Have you ever done a Google search for a product or service only to find that every site is virtually identical in regards to their visuals and messaging?
It’s often difficult to determine why you should buy a product or service from Company A or B because their brand messages aren’t giving you a reason to choose one over the other.
So what differentiates one product or service from another? Why do people buy one product only when it’s on sale, yet willingly wait on line for hours or days to be the first to purchase another? Why do we dream of owning one product, but carelessly purchase, use and discard others without much thought?
Simply put, a brand is made up of the perceptions and expectations consumers or customers have about a business. Branding is the combined efforts businesses make to purposefully craft and set these perceptions and expectations in place.
Despite its proven benefits, the concept of branding is one of the most widely misunderstood by businesses regarding their marketing & advertising – both online and off. This regularly leads to the Sea of Sameness – a concept that has devastating effects on perceived brand value.
What a Brand Isn’t
To better understand what a Brand is we should begin by understanding what it isn’t.
A Brand is not your logo
A logo is simply the identification marker of your brand – a way for customers and consumers to easily identify that a product, message or marketing message is attached to your business.
A Brand is not your tagline
A well-crafted tagline is a projection of your Brand’s purpose (reason for being). Done right, a tagline is inspirational – a simple but powerful reminder of why you want to align with a company. (Example: Nike – Just Do It.)
A Brand is not your website, your advertising, your media buy, your social media plan or any other individual element.
A brand is all of these elements working in harmony around a single idea that clearly differentiates the company in the market place. A Brand is also a rallying cry for the company – a way to give them focus and unite them towards a single goal.
Branding is not just for big businesses.
In fact, if you want your small business to become a dominant player in the market place, the sooner you put Branding to work for you, the faster you’ll get there.
Most importantly, Branding is not optional.
If you don’t define and protect your Brand, consumers, or worse, the competition will do it for you. And whose Brand will benefit? Theirs will.
“Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.” – Steve Forbes
Your Brand Is
Your Brand is your first ambassador, representative and sales person. Your Brand sets the tone for potential customers and consumers – giving them a glimpse at what you stand for and setting expectations and perceptions moving forward. This first impression is extremely important as everything your business does will be measured against it.
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumers’ decision to choose one product or service over another.” – Seth Godin
For example, think about the difference between Target and Walmart. Ask any woman: “What is the fancy word for Target?” And they’ll quickly respond with a French accented “Tar-jay.” Now ask that same woman about he fancy word for Walmart and they’ll respond with crickets. Why? Target has branded themselves as the fashionista of discount department stores – a place with beautiful products and great customer service. Note that I did not say that Target was known for cheap prices. Walmart on the other hand is known for deeply discounted prices (and little to no customer service). Both have branded themselves in these ways to distinguish themselves in the marketplace and to appeal to certain people and/or certain needs. It doesn’t mean that someone who shops at Target won’t shop at Walmart or vice versa, it’s just that the expectations of the shopper at each of those stores is radically different.
Here are some other examples:
- Porsche vs Honda
- Starbucks vs Dunkin Donuts
- Nordstrom vs JCPenney
- Whole Foods vs Your Local Grocery Store
- Apple vs Microsoft
What makes each one different? What do you expect when you think of each?
Now think about your own business in your own category. Can you readily tell one business apart from the next if you’re not in the industry? Do you have a clear perception of how one business satisfies a particular aspect of your market better than another?
If the answer to either of the above questions above is ‘no’, two things are true:
- Your Brand is not clearly defined
- You have a great opportunity to distinguish your Brand in the category
Check back with us next week for our step-by-step on “How to Develop Your Brand Online”