Branding is everything to a company nowadays. Your business will not succeed without a strong brand that consumers can get attached to. Branding goes beyond simply adopting a new logo and a name for your company. It’s sort of a movement. Think of major brands: Apple, Pepsi, Microsoft or Samsung. Each is unique on its own. But they all invoke particular emotions and feelings in people. That’s why good brands are said to be like movements, or celebrities. Each has its own army of fans, who follow the brand more loyally than regular customers.
Not all brands will enjoy success like Apple or Nike however. But it’s important to formulate a good branding message for your company to reach your target audience. Brands like Johnson&Johnson or GlaxoSmithKline do not have leagues of fanboys like Apple. But these brands, too, are well respected and trusted. Your company should aim for a similar message where customers can feel like they can rely on your company. Without further ado, let’s look at some of the ways businesses can build a superior brand:
Know How Your Company Already Seems
You know what your company is and what people say about it. But to build a strong brand, you need to know how everyone else “sees” your company. They may say your company is great, but do they see it that way? Brands are built on perception. Rather than telling people to look at your company in a certain manner, it’s best to capitalize on how they already see your company. Your customers and peers may see your company as a cheap alternative to something else or as a younger and hipper company. You should use these preconceived notions to design a brand strategy.
It’s not that hard to understand how everyone else sees your company. Go Google your company name and see what comes up. Read what unbiased online reviewers, bloggers and consumer forums have to say about your business. It would be best if you can hold a focus group to get more scientific results. You should use all this data to come up with a solid brand.
Exceptions should be given in this scenario to companies that have zero brand presence online or companies that are overwhelmingly serviced as negative. If your company gets a bad rep, then it’s time for a complete overhaul. Try to fix what customers find unsatisfactory about your company and move on from there. On the other hand, if your company is new or is not at all known online, you should rely on your few customers. Ask them why they purchased from an unknown company like yours. Use their reasons to create your brand identity from scratch.
Come Up With An Authentic & Specific Message
Brand messages can be more often contrived than not. Your brand must have a unique and appealing message behind it. The problem is, most brands nowadays adopt similar messages. For example, being green is a popular branding message. Sure, it’s not bad being green, but it will not make your company necessarily stand out. You should communicate exactly how your brand is green and how that benefits the customer. For example, if you sell shampoo that contains fewer environmentally-harmful chemicals, use that message. Rather than saying that your company is green, say that you sell organic shampoos that are not toxic to the environment or people. Associate your branding message directly with the product and be very specific. Green is generic, “sulfate free shampoo,” is specific. Customers will only notice the specific message.
It’s important to mention here that your branding message must also be authentic. If you advertise sulfate-free shampoos, then the shampoos must really be sulfate free. Also, don’t use one aspect of your product to make broad and sweeping claims. If you sell sulfate-free shampoos, don’t say your company is wholly organic, fair trade and whatnot as well. Each claim must be backed by solid evidence. Otherwise, consumer groups or customers will find out that your business is lying or distorting the truth. This will be the end of your brand.
Showcase A Consistent Message
Your branding message must be consistent on all platforms and for all products. If you run a single product company, this will not be an issue. But if you sell multiple products, each product must carry the same branding message. Otherwise, you would just confuse customers. Your message will also get diluted among all the different claims. Make sure the advertising material, blog content and greeting cards contain the same branding message. Get inspiration from big, well-known brands. Apple, for example, is known for sleek design. So, everything Apple does, from TV ads to Christmas presents, is hip and classy. If Apple was not meticulously careful in delivering the company’s brand in this manner, no one would take the message seriously. Your small business will be no exception.
Associate Your Brand With Everything Your Company Does
Is your company planning to hold an event for business partners? That’s an opportunity to spread the word of your brand. The brand must be strongly associated with everything the company does, including marketing, outreach, online presence, and even business gatherings. Essentially, the brand should be infused with everything regarding the company. It’s not always easy to do, but this strategy helps spread brand awareness and make the brand more authentic. You, and your employees, may also need to make some changes in order to make this branding message work. For example, if your branding message focuses on health and fitness, it will not help if the face of the company is obese. It may sound silly, but you will have to literally live your branding message.
Don’t Even Think About Pleasing Everyone
No brand can please everyone. What matters is that your brand appeals to its core base. Do not try to bend the branding message so it appeals to a larger and more generic audience. Don’t make the mistake of diluting your message in this manner. No one cares about generic products. Branding messages must have a flavor, so to speak, that customers can start liking. If you try to please everyone, your core customer base may find the branding message too bland. Then your strategy will not work. Even if some people don’t like your branding message at first, specificity and consistency as mentioned above most likely will bring the naysayers around as well. It’s imperative that you tailor your branding message to your core customer base. Forget about everyone else for now.
Tap Into Emotions
You can throw any number of facts and figures at your customers with your branding message. None of it will every stick, as market research shows. Brands appeal to customers with raw emotion. Obviously, your branding message will need something that tugs at the heartstrings of customers giving them a reason to stay loyal. Things like environmentalism, fair trade, affordability, and even design have an emotional appeal. That’s why most brands adopt these themes when appealing to their customers’ respective ids.
Any brand can appeal to customers emotionally. It comes easily to brands like Johnson&Johnson that sells personal care products. But even soft drink companies, like Coca Cola, have found ways to appeal to customers by invoking ideas of patriotism, social acceptance and general “coolness” in selling their brands. Companies that sell budget products appear to care about financial woes of their customers. Likewise, your company, too, should find a way to emotionally appeal to customers with your branding message.
Profusely Use Online Tools
Use all online tools at your disposal to promote the branding message you create. The web is the best place to ensure that your brand stays strong. Your branding message should be on social media, blogs, forums, video sites and preferably on actual news sites. Social networks are great for connecting directly with customers and spreading your brand by way of word of mouth. But you will need other mediums, like blogs and video, to make your brand more popular and relevant. News coverage will certainly help in legitimizing little known brands. Do not forget the massive mobile phone consumer market either. Consider designing an app to promote your brand if you have a significant number of smartphone customers.
When promoting your brand, do not overlook unique tools that are quite outside the box. Offering free, or so-called freemium content, creating informational videos, and tying up different products together are several unconventional ways of promoting brands online. Do your research so you know what works for your brand. It’s not a bad idea to try a little bit of everything at first.
Little known brands also associate their names with more popular, related brands. This strategy can make smaller brands stronger if done right. There’s an inherent risk here. If the bigger brand fails somehow, or gets associated with a scandal, the smaller brand will suffer as well.
All in all, invest well in creating a solid branding strategy and a message. Your business may need to work on it for months. You will also have to field test your ideas before kicking off a larger campaign. Good effort will later pay off certainly when you have built a strong brand.
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