Lots of companies have it wrong. Even established marketers are often wrong in their narrow definition of “branding”.
Everywhere you look online, “Branding” tends to be defined as the application of designs to products.
But by focusing purely on the aesthetic aspects of branding they miss the point. Branding is about establishing and managing consumer perceptions — not merely a guide for the consistent application of visuals.
Brand Manuals or Guides typically focus on how to apply logos, fonts, patterns and colours but consumer perceptions are more than aesthetics.
Branding Helps Set Expectations.
Branding helps consumers know what to expect from your company (and products) and is a plan for distinguishing yourself from others. It’s a representation of who you are and how you want to be perceived. Over time, your advertising, customer service, reputation, packaging, signage and identity all work together to form perceptions of your brand.
The online journal brandingmag has a branding definition that captures the complex nature of this process really well.
“Branding is the ongoing process of identifying, creating and managing the accumulated assets and actions that form customer perceptions.“BRANDING MAG
That may all sound a bit complex but makes a lot of sense when we unpack the ideas a little more.
1. Ongoing Process
Your customers, competitors, markets and business never stop evolving and neither should your brand. Change is constant. And to stay relevant, your brand has to evolve with the times. Technologies, trends and ideas come and go. — Don’t be left on the sidelines.
2. Identify, Create and Manage
The branding process is structured. First, you need to measure current brand perceptions then identify how you want to be perceived. Your brand’s strategy is a plan for changing consumer perceptions in ways that better align with how you want people to think and feel when they experience your brand. If you want to be perceived as “friendly” for example, a brand strategy would outline ways to reinforce that idea through all consumer touch-points (advertising, content, customer service and visual design).
3. Accumulated Assets and Actions
Your brand’s positioning comes to life through the assets you create and the messages you deliver. Your identity (logos, packaging, products, ads, signage) and your actions (customer support, online content, events and experiences) create consumer impressions. Over time, these can work to change how consumers feel about your brand.
4. Customer Perceptions
What do people think of when they see your brand? This is your reputation. An association they’ve created in their mind about your brand. Whether you set out to create a favourable reputation or not.
In simple terms, over time, people form opinions of who we are based on what they see and experience. Managed well, those experiences will change perceptions of our brand.
So…Where Do We Begin?
The best creative solutions are informed solutions.
Meaning… research based on consumer insights and behaviour.
If time and budget allows, your research can be done through a specialist consumer research firm. If not, anecdotal information, and interviews with sales reps, retailers and consumers will suffice. The important thing is that our solutions are based on information, not hunches and personal preferences.
Together, we’ll review who your customers are (and who you’d like them to be), who you’re competing with, what their brand promises are, what consumers think about both your brand and your competition and what your brand offers that is unique and will set you apart in the market.
Then we strategize on how to implement the changes that will grow your brand.
Customer Profiles Or Avatars.
You know not everyone will be interested in your product.
It’ll likely appeal to women more than men, health-conscious people more than the general public, people with kids and people younger than about 35 but older than 18.
It’s a subset of a subset of a subset of a subset of the General Public.
Your Customer Profile or Brand Avatar is a model of that ideal customer. Their age, gender, beliefs, lifestyle, needs and desires are captured in a way that helps us focus our messaging on a stand-in for actual customers. An avatar helps us develop an authentic and consistent tone and manner that will appeal to them.
Many of your competitors make something similar to yours. What sorts of claims do they make? What is their tone of voice? What do they do better than you? And where are they falling short?
What do people say and think about your rivals? What do they say on their website and social media? What can you learn about them and where they are in comparison to your brand?
Perception mapping will help us compare your brand vs your competitors using the most important metrics for that product category. With this tool, we’ll be able to spot potential areas in the market that are underserved (or over-served) and identify areas where your brand can stand out better.
Your Unique Selling Proposition or USP.
Your USP is the secret sauce that makes your brand special.
What does your product offer that’s unique in the category? Not things that are the “price of entry” like jam made of fresh fruit or cookies that are crunchy but things that are hard to easily replicate by others.
Yours may be the only product that has snack-sized packs or yours may be the only one that includes or excludes something.
Your USP can be something about the product, the packaging, the way it’s made, its available sizes or even the way it’s sold. But it has to be uniquely yours.
Branding Provides A Roadmap For All Your Future Marketing Efforts.
Branding is the plan that pulls all of this together and provides a framework for moving forward with relevance, personality and consistency. From your identity to your packaging, website, social media and even the way you answer the phone. Your brand’s strategy should clarify the whole lot.
When we work together on your brand, we discover the way ahead and the path for your marketing efforts to take shape.
Working Together We’ll …
- Clarify who your best customers are.
- Determine how best to set your brand apart from even your most fierce competitors.
- Determine what brand promises best align with your customers’ needs.
- Develop models that make your marketing goals much clearer
- Develop a plan that you can use for many years to come.
When your brand name, identity and marketing materials are fine-tuned for your audience and market , everything works better. Your online presence, print materials and ad messages will all reinforce each other, and you’ll make a greater impact on a smaller budget!