Building A Brand Pt 1: What Makes A Brand
Since as early as 1200 BC, producers would pull out their branding iron, dip into fiery coals and burn a mark into their products. Millenniums have passed and branding has evolved from the old practice of simply placing a logo on a product. Of course a company name and logo are important but but they are just a small part of the big picture. So what is a brand then?
"A brand is the public perception of a company"
Every time we deal with a company we’re continually developing an opinion. We can sense whether a restaurant is laid back or pretentions, simply by the fit out of the place. When dealing with customer service, we start to judge if a store is reliable and trustworthy. We may even question a company’s moral fible based on where and how they manufacture their products. All these types of things affect how we feel about a company and our perception is what defines a company’s brand.
So when you’re trying to create a brand, you’re really trying to give the company a personality. A personality that not only ties into the core values of your business, but one that your customers can relate to. If customer don’t like that personality, well they will choose to go elsewhere, but if you succeed you start to build a relationship that leads to brand loyalty. To simplify, customers define a brand and companies influence consumer perception.
It’s easy to see why why branding is so important and how involved it is. To simplify we like to break things up into three phases. Brand Core Values, Brand Identity and Brand Experience. In part 2, 3 and 4 we will be diving into these areas into greater detail, but let’s get an overview now.
Brand Core Values
Establishing the core values of your brand, is your chance to establish a personality for your company, but first you need get to know your target customer and research your competitors
Start with your customers, how well do you really know them? Don’t make the mistake of just assuming. A lot you can research online, but to really identify with them you need to go out and speak to them, understand their lifestyle, find out about their interests and get to know the characteristics and values that make them who they are.
Really get to know your competitors. List your strengths and weaknesses and get an understanding of your niche. Ask yourself, why customers would come to you if they can already go elsewhere to get what you’re offering? What makes your company so different and stand out from the crowd? By answering these questions you’re establishing the unique selling points of your brand.
With research and hand, you can now tailor the core values of your brand. This is simply a list of characteristics that make your brand unique and appealing to your customers. Some of McDonald’s values would include is fast, friendly, good value and convenient. Apple’s would include simple, innovative, fashionable and different. Once you have established your core values, stick to them and use them throughout every aspect of your business.
Commonly we think of brand identity as a business name and logo. In fact it’s all the elements a brand creates so that customers can identify a company. All these elements are tailored to express the core brand values of the company, and are consistently used so customers to become familiar with a brand. Standard practice is to create Brand Guidelines, which act as the brand rules for logo treatments, colours, fonts and tone of voice. These rules are then applied to different elements such as business cards, packaging design, websites and marketing. By being consistent and strictly following these rules, customers are be able to identify the company with without even looking at the logo. For instance, people can pick out Coca Cola from the other side of the store just by recognizing their colour red.
However this can be pushed even further we can identify a brand with more than just what we see. Most of us have five senses and a brand can leverage all of them. Take our sense of smell, so powerful human beings can remember about 10,000 distinct odors, which can trigger memories way back to our childhood. Imagine a company makes a vanilla scent apart of their brand. When customers walk into their stores they smell vanilla, which will generally trigger positive emotions sparked from all those times you had vanilla ice cream. The scent gives the customer a welcoming and comforting impression influences their perception of the brand. As customers continue returning to the store, they start to form a connection that can lead them to think of the brand every time they smell vanilla.
So when you think brand identity, think past the name and logo. Consider every element you can use to communicate your brand personality and allows customers to identify your company.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t dread calling up their mobile phone provider to rectify a problem. Unhelpful or unknowledgable customer service reflects poorly on the company, presenting the brand as unreliable. The experience we have with companies, greatly influences our perception of a brand, which is why it’s important companies ensure they are continually reviewing and improving customer experience.
"Positive customer experience leads to brand loyalty"
By mapping out all the different customer purchase journeys, you’ll be able to fine tune brand experience to reflect the core values of the company. Take Subway, some of the core values they uphold are fresh food, convenient, good value, healthy and friendly. Sandwiches are in no way unique, but the experience is and ties back the their core brand values.
Customers can see the food first hand, reassuring them that it’s fresh and healthy.
The sandwich production line and packaging makes the whole process convenient.
The competitive price reflect great Value.
Staff are friendly, trained to be helpful and guide customers through their journey.
Again, core values are built around customer and competitor research, so by tailoring the customer experience to meet those values, they have created a successful brand that is unique and meets needs of their target audience.
Establishing a brand takes time, but It’s not hard to see why branding is so important. Done right and not only can it result to more leads and sales, but you’ll continue to gain loyal customers that won’t even consider the alternatives.