, and what goal you’re hoping to achieve by selecting that branding element.  

Part of branding is personality – so don’t be schizophrenic.  If you typically write in a warm, congenial manner, do it and be consistent. This is what writers call having a “voice.”  Suddenly changing into a formal, stuffy tone will confuse your readers because it won’t “sound” like you.

And if you are focusing your branding efforts on YOU – then reflect who YOU are so that when the reader finlly shows up in your office, retail store or hires you to come out to their home – the “you” they met on the site and the “you” who’s walking through the door are indeed one in the same person.

Focus on Values – not Design values. 

One common phenomena that happens a lot in business occurs when a company owner gets hung up so much on logo design or website features before really focusing on the characteristics and values their brand needs to stand for.

I like to think of graphics and logos as a bit like makeup. Piling on exotic makeup won’t make up for the personality flaws or character you have. The “character” of your business is far more important to get right when you’re building out your marketing efforts.  Websites can be tweaked. But if you haven’t taken the time to really focus on what your business is going to be about and how you are going to ensure that your customers always get that sense of those characteristics throughout their experience with your firm, then you’re building your business on a foundation that doesn’t really match who you truly are.

 

Category: Branding, Self Promotion

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