To discuss the topic of branding, we should first answer the question, what is a brand? Is it a company or product name? Is it a logo or a slogan or specific corporate colors? It is none of those things, even though they are visual signifiers of a brand and are a huge part of brand recognition. A brand is a personality that identifies a product, service or company. It is an experiential and psychological perception of “you.” It goes beyond facts and ingredients; it gives a business an identity. It fulfills a human need to associate ourselves with things we know and trust. With technology making a consumer’s world larger than ever before and so many products and services available in that world, we need a way to sort through the options. Strong brands help us do that and therefore it is very important for any company to create and develop a strong brand as a means for consumers to simplify their choices and find a supplier they can identify with.
Many aspects of branding are influenced by your company or your product and many can be influenced by your branding and marketing efforts. Your product, your service and your company’s attitude and approach to your customers are a key foundation for your brand (the experiential aspect). But telling potential new customers who and what you are, in a way they can connect with, is a function of your marketing and relates to the psychological aspect of branding.
Determine your position
Brand strategy and positioning are key parts of planning your brand. Where in the market does your brand (company or product) best fit? What are its strengths and weaknesses compared to competitors in that space? How can those comparisons help you position it to show off its advantages and give it a distinctive place in the market? What are your long and short-term goals for your brand? What tactics and strategies will you use to reach your goals? These are all critical questions to be answered before you can develop a successful brand.
Once you know how you want to position your brand, it’s important to determine the brand attributes, identity and personality and how they will relate to your target audience. Once you know “who” you are, you can develop a look and feel and cultivate a personality in the eyes of your target audience with multiple marketing tools that will create an expectation consistent with theirs.
Brand attributes are the experiential and emotional correlations that customers and prospects assign to a brand. They are an accumulation of qualities that accentuate the visible and and personality aspects of the brand. While brands can have many attributes, some are critical for a strong brand.
For instance a brand must be relevant for the target audience. If an electronics company brands itself as offering old-fashioned quality, it will probably not resonate with their target audience. A company that brands itself as cutting edge would be far more relevant for their prospective customers.
Don’t confuse your audience
Consistency in how a brand is portrayed is also a key factor in its development. An invariable, dependable presentation of a brand will help grow the feeling of reliability that the company or product is what it says it is. If a company portrays itself in one ad as a pillar of strength, and in another as a fountain of fun – consumers will be confused. They won’t know “who” the company is or what it stands for. Without that knowledge (or perceived knowledge) customers will very likely search out a solution in a brand they know and understand.
Give them reason to believe
For a brand to have a strong place in the market, it must be credible. It should be portrayed in a realistic, believable way, but more importantly, it must deliver what it promises. If an individual portion dinner promises it will fill you up, it should be portioned to fill up at least the average person. If it doesn’t, the customer will think the brand is not believable or trustworthy. To foster a positive feeling and desire to commit, a brand must be trustworthy.
Another key attribute that a brand should possess is sustainability. If a consumer feels that the brand will be around next month, next year and into the future, they are more likely to feel confidence. Confidence in a brand is essential to building a long-term relationship with long-term customers and that’s what branding is all about!
A strong brand should also be seen as a leader, influential, surpassing all others. The perception should be that the company or the product is best in class and will continue to be. Why wouldn’t a purchaser want to buy the original, the best, the inspiration for all others as opposed to a mediocre copy? They wouldn’t. This is true of everything from electronics to TV dinners.
A successful brand will be unique and different. It should stand out in a crowd of other companies or products. It should also be attractive to the prospect. Customers should be enticed by the promise a brand makes and by the value it renders.
Create your identity
Attributes like these help to create a brand identity. Brand identity is how the brand owner wants the customer to regard the brand. It is an outward declaration from the company about whom and what they are. The brand identity includes the name, trademark, visual appearance (logos, colors, icons, fonts, etc.), all of which are designed to give a certain impression. As opposed to the brand image, which is the customer’s view of the brand, the identity comes from the owner. It is an expression of the strategic goal for the company or product.
The brand image is the customer’s current perception of the brand. It encompasses their thoughts and feelings about the brand right now. The goal of branding and marketing is to move from the brand image to the brand identity.
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