Branding – What Is It, Why Bother and How To Create It

What is Branding?

Branding DNA

Branding used to refer to the practice of burning unique identifying marks into the hides of cattle or horses.  Those days are long gone, yet branding is stronger and more deeply infused into our everyday lives than every before.

Today, branding is a pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness or the swoosh symbol on shoes or jackets.  It is a simple black silhouette of an apple for Apple.  It is a company’s DNA.

Branding is no longer limited to just a mark or a logo. Today, a brand tells the story of an entire entity.  Embedded within the brand identity are the values of a company, the style of management, the attitude toward customers, its employees and much more.  The brand has become an instantaneous marker of all that a company is – maybe more so than the actual product it creates and delivers. Branding says something is different with this company, something more than business as usual.

Many mistakenly believe that the graphic image (logo) represents the brand.  The thinking is that if the logo is really ‘cool’ the company must be as well.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Rather,  it is the story or the collection of stories behind the logo that create the mental images of the brand and what it stands for.

Apple’s logo wouldn’t have the same impact if it weren’t for the stories about Steve Jobs.  It is the stories of design perfection, innovation and black turtle necks that define the brand and the image of Apple.

A pink ribbon would mean nothing if it weren’t for the tens of thousands of people who have either experienced cancer or who know of loved ones who have.  It is their stories that are woven into the pink ribbon and give it significance.

Unfortunately, too few business owners tell the story of their brand.  Instead, they leave it to the imagination of their customers and prospects, who may or may not have the inclination to care about the brand.

As a business owner, it is your job to give them a reason to care.

People don’t fall in love with logos.  They fall in love with the interesting stories behind the brand – stories that exhibit values and attributes people want in their lives.

Why Branding Matters? 

Branding creates all sorts of advantages regardless of the size of the business.  Here are a few of the most important ones.

  • Differentiates your business from your competitors.  Without a strong brand identity, your business fades into the woodwork and are just one of many.
  • Can take the pressure off of ‘selling’ because a strong brand image automatically attracts consumers who share similar values and want to be associated with such brands.
  • Can create a strong emotional bond with customers and thereby enhancing customer loyalty.
  • Serves as some insulation from economic downturns and new competitive threats.
  • Facilitates new product expansion.

How To Craft Your Brand?

The best way to craft your brand is to simply tell your story – expose your DNA – and to do so in an interesting way.

Chances are high there is at least one if not several stories hanging around your company just waiting for you to pick them up and use them.  You just haven’t bothered to look.

Begin by asking yourself some questions – questions that will unlock a host of stories you never thought about.

Who are you serving?  You always want to begin with your audience.  After all, without them there would be no business and they often hold the compelling stories that differentiate your from your competitors.

What problem are you solving for this audience?  Supposedly, there is a story behind every sale.  Are there stories in how your products or services have solved customers’ problems in some unique way?   Let your customers share their perceptions of your brand through testimonials, case studies, etc.

Why are you doing what you’re doing?  How did you get into this business and why are you still doing it?  Did you see something others didn’t?  Are you meeting an unmet need?  Do you have something to prove?

How do you interact in your community, in the world?  Are you big believer in green and being sustainable? Do you use your resources to contribute to your community or to the little league team, or the disabled?

What matters to you as a business person?  Is there a bigger reason behind ‘why’ you are in business?  What is your mission?  What is your business philosophy?  Don’t be afraid to express what your business stands for.  Without some business spine, you become a wish-washy commodity that is driven only by price and not by your unique branding.

Your answers to these questions should help you uncover not just one but many stories about your business that will help you build your branding.

Once you’ve identified your brand story and reduced it to its essence, make it central to all aspects of your business – your hiring, your marketing, your products, your website, your social media efforts, your offline marketing efforts.  Embed and integrate your branding into all that you do.

After all, it is your story.  It is your business DNA.  It is the magic stuff that will set you apart in the market.  Share your story with your audience and they will come to know, like and trust you like no other.

What’s the story behind your brand?  Share your thoughts about why you might not be telling your story to your market.

 

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Sheila Hibbard

Sheila Hibbard takes the fluff, hype and confusion out of marketing and social media. She provides small business owners with straight forward, no nonsense marketing guidance and techniques that produce results based on her 35 plus years in advertising, communications, research, strategic planning and social media. Author of Marketing Online Made Simple - WHO.

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