When you think of branding typically think of design, logos, and positive attributes assigned to products based on advertising and associations communicated in those ads. To some extent, that is branding, visual branding if you will. Visual branding is a very important aspect of branding a business but there is more to it than just aesthetics; much more. Branding is a vast topic, but in a nutshell, it is the experience and perception of your business, but more on that later. Today, we share some aspects of branding basics to get you started on this other type of branding.
Looking first at visual branding as the first of our branding basics. We see that large companies often spend millions of dollars with a branding agency to get their visual brand right. Visuals are the first thing anyone sees related to your brand, so that visual image is important. It is the first point of contact with a customer, the first piece of your branding puzzle that starts to build trust with customers.
You want the visual representation of your company to accurately reflect the ethos of your company. And, that visualization is so critical that firms like John Deere trademarked their color, and other firms, like Starbucks, face backlash when they change aspects of that visual brand.
An effective visual identity automatically attracts your target market, explains what your brand is about, and shows the value of your business while setting your brand apart from the competition. For example, if you are selling high-end luxury products, a bright graffiti art style logo doesn’t represent your company’s core values or attract the target market you need to generate business. Instead, using gold connotes luxury, which explains the little gold boxes favored for Godiva products.
Like it or not, first impressions count and while branding is deeper than what meets the eye at first glance, you want to ensure your first glance fits your brand and matches customer notions about your market. If you need help creating the right visual representation for your business, consider using a branding agency. You’ll find branding agencies in all niches and price ranges, so they’re not just for the likes of Nike and McDonalds. A branding agency specializes in graphic design, visual identity, product design, and they’re great for knowing how to best represent your business to your audience.
Furthermore, consistency, clarity, and concision make your company easier to recognize and help it stand out from the crowd. Many companies no longer just compete on a local level but a global one. Brand recognition in a saturated market is important for success. Think about it, if you want your customers to recommend you to their friends, they must remember your brand (as well as have positive associations with it). With effective branding, consistently applied, you develop a consistent image of your brand and what it stands for.
Carefully choose your color palette as colors can trigger emotions and make certain representations. Research on the subject is plentiful and companies invest thousands of dollars in getting their color schemes and aesthetic logos right. For example, purple is often affiliated with luxury, green with the environment, and blue with business.
Colors and visuals enable customers to connect emotionally with a business along with other branding elements that generate a brand personality (BTW, check out the brand archetypes below for a better understanding of brand personality). The more emotionally invested a customer is in your brand the more they are likely to buy and consume it. A poorly designed or unprofessional logo only makes customers question your products, their trustworthiness, and quality, resulting in poor sales and a damaged reputation.
As touched on earlier, branding goes much deeper than having a pretty logo and a style guide that makes your branding cohesive across multiple platforms. Branding is a companies DNA, their ethos, it is what makes them them. Branding is how you want your company consumers to perceive your brand and requires detailed knowledge of marketing, business, relations, and psychology. Again turning to a branding agency may pay dividends if you want to brand your company effectively.
Brand positioning is one of the branding basics that goes beyond the logo. Positioning is:
the act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market
Hence, brand positioning involves related aspects of product differentiation (distinctive differences between you and your competition), market segmentation (dividing up the market into cohesive subgroups with distinct needs/wants/desires), and USP (unique selling proposition).
The most important thing to note about brand positioning is that you essentially make a promise to your customers through your communications. Brand positioning, beyond being a branding basic, involves every aspect of your brand, such as the way you answer the phone, respond to emails, and treat staff and customers.
If a customer recommends your business to a friend they are recommending the ethos you nurtured, the promises you made, and how effectively you delivered on what you promised.
You want to ensure your branding is consistent, clear, and concise. Inconsistencies look unprofessional and break trust in a brand and the lack of clarity confuses customers. The more consistent your branding is the more trust you will build. Building trust in a company is the golden ticket to doing better business. The more trust in your company the better its perception and a strong perception is what you need to generate custom.
Below, note the brand behaviors that build trust in a brand. The quality of your goods and services is most important to consumers regardless of age. A critical note in this graphic is the role played by social responsibility in purchase decisions and trust by younger consumers versus older consumers. Social responsibility includes both supporting causes I believe in, as well as not supporting causes alien to my belief system.
To this end, you must ensure your branding is authentic. There is no point creating a brand that you can’t live up to or that seems artificial to consumers. You need to able to deliver on your promises and the only way you can do that is by making an authentic promise.
Brand authenticity goes beyond keeping your promises to a tacit agreement between your brand and what it stands for. For instance, if you promote your brand as environmentally conscious, you can’t spend money sending managers to far-ranging events using a corporate jet.
Branding basics: implementing your brand
Above, we discussed some tools for implementing your brand. Here, we want to continue that discussion.
Another way that nailing your branding is through marketing and advertising strategy. You want to truly understand your branding, only by doing this can you speak to (or advertise to) customers in a way that is representative of your business. Without clearly defined branding, you don’t know what to say to customers or how to say it, no matter how large your marketing budget. Once you develop a consistent branding effort based on researching consumer segments, you can start tailoring advertising and marketing tactics that speak to your customers in a way they hear and respond to.
It is not just externally that branding affects your business but internally, as well. If you have a strong brand with a strong reputation, employees are more likely to stand behind it and align themselves with your company. They have a higher degree of job satisfaction and pride in their work when they identify with the brand. Working for a company that has a favorable reputation in the market, ultimately makes employees’ jobs more fulfilling, resulting in lower turnover and higher productivity.
Developing good employer/employee relations also impacts the quality of customer service provided or how employees interact with customers outside the business. The happier and more fulfilled the employees, the better they perform their roles. The better they perform their role the better the perception of your business to its customers and the better you deliver on the promises you make.
What is more, good employee relations translate into better prospective employees. If a business is known for its positive reputation both internally and externally, it attracts the best new talent. Recruiting strong candidates becomes a lot easier when the talent has positive images of your brand.
To conclude, branding is essential for success, and in today’s post, we share some branding basics. Before you undertake any other steps in promoting your products, you should have a very clear idea of your brand identity; what your company stands for – and remember to keep it authentic. Absolutely every decision you take after that needs to reflect this identity, from your voicemail recording to how you interact with staff and customers. You need to know who you are and what you can deliver to your target market. If you don’t how can you expect your custom to?
Visual identity is also important, you want to make those first impressions aligned to your target marketing and create a memorable visual identity that sets you apart. That said, remember visuals are not everything. Remain consistent and clear with your branding in everything you do. Let it be the reason your business operates.
The importance of getting these branding basics right is huge and pays dividends. What all of the above boils down to is, if you can create a successful brand that is trusted, clear and consistent you will ultimately see growth in your business and that is the name of the game; increased financial value.
Need marketing help to support business growth?
We welcome the opportunity to show you how we can make your marketing SIZZLE with our data-driven, results-oriented marketing strategies. Sign up for our FREE newsletter, get our FREE guide to creating an awesome website, or contact us for more information on hiring us.
Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.