You don’t have to own a large conglomerate like Rolex or Apple to understand the impact a brand can have on potential customers. Without a brand, customers are left to decide for themselves how your business can solve their pain points. Besides visual elements, like an aesthetically pleasing website, a brand also comprises the tone and style of your copy on social media and your website, as well as the graphics and color of your logo. But branding is more than just giving great first impressions; your brand should also reflect your company’s mission and values. The Our Values page for Ben & Jerry’s and the History page of Warby Parker demonstrate this technique perfectly.
Every day businesses build a brand only to watch it turn to dust pretty fast. So, what do companies like Disney, Apple, and Ben & Jerry’s know that the rest of us don’t? What’s the secret in their ‘brand’ sauce? How do they maintain loyalty across a large swath of generations and demographics? With so many businesses clamoring for the attention of their customers, how does a brand remain relevant while weathering market expectations and trends?
It may be in the long-held belief that adaptability is key to a brand’s survival. A successful brand grows more resilient over time. It also weathers the stormy tide of culture and the volatility of markets. Their most loyal customers return because in an unstable world their brand is something they can trust. Over time a company develops a reputation based on its authority to deliver a consistent service or product every single time. Building a better brand means businesses own up to its mistakes when it doesn’t meet those commitments and responsibilities.
Just What is a Brand?
Merriam-Webster defines a brand as “a public image, reputation or identity conceived of as something to be marketed or promoted.” We feel it’s a bit more complicated than that. It’s the value and mission an organization promotes when it intersects with intriguing content, an official style and tone, and visual design. Who doesn’t recognize Nike’s Swoosh or Target’s bulls-eye or Starbuck’s mermaid?
In terms of Internet marketing, its definition is broader. It relies on a customer’s perception of a service, product, experience or business based on its recognizable name, presence or logo.
How Important is Branding for Business Success?
The acceleration behind the growing power of the consumer has exponentially gained ground since the Great Recession. Besides experiencing your product or services first hand or through word-of-mouth, customers now have access to digital feedback, experiences and online opinion through a multitude of channels.
Consumer perception of your brand identity has never been more important or integral to higher profits.
Branding Guides Customer Perception
Branding does more than just promote your products or services via good graphic design and copy, it illustrates the inner workings of your organization by explaining how your business impacts the community, who your employees are and what they do. Without brand identity, you leave your business open to negative or false perceptions of your company’s reputation. And that’s not good for business.
Branding impacts how potential customers perceive you, and your business. Hopefully, you’re seen as an authority within an area of expertise. Demonstrating authority, whether it’s several degrees held by you or by your reputable employees, decades of experience, influential partnerships and a loyal league of customers backed by testimonials, creates trust. Trust becomes the backbone of your company’s reputation. A solid reputation is a good first step toward building a brand that withstands the divergent and accelerated times we live in.
Let’s also mention that establishing a brand for your business makes good SEO sense. The revelation of Google’s not-so-secret preference to prioritize brands in organic search engine results was because visitors were more likely to click brands they recognized. So creating a brand brings some unexpected benefits in the form of more web traffic and more clicks.
Branding Means Finding Your Competitive Differentiator
A competitive differentiator separates your brand from the multitude of brands available to consumers in the marketplace. It’s this differentiator that allows you to pinpoint, strategize and interpret your niche audience. Once identified, it takes your brand from recognizable to desirable and becomes its hallmark. Moving forward it’s how everyone distinguishes it from the competition and it’s the first thing to come under scrutiny, which is all the more reason to have consistency with your brand. Regardless of the channels your customers choose to interact with you, email, social media or website, each channel should substantiate the unique experience your brand exemplifies.
So would a competitive differentiator look like with a big brand? When you’re asked about a reliable and trustworthy car manufacturer, who comes to mind first? Capitalizing on a trustworthy decades-old legacy while keeping an eye on the future, Honda Motor Company developed environmentally-friendly hybrid cars like the Honda Civic Hybrid. What made the sales transition so easy was the trust consumers had for their world-wide brand built on decades of brand support.
Branding Heightens Consumer Recognition; Builds Trust
Consumers’ instant awareness of a logo or name is branding nirvana. A brand allows businesses to directly position clients’ expectations with their experiences. When consumers have an understanding of your business and recognize its brand among other companies with similar offerings; this is brand recognition.
Clients are left with an indelible impression about your organization, and perhaps consider why they should do business with you. This perception is the start of a relationship between the customer and company that encourages allegiance and trust.
Consider a recent Harris Poll among consumers about trust in US healthcare and pharmaceutical/biotechnology firms. In this Harris Poll study, only nine percent and 16 percent of respondents believed that pharmaceutical organizations and health insurance companies placed people over profits. In another UK study, the British Brands Group’s Brand and Consumer Trust Summary reported that 1 in 6 respondents was willing to spend top dollar on a brand they trust rather than pay less for a cheaper competing brand. Trust is a powerful entity, without it, organizations must field the challenges of reducing high reputational risk as well as lost profits.
Brand Management Brings Sustainable Growth
As long as you’re willing to commit to tracking the public’s perception of your brand through different channels, you can assess and alter your organization’s brand amid shifting market factors. But today’s brand management extends beyond print and TV where control was in the hands of a few. In yesterday’s world, if a client had a complaint, your company and a few insiders knew about it. That’s no longer true. The Internet has made it possible for anyone to find a complaint and make it a meme.
Metrics and social monitoring are critical to improving or reassessing your brand. Without it, it’s a shot in the dark that’s too volatile for your branding investment. Here are some concepts to keep in mind as you evaluate the results:
- Does your website need a regular update so that clients can find information easily?
- Would support or a live chat feature meet the needs of potential clients?
- Assess sales or support feedback to find pain points clients have with your brand.
- Present short surveys to address issues you hear about most often.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of the benefits to branding your business. But with a little thought, planning and diligence, you can maximize the return on investment by developing a brand that reaps sweet rewards for your business.
Sylvia Burleigh, a content marketing writer with a degree in English has 20 years experience as a technical and content writer for companies, such as IBM, AT&T and Elsevier. Her clients include employment lawyers, digital marketers, HR consultants, dentists and small business owners.