Many small business owners I talk to already understand that branding
is essential to their business, but a surprisingly high number of them
don’t really know why.
They recognise the link between successful businesses and strong
branding and aspire to build a brand that emulates similar success for
themselves. And they understand that branding is not just a logo or how
their business is perceived externally. But too few realise that
successful brands have this branding at the heart of the business. So
much so that in many ways you could almost substitute the word brand for
Branding is a way of defining your business to yourself, your team
and your external audiences. It could be called the business’
“identity”, but only on the understanding that it embodies the core of
what the business is and its values, not just what it looks and sounds
like. Customers of all sorts of businesses are so savvy today that they
can see through most attempts by companies to gloss, spin or charm their
way to sales.
The benefits that a strategically defined brand can bring are the
same as when people fall in love with each other. When customers connect
emotively — because they share the same values and beliefs of a brand —
it leads to higher sales and better brand differentiation. It also
leads to loyalty, advocacy and can even protect your price in times when
competitors rely on promotional discounts to drive sales. It can also
give you the ideal platform from which to extend your offering or range.
Here are ten tips on how to successfully implement branding for your business.
1. Start by defining your brand.
Review the product or service your business offers, pinpoint the
space in the market it occupies and research the emotive and rational
needs and concerns of your customers. Your brand character should
promote your business, connect with your customer base and differentiate
you in the market.
2. When building your brand, think of it as a person.
Every one of us is an individual whose character is made up of
beliefs, values and purposes that define who we are and who we connect
with. Our personality determines how we behave in different situations,
how we dress and what we say. Of course for people it’s intuitive and
it’s rare that you even consider what your own character is, but when
you’re building a brand it’s vital to have that understanding.
3. Consider what is driving your business.
What does it believe in, what is its purpose and who are its brand
heroes. These things can help establish your emotive brand positioning
and inform the identity and character for brand communications.
4. Aim to build long-term relationships with your customers.
Don’t dress up your offering and raise expectations that result in
broken promises, create trust with honest branding — be clear who your
company is and be true to the values that drive it every day.
5. Speak to your customers with a consistent tone of voice.
It will help reinforce the business’s character and clarify its
offering so customers are aware exactly what to expect from the product
6. Don’t repeat the same message in the same way over and over again.
Alternatively, aim to make your key messages work together to build a coherent identity.
7. Don’t try to mimic the look of chains or big brands.
Try and carve out your own distinctive identity. There is a big
consumer trend towards independent establishments, and several chains
are in fact trying to mimic an independent feel to capture some of that
market. Truly independent operators can leverage their status to attract
customers who are looking for something more original and authentic,
that aligns with how feel about themselves.
8. Be innovative, bold and daring – stand for something you believe in.
Big brands are encumbered by large layers of bureaucracy, preventing
them from being flexible and reacting to the ever-changing needs of
their customers. Those layers of decision-makers can make it hard for
them to be daring with their branding.
9. Always consider your branding when communicating with customers.
Don’t lose your pride or dilute your brand positioning with
indiscriminate discounting. Try offering more, rather than slashing
prices. Promotions are an opportunity to reinforce your brand mission.
10. The old way of stamping your logo on everything won’t cut it.
The future of branding is fluid and engaging — respect your
customers’ intelligence by not giving everything away up front. Generate
some intrigue and allow them to unearth more about your brand for
themselves. This is the way to foster ambassadors who revel in telling
other people what they have discovered.
Dan Einzig is the founder of Mystery,
the agency that helped develop brands for clients including the growing
café chain Giraffe, Caffé Italia, Ponti’s Italian Kitchen, Caffé
Ritazza, Masala Masala, Gino Gelato, Monkey Nuts and Za Za Bazaar, the
largest restaurant in Britain.