Find out how strong branding adds value to your business, and how to get started when it comes to building your own brand
Branding. The word is often thrown around in conversations about marketing, but what does it really involve and is it worth the effort?
Broadly speaking, branding is the sum total of anything you use to differentiate your business from the competition, while also creating a unique identity that is recognizable and elicits an emotional response from prospective and existing customers. It’s essentially every strategic move you make towards crafting your image, and includes everything from your logo and brand colours right up to your tone of voice, tagline, product offering, and customer service.
The benefits of effective branding
- Increase recognition:Your branding needs to be consistent and easily recognizable if you’re looking to earn the trust of your audience. If you’re providing your customers with great service and quality products, that’s something you want your brand to be recognized for. It’s the kind of positive association you want current and prospective customers to make when they see your branding in action. Once people are familiar with your brand, and you’re known as a reliable, quality provider, you’ll find it easier to get repeat business and increase referrals.
- Stand out from the competition: The more competitive the market is, the more important it is to stand out from the crowd. Branding is an excellent way to set yourself apart from the competition, especially if you’re working with a product or service that can be difficult for customers to differentiate from one provider to the next. Use your branding to pinpoint key points of difference and highlight what makes you better than the competition. Be sure to shine a light on these unique selling points in order to add value in the eyes to your customers, and keep your name at the forefront of their minds when it comes to the decision-making stage.
- Build trust and set expectations: A truly strong brand has the power to create and build trust among current and prospective customers alike. People are drawn to what’s familiar to them; when your customers know you, your product, and what to expect in terms of price, quality, service and overall value, they feel at ease when choosing your brand over others, and are far more likely to recommend you to a friend.
Of course, it’s not all about looks, but having a clean, professional aesthetic boosts your credibility. Customers see the brands they choose to align themselves with as an extension of their lifestyle and personality, so being polished and consistently well-presented is a must. But how do you build a strong brand?
Research your target market
To effectively position your brand among a sea of competitors, the first thing you need to do is dig deep into what your ideal customer looks for in a brand. That means looking at what kind of behaviours, traits, beliefs, and core value your brand offers and assessing what makes you better than the competition.
The way you approach your research should be tailored to suit your company and the type of information you need, but most companies start by creating customer personas. Before you start communicating with your audience, you need to know who you’re talking to and what they want from a brand.
Create personas, give them names, faces and personalities, and ask these characters questions until you establish a solid idea of what your perfect customer looks like in terms of demographics, expectations, goals and interests.
This will allow you to tailor your branding and your message to the right people.
Finding your voice in a niche market
‘Brand voice’ refers to the unique way your company presents itself to the world in writing; it’s your brand personified. Establishing a clear, unique brand voice is absolutely essential if you want to create a strong overall brand identity that sets you apart from the competition and effectively communicates your message to the right audience.
No matter the platform or customer touchpoint, your brand voice should be familiar, consistent and attractive to your target audience. But how do you create a voice as unique as your brand?
There are two key points to keep in mind when it comes to creating your brand voice:
- Can you think of three words to describe your brand’s personality? If you can, do those words appeal to the demographic you want to target? If not, it’s time to revisit your core values and offerings again to refresh your memory.
- Next, take a closer look at what the competition is doing—identify their tone of voice, and make sure you sound nothing like it. When you mimic another brand’s voice, you’re giving your audience the impression that there’s no difference in what you’re offering.
Developing a global brand
When you’re taking your company global, it’s important to strike a balance between consistency—being true to your brand—and cultural sensitivity. If you want your brand to continue being a success elsewhere in the world, a great deal of research into the cultural dos and don’ts of each new country you expand into needs to take place first in order to ensure you maintain positive visibility.
Your tone of voice should set you apart from the competition. It needs to be distinctive and recognizable enough to create a sense of familiarity between customers and your brand. If your audience can identify your brand and its voice in a line-up of peers, that builds trust and increases the likelihood that you’ll not only make the shortlist, but shoot to the top when it comes to decision time.
From your name and logo to colours, symbols, sounds, taglines and the way you choose to work, this seemingly-small word ‘branding’ carries a lot of weight, and certainly merits a great deal of attention.
That being said, there can be no solid brand without first establishing a crystal-clear understanding of the product or service you’re offering, and who you’re offering it to. No amount of branding can make up for a product or service lacking in quality, so take your time during the research and development stage.