The Essential Do’s and Don’ts of Branding

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In today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, companies can really benefit from unique branding as a way to stand out; especially since 50% fail in the first year and 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs don’t make it past 18 months. Branding has the power to elevate a product or company, but it also has the ability (if not done right) to confuse the public and leave you blending in with the crowd.  
Here are three essential do’s and don’ts of branding that will help you connect with consumers and increase your chance of breaking through. 
1. Don’t Underestimate the Power of a Strong Brand 
The biggest mistake I see business owners make is that they don’t pay enough attention to their brand. This is typically because the definition of “brand” is misunderstood. Brands are not simply names, logos, or websites. Brands are valuable business assets, and these assets need investment, expertise, and constant attention. A brand is your relationship with your customer. If you keep it healthy, it will help you build loyalty. 
Strong brands also have tangible business benefits. They allow you to charge a premium, get customers to ask for you by name, increase trial of new products and services, and inspire word-of-mouth marketing. Strong brands can also provide more slack in terms of forgiveness when you mess up. And let’s face it, all brands—even Apple— make mistakes from time to time. 
2. Do Use Your Brand as a Filter for Key Business Decisions 
Once you’ve defined your unique brand promise—or, what I like to call Twist—your brand can serve as a great framework and filter for all the thousands of decisions that businesses need to make on a daily basis. Some of these decisions include: what new products and services to offer, what to charge customers, and how to effectively use social media. Strong brands can help you make these important decisions quicker and with more confidence. And strong brands bring their Twist to life at every single brand touch-point. Starbucks doesn’t just say it’s about community—and not just coffee—it proves it. Enter a Starbucks and you can feel the Twist brought to life. From the green-aproned baristas, the specific “Tall, Venti, and Grande” sizes, to the free Wi-Fi and comfortable leather chairs. Right away, you can feel that you are in not in an average coffee shop. 
3. Do Take Off Your Brand Blinders 
As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you are more than likely walking around with “brand blinders” on. This is when you spend so much time following the branding and marketing rules of your category that you end up completely blending in. Look at the marketing of your nearest competitors. Is there anything that you really admire or really stands out? Chances are no. If you printed out the home pages of five brands in your competitive set and crossed out all of the logos, would you be able to tell who is who? Would most of the imagery look the same? Is there a predominant color that everyone is using? Are the key messages identical? If so, then you need to step away and take off your brand blinders. 
Close your eyes and think about any bank you know. Think about their logo. What color is it? Chances are strong that it is predominately blue and red. (Citibank, Bank of America, HSBC and Chase all follow this rule.) Then imagine a section on the website talking about saving for retirement. Close your eyes again. What’s the image you see? When I ask this question in my Brand School workshops, everyone immediately blurts out the same image: “Stylish couple in their 60s, dressed in white, and usually walking barefoot on a beach. They have short gray hair and piercing blue eyes that look off into the sunset with confidence in their financial future.”  
Why is fitting in a problem? As a business owner, your potential customer is not just living in a world where your brand exists. As consumers we are overwhelmed with choices (it is estimated that we see 1,500-4,000 ads a day, but remember only 76), so standing out becomes critical. [Source: Belch & Belch: Advertising and Promotion]. 

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Julie Cottineau, Founder, Brand School Online Contact: Elizabeth.Martins@SmithPublicity.com

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