Business owners (and some marketers) are still asking whether they should invest in branding. The answer is, “Yes.” I say this both as one who earns a modest living creating brands and as someone who has been lucky enough to develop meaningful brands.
Today’s marketer has many avenues to build brand awareness, credibility and sales. Unfortunately, many still cling to old-fashioned thinking when promoting a business, relying on advertising rather than engagement, which is why they are asking such a silly question. Bill Chiaravalle and Barbara Findlay Schenck, authors of Branding for Dummies will tell you, “More than any quality – even more than strong financial statements, great management, or terrific product or service ideas – brands are the key to winning long-term growth and success… By building a brand, you cast a strong, clear vision of what you stand for. Without a brand, you blur into a dime-a-dozen, one-seems-just-like-another category called commodities. In a sea of similar choices, branding differentiates and elevates your offering, paving the way for awareness, preference, selection, and profitability.”
Build a Brand to Shape How the World Sees You
Your brand is what the world – outside of the four walls of your business – thinks of you. Brands tell the world what you stand for with every color, word, and image you use. Effective branding makes you memorable, so customers can easily find you. Let’s face it. Today everyone Googles you or asks for recommendations before he or she does business with you. Online or off, your brand and how it is presented matters.
But branding takes time. It takes effort. Creating an engaging brand can assist you in reaching your business’ highest potential, but it takes strategy and vision. Thinking that slapping a logo everywhere and calling it a day is the opposite of strategic branding. A properly formed brand gives you dividends over time. The brands you see every day would not be as successful in the absence of a well-thought-out branding strategy.
Build a Brand to Reap Dividends
For a small business, branding may seem like an expensive and daunting task, but the result is that you will look like a more significant business. A strong brand will help elevate your business and how you are paid for your work. Branding can be of even greater importance for small businesses and solopreneurs. Think of it this way. Would you like to be paid like someone working in their robe or like someone working in a high-rise?
Nascent industry startups are in a unique position to begin their businesses with a strong brand strategy. Let us look at the legalized marijuana industry that is now exploding across the US as an example. In a state like Louisiana, with only 10 available licenses, you can get away with acting like a commodity for a while, but when faced with multiple competitors in a market like Colorado (with over 500 dispensaries), connecting to a brand and cultivating (pardon the pun) loyal customers will make the difference between long-term success and failure.
Additionally, clients and customers will note that if you care enough to put your best foot forward for your own business, you may care enough to manage their business.
Customers will identify with your brand values and will be more accepting of higher prices than what they are willing to pay for unbranded products. Extending product lines will be easier if you have implemented an appropriate brand strategy because the brand is recognizable, and customers will immediately understand and accept an inherent set of values.
Build a Brand to Build Loyalty
One of the most significant benefits of branding is customer loyalty. When customers form strong bonds with your brand, your marketing has the ability to continue even when you’re not actively marketing. We see this every day in social media. Strangers, friends, and family are continually sharing their brand stories.
When customers understand (and like) who you are, they will do business with you. As your brand is reinforced in their lives, they will begin to trust you, maybe even love you. The more they believe you, the more they will spread your vision through referrals, reviews and word of mouth marketing.
Look at that! Now someone is doing the marketing for you…all because you created a compelling brand narrative.