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Branding

The Importance Of Brand

The issue of ‘brand’ is often discussed these days, but what does the concept actually mean for the average SME?

Ed Hatton

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Brands and branding have become the focus of much marketing attention and some hype. Hands up all who recognise all or most of these brands: PrivateProperty, Sorbet, Rocking the Daisies, Turrito Networks, GetSmarter, The Creative Counsel, MiX Telematics and Paycorp? These are all highly successful fast-growing businesses that have featured as success stories in Entrepreneur in the past year.

Their markets must have valued their brand for them to have achieved such remarkable successes, and many of them are far from household names. So how important is your brand to your entrepreneurial business? Who should be familiar with it? What values should it portray?

Related: How Fashion Start-Up ToVch Built A Brand Presence With Only A Little Budget

Back to basics

A ‘brand’ derives from the brand mark burned on livestock to mark ownership. Technically, it is a trademark for a company or product, but in the modern sense it is the value consumers place on the advantages or qualities of the person, company or product. There are many definitions of brand and branding and this adds to the confusion about what to do about branding your business and products.

This is a good one: “Brand is the image people have of your company or product. It’s who people think you are,” says Anne Handley of CC Chapman.

A more cynical one from David Meerman Scott: “Branding is what lazy and ineffective marketing people do to occupy their time and look busy.”

Sadly this last one is only too true of many companies selling brand development, and then delivering a logo, a pretty website and templates for letterheads, business cards, and adverts. That is simply brand design, and, yes, you need it for your business but do not think that this will produce the mysterious ‘branding’ that everyone says is so important.

Handley says your brand is “who people think you are,” which is a collection of all the experiences they have had, read or heard about your company and its products. This will include marketing messages delivered to them via your website, advertising, social media or PR, but consumer experiences or stories of the experience of others will always be much more important. What you do counts, not what you tell people you do.

Visibility

Customers (and potential customers) need to be aware of your brand, but that does not mean you should aim for universal recognition. You cannot compare your brand with the global icons such as Nike, Virgin and Coca Cola, which are so often used when branding is discussed.

Trying to copy them is likely to cost you a large amount of money that could be better spent elsewhere. Focus your brand messages on your customers and those that are reasonably likely to become customers.

The successful companies I listed earlier had no need to become household names. Many defined their target market tightly and then gave customers exactly what they needed with wonderful service. Their customers talked to others and word of mouth, the most powerful brand media, worked for them.

Related: 4 Ways To Protect Your Digital Personal Brand

Marketing budget will always be limited and you need to split this between brand building and generating sales enquiries. For many businesses this should mean spending most of your available funds generating sales leads and intensifying your efforts to give customers product quality and service levels they will talk about.

A ‘must have’ is a website which delivers crisp, truthful and easily digested information about your company and products. It must be visible to people searching for similar products via the Internet.

Always test your own website by making the sort of enquiries your prospective customers would and see how visible you are. Use social media sites and customer surveys to establish how well you are living up to your brand promise. Remember Handley’s words: “Brand is who people think you are.”

Ed Hatton is the owner of The Marketing Director and has consulted to and mentored SMBs in strategy, marketing and sales for almost 20 years. He co-authored an entrepreneurship textbook and is passionate about helping entrepreneurs to succeed.

Branding

(Infographic)Top 10 Reasons To Rebrand Your Business

In order to grow, sometimes you’ve got to go back to the drawing board.

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Businesses often need to rebrand, and it can be a result of many reasons, including international growth, new management, a bad reputation or an outdated image. Whatever the reason, it’s important to create a stellar brand that people will remember.

Because of internationalisation, Raider changed its name to Twix. If you plan to grow internationally, it’s incredibly important to choose a brand name that’s adaptable and appealing to cultures worldwide.

Related: (Video) Three Tips To Read Before You Rebrand

Walmart, known for its low prices, is also a prime example of a major company that wanted to reposition itself in the market. However, instead of changing its name, the company simply changed its slogan from “Always low prices” to “Save money, live better.”

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he changed Apple’s rainbow logo to a sleek metallic one. Keeping up with trends, changing times and his vision for Apple’s future, Jobs’s rebrand worked well and aligned with the company’s brand of offering minimalistic, contemporary products.

If you’re planning to rebrand your business, it’s important to think about what will help your company grow. To learn more, check out Custom Logo Shop’s infographic below for the top 10 reasons to rebrand your business:

1524235416_reasons-rebrand-business-infographic

Related: 5 Steps To Becoming A More Recognisable Brand

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

 

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Branding

3 Ways To Build Your Brand Identity Using Content Marketing

Can your content pass the ‘logo test’? If not, it’ll be just another one of those generic articles that bombard your target audience each day.

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Can your company’s content pass the “no-logo test”? When I work with digital strategy clients who are struggling with content marketing, I always ask them to take the logo test, inspired by this excellent Content Marketing Institute article. You should try it, too.

To do that, copy and paste articles you’ve written, along with articles from your competitors, into Word documents. Print out the documents and lay them side by side. Now, can you identify your content from the competition’s without the aid of any logos or company names? If your content lacks a distinct voice and tone, it won’t stand out.

I get it: When you’re first getting started with content marketing, even publishing a blog post every few weeks can feel like a major victory. But once you work out the mechanics of content ideation, you should put in the time needed to create content that brings your brand to life. Why? In a world drowning in digital clutter, content marketing is most effective when you provide a clear, distinct viewpoint that’s beneficial to your target audience.

“Brand voice is the intentional, consistent communication of your business identity,” brand strategist Dima Midon told me in a recent phone interview. Midon, who founded the brand strategy and digital marketing firm TrafficBox, is an expert in all things SEO and search-engine marketing. He also knows that these digital strategies are incomplete without a solid branded content foundation.

“From start-ups to global businesses, the organisations with the best content strategy are those that create content reflective of their brand’s unique personality and then use this content to build stronger relationships with prospects and clients,” says Midon.

Related: Brand And Marketing: Finding The Balance For SMEs

Branded content has exploded in popularity over the last five years. For clients and customers, reading branded content – in general – is far more interesting and relevant than a marketing ad. “Branded” means content that’s informative, interactive and entertaining and brings value to a reader’s day. Thanks to social media, such content can catch on like wildfire, rapidly reaching a far wider audience than a standard marketing message.

Vision, voice, and value: Bringing branded content marketing to life

As the name implies, “branded content marketing” needs to be grounded in your brand’s identity. If your content can’t pass the “logo test,” it will be just another of those generic pieces daily bombarding your target audience. To make your content stand out, bring your brand identity to life with three steps:

1. Define your vision

Your organisation likely has a mission or vision statement, company goals and core values. Consider how the content you create will reflect this mission, goals and values. Then align this vision with your customer’s needs. Every piece of branded content you create should apply your company’s unique perspective and expertise to problems your customers face.

Example? Consider the “Open Forum” American Express sponsors, to provide small business owners with the “insights, inspiration and connections” they need to grow their business. While topics range from money management to team building, every piece of content Amex publishes here is dedicated to advancing its vision of helping small businesses thrive.

2. Define your brand voice

A distinctive, unwavering brand voice is an essential component of successful content marketing. While you may have a very clear idea of your brand’s voice, ask yourself, is everyone else at your company on board with this voice, too? Brands, like people, need to prioritize certain traits, to build a reputation. Scattered messaging and inconsistent brand voice can confuse your audience.

So, take time now to codify brand voice and guidelines. Many B2B companies, for example, seek to strike a balance between professionalism and accessibility. They want to be viewed as subject matter experts without sounding too technical or complex. Consequently, the corresponding brand-voice guideline might emphasise the use of clear, concise language that avoids technical jargon.

Example? MailChimp’s brand voice is a great example of how a B2B company can strike this balance. The company isn’t afraid to show a little personality with the use of cultural references and colloquial phrases its customers can relate to. Consider the clever Sherlock Holmes reference for the website’s 401 error message, below.

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Related: 5 Steps To Building Your Personal Brand From Scratch

What’s the secret ingredient that elevates generic content to a brand-building masterpiece? Your brand voice.

Your own brand guide needn’t be lengthy: Voice and tone can be covered by just a few guidelines. (I’m a fan of MailChimp’s voice and tone guide, available free as part of its master Content Style Guide.) What matters most is that you codify these guidelines so there is a single set of rules for everyone working on content at your company. From the work of freelance writers to that of marketing directors, your company’s content marketing will reflect a consistent brand voice.

3. Define your value

Branded content is beneficial not only for defining the buying vision in your favour but also for reminding existing customers about how valuable your offerings truly are. From case studies to white papers, how can you create content that helps existing customers maximise the value of your offerings? Perhaps you can spotlight a new offering or provide tutorials for advanced features. The key is to use your branded content to move from a transactional relationship to a customer-centric one that delivers real value.

Example? The enterprise software company SAP has nailed this mission. While many of its products and services seem technically complex to the average B2B decision-maker, the company’s white papers expertly explain the importance of digital transformation in accessible layman’s terms. Most importantly, this content is never a “hard sell” for SAP, but instead subtly reminds customers about the valuable benefits SAP can present as a strategic partner.

Rather than sending marketing material to customers touting your “top of the line products,” then, send them branded content that explains how to use your products to solve their problems. Content that maximises perceived value strengthens your brand and drives customer retention.

Related: How DJ Dimplez Built His Brand And Business From A Passion

Bottom line

Content marketing is an essential B2B marketing strategy that’s continuing to gain in importance. According to HubSpot, B2B marketers allocate 28 percent of their total marketing budget to content marketing. But before you too jump on this bandwagon, be sure your content is aligned with your brand vision, voice and value. Doing so will ensure your content is impactful, relevant and worth the investment.

 

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Brand And Marketing: Finding The Balance For SMEs

For some entrepreneurs, this can be quite a sobering thing to do whilst for others it reinforces that they are on the right path to success.

Gary Harwood

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Being in business is about more than just hitting the bottom line. Sure, financial growth is imperative to continued success. But if nobody knows about you, then your achievements will be limited to the short-term. Enter the world of brand and marketing.

To the uninitiated, these concepts might seem interrelated. And to a certain extent they are. However, branding revolves around delivering on a promise, it is what defines you as an SME and what makes you different from your competitors.

Marketing is about how you do it – your tactics and your strategic goals. It is about promoting a product or service to sell and earn revenue.

Both are equally important, and no entrepreneur can afford to ignore one in favour of the other. But how do you balance a limited budget and resources to finding the right balance? In some ways, it is best to take a step back and view your business from the perspective of your customers.

Related: The Secret Ingredients to a Successful Branding Strategy

For some entrepreneurs, this can be quite a sobering thing to do whilst for others it reinforces that they are on the right path to success.

Emotional versus rationale

Cynics might argue that branding is all about emotions while marketing is a more rationale (and logical) pursuit. After all, how do you ‘know’ your customer? How do you analyse the effectiveness of your brand promise?

It might be an easy thing for large organisations to measure, but for a business just starting out, it is quite a challenging prospect. Given how data has exploded in recent years, organisations have a wealth of information at their disposal to analyse, scrutinise, and draw insight from in getting to grips with the effectiveness of their brand promise.

And while this might seem daunting for your SME, it does not have to be the case. While there are more than enough models to measure brand equity, most are challenging (not to mention costly) to implement and they all require extensive research.

Fortunately, things like internal staff surveys (questions like what do your employees think your brand identity and promise is), how integrated your brand and marketing efforts are (do your tactics reflect what you want to achieve), and how you compare to the competitors, can be reviewed relatively quickly and cost effectively.

Related: The Economics of Branding

The business of marketing

Marketing can add a dynamic component to this mix. By focusing on the tactical elements of how to achieve business growth (specific to your brand promise), the SME can develop a more nuanced strategy that factors in both emotional and rationale elements.

We all want to make money but that hardly has the makings of a solid marketing strategy. In fact, marketing is less about flashiness and more about implementing solid business principles.

Sure, the sexiness comes in some of the tactical executions but it all revolves around delivering value to shareholders, marketing to the strengths of your business, and setting yourself apart from your competitors.

A successful marketing campaign revolves around bringing customers to your business. And this is where the brand promise is so important. You must understand what the customer requirements are if you are to deliver tactics that fulfil them.

Business today requires branding and marketing to work together. By compromising the one in favour of the other will not result in any significant long-term gains but risk your SME losing ground to competitors.

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