Branding Basics

Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small, retail or B2B. An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. But what exactly does “branding” mean?

Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be. Is your product the high-cost, high-quality option, or the low-cost, high-value option? You can’t be both, and you can’t be all things to all people. Who you are should be based to some extent on who your target customers want and need you to be.

The visual foundation of your brand is your logo. Your website, packaging and promotional materials–all of which should integrate your logo–communicate your brand.

Brand Strategy & Equity
Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages. Where you advertise and what you communicate visually and verbally all point back to your brand strategy.

Consistent, strategic branding leads to a strong brand equity, which means the added value brought to your company’s products or services that allows you to charge more for your brand than what identical, unbranded products do. A perfect example of this is Chanel vs. a generic hand bag. Because Chanel has built a powerful high-end brand equity, it can charge a high premium for its product–and customers will pay that higher price. The added value intrinsic to brand equity frequently comes in the form of perceived quality or emotional attachment.

Defining Your Brand
Defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the questions below:

  • What is your company’s mission?
  • What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
  • What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
  • What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?

Do Your Research

Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think. Because defining your brand and developing a brand strategy can be complex, consider leveraging the expertise of a creative agency that can perform the necessary research to help you discover your brand. Once you’ve defined your brand, how do you get the word out? Here are a few simple, time-tested tips:

  • Get a great logo. Place it everywhere.
    Write down your brand messaging. What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should be aware of your brand attributes. This creates an internal brand culture that will resonate with your team and ultimately they will be your brand ambassadors.
  • Integrate your brand. Branding extends to every aspect of your business–how you answer your phones, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your e-mail signature, everything.
  • Create a “voice” for your company that reflects your brand. This voice should be applied to all written communication and incorporated in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off.
  • Develop a tagline. Write a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand.
  • Create brand standards for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. Be consistent.
  • Be true to your brand. Customers won’t return to you or refer you to someone else if you don’t deliver on your brand promise.

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