Branding, in its most simple form, is the process by which a company creates a unique, consistent image to market their product or service. A brand is nothing more than a name, symbol, design or any other attribute that identifies one seller’s merchandise or service as distinctly different from those of others. Just think about the Apple product line. They have a distinctive look and feel, and they sell for a much higher price than their competition. The reason for this is obvious; they sell their goods and services that others do not.
So, how do we distinguish ourselves from the pack, so to speak? One tool that some businesses use in order to distinguish themselves from others is marketing – a promise to deliver quality to consumers, and one that is enforceable through quality assurance methods and strategies. For example, Fiji Water has a well-known reputation for reliably delivering clean, safe, fresh water every time. However, many consumers (mistakenly) assume that the brand means exactly that, and end up buying Fiji Water products without giving it a second thought.
A brand also has a color palette and a logo. The color palette describes the general tone or mood of the brand. In the Fiji example, the shade of green used for the packaging is a stark contrast to the red of the actual bottle. A brand should not only be visually appealing, but it should be something that consumers can identify with or remember. The logo on the other hand, once seen, should make a strong impression on the mind.
Another part of branding is the actual packaging design and presentation. Packaging design can make the difference between a successful branding campaign and a campaign that will be dismissed or ignored by consumers. A well-designed packaging design and colorful advertising materials can communicate the promise of quality to consumers, just as well as a flashy TV commercial or catchy website can. Unfortunately, many small businesses fail to invest in the kind of design quality that makes their brand memorable and attractive to customers. Consumers are more likely to trust a familiar brand or to recall the color palette associated with that brand than they are to buy a Fiji Water for a mere twenty dollars.
The “brandless” or internet-based life style continues to attract consumers. People are comfortable using the internet to find the best deals and to communicate. This comfort level extends to purchasing decisions as well. Brandless buyers are much more likely to purchase from a familiar brand, even if the product is lower in price or of inferior quality. If a consumer is shopping for Fiji Water online, she is far more likely to click on a brandless site than she would be if she visited a Fiji brand site or an actual Fiji store. Despite the fact that Fiji Water might be a great product, consumers would be better off visiting a store and purchasing from an employee who represents that company.
Many small business owners do not pay enough attention to branding when formulating their marketing campaigns. They will focus on traffic, advertising and search engine optimization (SEO) tactics, ignoring branding. The result for many small businesses is that they will neglect branding until the customer has left their store, at which point, they realize that they have a problem. Unless a new customer is brought in, sales will decline.
The marketing and communications (M&C) professionals responsible for developing and executing the brand promise should work as closely as possible with the creative team. Each member of the M&C team should understand the core promise, including what the brand stands for. The creative team should include members who have expertise in creating logos, images and other visual designs, as well as those who specialize in developing print ads and websites. All of these professionals should be focusing on developing a consistent brand identity that consumers will trust. They should be working as closely as possible with all of their resources.
It is imperative that every member of the M&C team understand the purpose of branding, including the value they can deliver, and the different ways that it can be delivered. Once the brand recognition is established, the branding should be evaluated to ensure that it is still relevant and up-to-date. Changes to the brand should always be carefully reviewed, and a strong commitment to maintaining the integrity of the brand should be maintained. A company’s profitability is also crucial. The more affordable the cost of brand advertising, the more successful the marketing campaign will be.