At it’s core, a “brand” is defined as the name of the source of a product; however, over time, the application of “brand” has changed greatly!
Marketers know that branding is so much more than a name: it’s Nordstrom’s incredible customer service, Disney magic that’s irreverent of age, and Coca-Cola’s strength as a symbol of Americana. It’s the emotional connection that people have with your product and the gut feeling they have when they hear about or have an experience with your company. And in today’s connected world—one where freely publishing your opinion on the Internet for all to see is incredibly simple—a brand is less about what marketers believe it to be, and more about what consumers say it is. As Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com CEO, says: your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.
So, we know what a brand is, and we know who controls it, but why is it important?
Branding generates recognition and builds trust.
It’s no secret that people tend to purchase from brands they’re familiar with; why would they take a chance with a new product if they already know what to expect from the one they’ve used or had experience with before? Your branding sets those expectations for consumers.
Branding sets you apart from your competition.
Think: Lyft vs. Uber, Airbnb vs. VRBO, HubSpot vs. Marketo. Branding answers the consumer’s age-old question of, ”why should I buy from CompanyX?” Maybe it’s because CompanyX focuses heavily on sustainable business practices (something the consumer strongly believes in), or perhaps it’s because the consumer knows they’ll receive exceptional customer service from CompanyX. No matter what your company values and believes in, the way you position your brand is your chance to differentiate from others in your industry.
Branding helps drive new business.
Great branding organically creates evangelists and develops long term relationships with your customers, which results in more sales, referrals, and overall advocacy for your products. When customers have a great experience with your brand, they’re going to tell others about it! Back to my point about freely-published opinions on the Internet: customers, both satisfied and not, are going to write about your company on Yelp!, on their blogs, on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and, well, everywhere. So, if we can’t control what our customers are saying about us on the Internet, we have no choice but to give them an excellent experience to talk about.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Okay, okay, I get it! Branding is important, but how can I build my brand?” To which I say: Outlaww’s got your back!
Small businesses especially have the opportunity for more intimate control over the many touch points of their business. Whether you’re communicating by email, social media, blog, or in-person, each interaction with your brand should be consistent and feel like one fluid experience.
Without further ado, here’s how you can generate a brand-bolstering, cohesive customer experience:
1. Know your brand’s target customer.
Once you’ve defined your own brand, it’s important to define your brand’s target customer. By developing customer personas and considering the types of people that your company is hoping to attract, you can more easily create messaging that these potential customers can rally behind.
An awesome example of this is Harley Davidson’s success with social branding: the marketing gurus at Harley Davidson have successfully cultivated a community of customers who take on the “Harley” persona—die-hard motorcycle enthusiasts with an affinity for leather, bandanas, and logo tattoos (source).
2. Develop a consistent voice.
Your editorial voice should present a uniform identity that engages your target customer. Is your brand quirky? Geeky? Friendly? Professional? Whatever your brand identifies as, nailing down the perfect voice is a great way to amplify your brand over time.
MailChimp is a perfect example of brand voice embodiment: human, familiar, and friendly. Whether you’re chatting with MailChimp support or browsing their Twitter profile (which is filled with incredible content from their in-house brand agency), you’ll find that their voice is evenly applied and consistently supports their brand.
3. Respect your brand identity.
It may seem simple, but one of the most important things you can do is ensure that you respect your brand identity! Use your logo correctly, take pride in consistent application of your brand colors, use the same style of graphic design across all of your marketing channels, stick to a single font, and make sure that your employees and partners follow suit.
Psst—for some extra credit reading: Why Your Brand Needs a Real Style Guide.
Yes, building a brand doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, patience, and persistence, but the results pay dividends when you put in the hard work up front. After all, behind every great company is an iconic, beloved-to-many brand. So, what are you waiting for? Reach out to the marketing pros at Outlaww today to find out how we can help you grow your brand!