There is widespread ambivalence about the relevance of branding, especially among startups and small businesses looking to find their feet in an innately hostile environment.
For the most part, small businesses remain blinded by the erroneous assumption that brands exclusively signify the ‘bigger’ fish in the bond who have unrestrained access to massive budgets and nationwide recognition.
As a result, they acquiesce to their fate and do precious little other than coming up with fancy looking business cards or a catchy logo. This is ironical, considering that it is small businesses that need to leverage branding more than their well-established counterparts.
To reinforce this point, research suggests that almost 50% of consumers suggest that they consider becoming more loyal to a brand during their very first purchase.
After all, branding gives your audience a clear sense of purpose and well-defined roadmap – a credible voice that people want to listen to. But do they really need to, or is there more than meets the eye?
For starters, branding is way more than just an iridescent dash of colors (aka logo). It includes everything you do, or claim to do as a business – even if your organization is only about you.
Your brand is the sum total of your customers’ perceptions, notions and experience. It is the face, personality and the values espoused by your business – and everything in between.
More importantly, every single facet of your business – be it your social media profile, the tone of your voicemails or the way you present, market and deliver a service – captures the essence of your branding and sends an implicit message about how much you respect your own business.
Beyond that, your brand represents who you are, what you believe in and how you want to be perceived by your audience. That is why branding is so important to an organization.
Today, game changers have realized that branding can no longer be viewed as a means to lure your prospects to prefer you over competition.
Your mission is to get them to see you as a dependable thought leader/influencer who addresses their needs or problems with panache, candour and hopefully, better than anybody else. Against this overarching theme, your brand must accomplish the following objectives:
• Deliver a message clearly and succinctly
• Reaffirm your credibility
• Build an emotional connect with your audience
• Generate goodwill and loyalty
• Motivate your potential audience to buy or take the next step
Branding reflects a bold proclamation that your business makes. It tells your audience that you mean business (literally!) and are here to keep all the promises made by your company.
Everything that your organization exemplifies should be easily recognizable throughout the brand. Else, your customers will be quick to notice the gap between what was promised and what was actually delivered on the ground. Needless to say, this gap can be catastrophic not just for your brand awareness, but also for your overall well-ebbing of your business. What this also means is that if you’re unwilling to back your intent with appropriate action, you might as well not intersperse it in your brand.
The beauty about brand is that it’s not restricted to what transpires before a purchase is made. In fact, it’s got more to do with the kind of experience it delivers to your audience at various touch points in their journey, especially after a business transaction.
• Was the quality of the product as good as you had promised?
• Did it serve the purpose it was supposed to?
• How was the overall customer service experience?
By answering these questions honestly, you give yourself a great chance of creating a loyal customer base that looks forward to trusting you.
Moreover, it also lets you align your marketing strategies with your broader business objectives seamlessly. In fact, an increasing number of businesses are realizing the importance of branding in marketing.
In a market that is now stiflingly competitive, how do you stand out from thousands of similar companies that claim to be as good as you, if not better? The need of the hour is to realize that you’re no longer competing at a local level. With the advancements in online and offline technologies, the entire world is your marketplace, literally.
The proposition that your organization can and should cater to a universal audience clearly implies that your growth potential is only limited by your own imagination. However, the one downside to that is that you need to outdo that much more competition, potentially on a global level.
By establishing your brand and its credibility, you give your customers a valid reason to consider you before turning elsewhere. Research also tells us that people prefer to associate with organizations with a credible, reputed brand than those that don’t.
As your audience gets to know your business better, they will start trusting you more. However, in order to develop that elusive trust factor, you must shout out loud as to why they should try you out. Here, building a brand helps determine how your first few customers perceive the quality of your services.
Combining subject matter competence with unmatched customer experience and a deftly-crafted social media presence will ensure that you cover all bases. You must relay the underlying message that every single initiative you take is to delight your customers and encourage them to keep coming back to you.
Let’s face it. Most people just don’t have the time or interest in figuring out why they should care about your brand – even after you create a website. Thus, the onus is on you to ensure that the brand answers that all-important question on your behalf.
For example, how can you tell your mates about the stunning golfing gear that you’ve found incredibly helpful if you cannot even remember the brand? Every organization needs to have a credible face – and very often, branding becomes the face that engages their potential audience, delights them at every touch point of their journey and eventually earns their trust – in that order. Building brand identity is arguably one of the most effective ways of spreading the good news about your business. Equally, it is paramount that your marketing efforts, logo design, social media communication and reputation are congruent with each other to create a resounding impression on your audience.
As that happens, you’re more likely to convince your audience to become your success partners, opening up new and sustainable revenue outlets.
If you give your customers a good enough reason to feel strongly about why they should care about your business (which can only happen if you convince them about what it can do for them), they have a better reason to make the transition from fence sitters to active participants – in other words, get one step closer towards making a purchase decision. This is an important point because, as mountains of research tell us, it is emotions and not logic that drives the purchase decisions of most buyers.
As visceral emotional creatures, humans are fond of ideas, stories, concepts and even products that touch that coveted emotional nerve in them. Also, emotions score heavily over logic when it comes to developing brand loyalty.
This phenomenon was glaringly evident at the ads shown during the 2016 Rio Olympics. The most popular ads were the ones that combined emotions and universal experiences to build an indelible emotional connection with viewers. Similarly, PG&E’s “Thank you Mom” advertisement underpinned key themes emerging out of the stories from the lives of different athletes whose mothers shielded them from potentially fatal situations and raised them in the best possible manner.
Here, branding becomes a means of making an emotional statement every time your customers stumble across your business or something that reminds them about it – through engaging storytelling – which engages your audience’s subconscious mind and builds an emotional bridge between the story and the brand.
The human side of branding is something that will always remain universally relevant, particularly in times when all we have is a few milliseconds to emotionally engage with our audiences.