You’ve probably heard the word “branding” thrown around if you’ve started a business. Sadly, it’s become defined in several ways across various fields, so before we get into branding and how it helps businesses, let’s make sure we’re on the same page:
A brand is not a logo, name, or service, it is the gut feeling we associate with an entity. If branding is done well, that feeling is uniform across the spectrum.
Brands are perceptions we create for ourselves based on our interactions with something or someone. You feel me on that? The brand isn’t confined to one specific experience, but the culmination of every experience (it’s worth noting that throughout this article I use the term in place of business or company to keep focus).
It’s pretty simple, if brands are feelings and perceptions, then brand-ing is the fostering of those feelings and perceptions to influence action.
I’m glad you asked, and I’ll respond with this quote from Bob Burg:
All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.
Those are feelings and perceptions. He didn’t say people will do business with those that are faster, smarter, or wealthier or other attributes backed by quantitative data, he picked feelings. No matter how stoic or rational someone may be, they’re a human with emotions and those emotions will drive action if evoked. Branding surfaces those emotions and gives consumers the opportunity to know, like, and trust your business.
You see someone you’ve met before walking down the street, you say, “I know them,” and their presence becomes more valuable because of it.
You see a logo hanging on a sign for a restaurant or clothing store you saw a review for on Facebook. You say “I know them,” and their presence becomes more valuable because of it.
While building a brand goes deeper than outward appearance and presentation, it’s usually the first element consumers will use to gauge your business. We can say we don’t judge based on appearances, but beyond the playground it becomes a must. How else are we to navigate and sift through the 5,000 advertising messages we encounter daily? If it wasn’t for brand recognition and preference, our heads would explode from information overload.
Crafting an identity that emotionally resonates with your desired consumer draws them in. You are fighting for their affection and attention among thousands of other businesses. Best to make it worth their while from the get go.
Walk down the soft drink aisle at Vons and see where you look first. Is this a brand you’ve bought from before? If not, are you looking at it because something about it’s presentation resonated with you? What was it?
Let’s be honest, you’ve heard way too many businesses speak about how “customer service is their top priority,” or “respect, integrity, and innovation” are their core values. Anyone who has to say that clearly needs some assurance that they are being truthful.
Honest people don’t say they are honest, they act honestly.
Innovative people don’t say they are innovative, they innovate.
Respectful people don’t tell others they’re respectful, they prove it.
Brands are like people and they have personalities. Does your business sound, look, and act like someone you would want to be friends with or take interest in? If not, why should your customers? Intentionally crafting this brand personality helps attract the right people and keeps them around because they enjoy experiencing all aspects of your brand. Not only for the things the brand says, but how they say it and how they live up to their words.
Variance in character is most evident between two brands in the same industry. Everyone likes ice cream, so watch these Haagen Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s commercials. How do they act differently? What kind of personality do they each have?
I’m positive that everyone reading this has experienced someone acting out of character and I guarantee that you second guessed trusting that person again. Why?
Because you had expectations and they weren’t met.
Consumers like consistency. Consistency is what made franchises like Subway and McDonald’s so successful. No matter where you are in the world, you know exactly what to expect. Are those expectations high? Probably not (#sorrynotsorry), but they were met exactly the way you imagined they would be.
The question becomes this: what do you want to be trusted for and how can you demonstrate that quality throughout every consumer touch-point? Even the smallest efforts to prove you’re trustworthy go a long way. Suitable greetings and handshakes, memorable business cards, or making sure your office doesn’t look like a tornado came through it to name a few. Add a touch of brand personality and you’ll establish serious credibility as a business.
Business cards are often overlooked as a key element within branding. Pop open your rolodex and find a card you remember. What was special about it? Is the card an accurate reflection of what this company stands for? Is the same attention to detail present within their business? Or does the card connote distrust or lack attention?
Every business has a brand, whether they have intentionally crafted it or not, they have one. That gut-feeling is one of the greatest influences you have to make your customers, know, like, and trust you. If you haven’t put any thought into what you want that feeling to be, you are leaving it up to the masses to make it for you.