The word “brand” gets thrown around a lot in marketing discussions. Marketers will advise you to build your brand even before you launch your business. Many entrepreneurs will probably assume they need to have a logo designed and marketing copy made. But is a brand merely a logo with a catchy tagline?

What Exactly Does Having a Brand Mean?

A brand is a promise; you know exactly what you are going to get. When you see the logo or hear the name, it triggers emotional cues in your subconscious. Coming across the famous Golden Arches of McDonald’s gives you the feeling of comfort; enjoying its burgers and French fries with  family or friends.

The iconic red and white logo of Coca Cola with the scripted font design makes you want to be refreshed even when you are not thirsty. It doesn’t matter that soft drinks contain refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavoring and coloring, “I want my Coke!”

The case for having a strong brand is best exemplified by Nike which was accused in 1991 for hiring child labor in its Asia-based factories.

The company did not deny the accusations of child labor. In fact in 1998, Nike CEO Phil Knight publicly admonished his own company, accepted full responsibility for the situation and immediately instituted measures to improve working conditions in their factories.

In his speech, Knight said, “I truly believe the American consumer does not want to buy products made under abusive conditions.”

However, It is interesting to note that Nike’s sales during these turbulent period from 1995 to 2005 remained solid. Annual sales revenue in 1995 was $4.76 Billion and hit $13.74 Billion in 2005; an increase of 189% over a 10 year period.

Nike survived years of economic and social turmoil because it had built a very strong brand.

It takes years to build a brand. Your initial blueprint will undergo revisions in logo, text format, color, marketing copy and personality as your company likewise goes through changes.

A good example is Apple.

From its initial convoluted design of Sir Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree, the logo has gone through a number of changes. The iconic bitten apple design with rainbow colors by graphic designer Rob Janoff coincided with its introduction of the Apple II, the first PC with color display.

The company dropped the rainbow colors and went with a metallic look for the release of the iMac. As the company put out more products in the market, the logo assumed a glass themed design. Eventually, Apple founder Steve Jobs went with a monochromatic look explaining:

“Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”

The late Jobs was also known for his monochromatic taste in fashion; always seen wearing a black sweater.

So what is a brand? It is everything about your business; what it represents, its purpose, values, principles and other attributes that define its personality. If a business is defined as a living, breathing entity then that personality is you.

Therefore your brand is you.

5 Benefits of Having a Strong Brand

Brand building is one of the most important, yet overlooked aspects of starting a business. Many fledgling entrepreneurs believe that you should only work on your brand when business starts gaining traction.

In other words, get the cash register ringing first before you worry about building a strong brand.

But here’s the reality of consumer behavior: People don’t patronize products. They patronize brands.

Your product or service is not a brand. It is just a commodity and in the absence of a good, effective branding strategy, it will be lost in the sea of commodities that flood the market.

Here are 5 benefits of having a strong brand:

1. Differentiates Your Product From Everyone Else’s

One of the biggest misconceptions about consumer behavior is that buyers only care about price. Of course, everyone wants to save money but as Steve Jobs once said:

“Pricing does not equate to value.”

Buying the most expensive brand does not mean acquiring the best product in the market as buying the cheapest does not translate to getting a good deal on the purchase.

According to Nobel Prize winning Psychiatrist Daniel Kahneman, consumers base their decisions to purchase on aligned purpose. They couldn’t care less about the price or the ingredients on the label. Instead they care about what your product represents.

This pertains to the “why” of your product; it’s purpose.

Look at Starbucks. It’s been widely criticized for selling expensive coffee but people still flock to their stores for their daily brew. Why? Because the company has been a staunch advocate of the Green Movement.

It donates a percentage of its profits to charitable causes and a number of foundations that work for a cleaner environment. So even if you spend a few more dollars on coffee you could brew at home, you know it is for a good cause.

2. Creates Consumer Recall

Effective branding is a successful marriage between science and psychology. Marketers conduct extensive studies before conceptualizing brand building strategies. They analyze data on your business and target market.

Brand building is not specific to a product or service. It’s purpose is to package your entire value proposition in the most effective way and create an indelible impact on a potential end user.

Keep this in mind: Brands outlive products and services.

Products have life cycles; brands don’t. Take a look at apparel. Companies like Levi’s have gone through flared bottoms, tapered pants, acid wash, engineered jeans, button-fly and slim fit. The brand remains unchanged.

You could overhaul your entire product line within a few years but if your brand remains firmly entrenched in the consumer’s consciousness, you will always have a market.

3. Acts as a Hedge Versus Risk

We discussed the case of Nike and how it survived and actually thrived during a turbulent period in the company’s history.

Another example is Pepsi and that woeful Kendall Jenner advertisement. It was “inspired” by the Black Lives Matter movement and tried to create social awareness. But it was so poorly conceptualized and executed that it turned Pepsi into a laughing stock and trivialized the significance of the movement.

Fortunately, it had built such a strong brand that it was able to shrug off advertising missteps. Pepsi continues to wage a close battle with Coca Cola for supremacy in the soft drinks industry.

A strong brand acts as a hedge versus risk because marketing is hit and miss. There are so many uncertainties and factors you cannot control when conceptualizing ideas.

Sometimes you’ll hit a homerun. Sometimes you’ll strike out on the plate. It will be easier for consumers to forgive if your brand has been associated with quality and good value for a long time.

 4. Establishes Trust

When you go to a grocery store, why do you find yourself reaching out for specific brands even though others would be cheaper?

When you are inside a mall, why do you patronize certain restaurants over others even ones that just opened and were heavily publicized?

The answer is because you trust them.

As we mentioned in our definition of a brand, you know what you are getting. The risk of not enjoying the experience is very small. In fact the only risk is the foregone opportunity of trying a new brand that could potentially be better.

Going back to Daniel Kahneman’s work on consumer behavior, he theorized that our decision making process is influenced by two distinct processes: the emotional side and the rational side.  

Kahneman believes consumers are emotional decision- makers. They patronize products that they share an alignment or emotional connection with. It is only after the purchase was made that the rational mind takes over and asks, “Why did you buy that diet beverage when it is loaded with unhealthy substances?”

You may validate your decision by stating, “This company has been successful for so many years, they would not put anything in their products that would cause me harm.”

You should invest in building a strong brand because it will help you establish  loyalty from your customers.

5. Enhances Your Marketing and Advertising Campaigns

Who doesn’t love Budweiser’s Superbowl commercials? The advertisements use animals like dogs and Clydesdale horses as the central characters. Beer drinking humans only play supporting roles.

In fact, you don’t even get to see the product in the ads. Perhaps you’ll see a box for a 6-pack but for the most part, only the company’s logo is featured. When you watch a Budweiser commercial, you get the “feels”, it is comforting and refreshing just like a tall, cool glass of beer.

Here’s a piece of trivia: Superbowl ads do not translate to brisk sales.

So why do companies like Budweiser spend millions of dollars for these ads? Other than the large audience the Superbowl brings, favorable recall carries over to the company’s long term marketing and advertising campaigns.

For Budweiser, it was the perfect platform to hold a stand against the onslaught of the growing craft beer market.

The payoff will be felt over the next few months or years as the company continues to build on its brand.

Conclusion: How to Build a Strong Brand

The popularity of the Internet has become a double- edged sword for marketers. On one side, it has given us different avenues to deliver content. Most businesses utilize up to five social media platforms to distribute content. And that is just via social media.

A typical digital marketing campaign would include other tools such as web design and development, SEO, SEM, content writing, link building and PPC or Pay-Per-Click advertising.

But on the flip side of things, having all of these tools and processes at our disposal can be confusing. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it would be like trying to hit a target 7 yards away with a shotgun. You’ll just splatter ammo all over the place.

Without strategy, thought and purpose your marketing efforts to build your brand will not pay out as expected. All the hard work you put in your content will just go under the radar.

If you want to build a strong brand, you must first determine its strength potential.

1. Run a Brand Audit

A brand audit seeks to uncover the factors that drive growth and determine how the product or service is viewed by the market.

You have to undertake an in-depth analysis of your competition:

  • Review and analyze their websites
  • Study their current online marketing programs
  • Pinpoint the advertising channels they are using
  • Assess the types of content they are publishing and distributing
  • Determine their market share in the industry

Cross reference the information with data on your own business and its current level of performance. This will give you a better idea of how to improve your brand building strategy.

2. Determine Your Brand Value Proposition

Your Brand Value Proposition (BVP) is your key business differentiator. It answers the question, “Why should you choose my brand over others?”

Please take note: BVP does not pertain to a specific product. Instead it encompasses everything you want your target market or audience to know about your business. Specifically, this refers to your purpose.

Determining your business purpose isn’t an empty exercise. You don’t just come up with a string of words that you believe will resonate with your end users. Trust us, customers will know because the BVP will seem contrived and will not resonate with them.

If you want to know your BVP, ask yourself this simple question:

“What 5 non-negotiable values do I adhere to?”

Your core values act as guidelines in how you make decisions. Everything that you do for your business will pass through these values without fail: How you recruit, who you hire, its pricing points, customer service, your product mix and promotions.

Non-negotiable means exactly that. You cannot under any circumstances compromise your core values when making decisions.

Adhering to your core values will shape how your target market perceives you and your business. In time and with consistency, your end users will come to understand and acknowledge who you are and what your brand represents.

Remember what we stated earlier in this article:

Your brand is you.

If you enjoyed reading this and would like to know more about the power of having a strong brand, please give us a call or drop an email.

We would be more than happy to help you through the process of establishing your brand in the market place.

Social media is not a fad. It is here to stay. And it will only get bigger and more influential over the next few years. If your business is not on social media, you are tremendously undercutting its growth potential by not having an active online presence.

The growth of social media coincided with the emergence of mobile technology as the dominant source of Internet traffic. Consumers literally have access to information in the palm of their hands.

Social media has also given consumers a voice on the Internet. Advances in smartphone technology have made it easier to share, post comments, opinions and images on various platforms.

Thus, social media has become the bridge for business and the consumer to reach out and interact with one another.

How fast is social media growing?

67% of Internet users are on social media every day. That is almost 30% of the world’s population. And every day the number of social media users increases by 1 Million.

If you want your business to be competitive, you must improve its visibility by building an online presence. Social media marketing is one of the best ways to do it.

Don’t think that you are too late in the game to start a social media campaign for your business. With social media, the popular saying “Better late than never” rings loud and clear.

6 Benefits of Social Media for Your Business

In its early days, social media was primarily used as a medium for connecting and sharing with friends and family. It was dismissed as a fad; a pastime or hobby for kids who were fascinated by this technology that allowed them to build communities and interact with them in real time regardless of location.

If the old adage was “sharing is caring”, with social media, “sharing is empowering”. Social media has shifted the balance of power to the consumer.

Hollywood movies like “The Hunger Games”, “Twilight”, “Monsters vs Aliens”, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” and “Toy Story 3” became blockbusters through smart and savvy social media marketing.

If you can harness the power and influence of social media, you can open up your business to a multitude of benefits:

1. Increase Brand Awareness

Your brand is how you want your market to perceive you. Social media is a great vehicle for delivering your message to your target audience. The more active you are in distributing content, the higher the probability of gaining more followers.

2. Learn More About Your Customers

Social media gives consumers a platform to engage with business in real time. You can gain valuable insights on how your customer thinks; the issues that matter to them the most and their immediate concerns.

You can do this simply by taking into account the content that generates the most likes and shares. Another way is to engage with them in comment threads.

3. Laser-Focused Target Advertising

Social media advertising is a highly efficient way to promote your products and services. They are quite inexpensive and your content is delivered directly to your target audience.

For example, if you want to post ads in LinkedIn, you can set the distribution parameters according to location, industry, job title and gender. At Facebook, you can choose the demographic qualities and specific online behaviors that may patronize your ad.

4. Improve Conversion Rates

We all know the value of “hands-on management”. Social media allows you to do just that by regularly engaging with your audience. By establishing a high touch approach, you build a level of trust and transparency with your customers. 75% of businesses that used social media increased sales within 12 months.

5. Humanize Your Brand

Relationship- building is a powerful force in business especially in this day and age of social media. Your relationship with the customer should not end once money has been exchanged for a product or service. On the contrary, you should take steps to nurture the relationship over the next few years.

Happy and satisfied customers can be a steady source of recurring income. And the cost of generating new revenue from old customers are lower in comparison to new customers. They can also be great ambassadors for your brand. Another way to view social media is “virtual word-of-mouth”.  

6. Take Your Customer Service to the Next Level

Businesses tend to focus most of their efforts on new market creation that they have overlooked the value of current market retention. You’ve already sold them to your brand. Your attention should now shift to the overall experience.

But take note of the following social media statistics on customer service:

  • 89% of social media messages to brands are ignored.
  • The average response time for a brand to reply to a user query is 10 hours. A user will only wait an average of 4 hours for a reply to his or her query.
  • 71% of end-users who had a great social media customer service experience with a brand will recommend it to others.

Customer service gives your end-user the means to establish a personal connection with your brand. This is where you build trust and reputation.

Take good care of your customers via social media and they will take care of you in the same way.

 6 of the Most Popular Social Media Networks

Social media platforms have mushroomed in the World Wide Web. Some have come and gone. Others have been acquired. Through it all, these six social media networks have remained the most popular because of their ability to consistently bring in results for your marketing and promotional campaigns:

  1. Facebook – Need we say more? Of the 2 Billion people on social media everyday, nearly 1.8 Billion are on Facebook. Easy to navigate with a host of options, Facebook is a wonderful starting point for your social media campaign.
  2. Twitter – With only 140 characters per tweet, Twitter is a great way to send multiple but short updates. It currently has 328 Million active users and is frequently ranked among the top 10 websites in the United States.
  3. LinkedIn –  If you want to connect with key figures or influencers in your industry, LinkedIn is the way to go. You can customize your search parameters and qualify your connections by age, position, gender, location and industry. 467 Million people have signed up with LinkedIn.
  4. Instagram – This social media platform is owned by Facebook and currently has 700 Million subscribers. It is a purely visual network but provides you with amazing photo and video editing features.
  5. Pinterest – Similar to Instagram, Pinterest emphasizes visual content. With Pinterest you can save, display and categorize content on a virtual bulletin board with the use of digital “pins”. There are 175 Million active users of Pinterest.
  6. YouTube – With over a billion monthly users, YouTube is a fantastic social media network to upload video content. It is now owned by Google which means you can use Google AdSense to make money on the number of views generated by your video.

There are other popular social media networks to consider such as Reddit, Google+ and Tumblr.

The big question is, “Which one is for you?”

Which Social Media Network is for Your Business?

You don’t have to open an account in every social media network. In fact when starting out a social media campaign, you should pick out only 2 to 3 platforms to begin with. There are two reasons for limiting the number of platforms:

  • You won’t spread out your campaign too thin; you can execute all activities with more focus and according to schedule.
  • Social media networks have their own advantages and disadvantages; not all platforms will generate the results you want.

So how do you know which social media network is right for your business?

1. Facebook

Facebook is unquestionably the largest social community on the Internet. But does popularity alone merit its consideration in your social media campaign?

As we mentioned earlier, if you’re starting out a campaign, Facebook is a great way to get your feet wet. You can set up a company page and customize your Facebook ads according to preferred demographics. The site is very user friendly and with its acquisition of Instagram, Facebook gives you another conduit for video content.

If you are targeting an older demographic; ages 25 to 54, Facebook will be an effective medium to deliver your marketing content. This age bracket composes 61% of Facebook’s users and 44% of them check their page frequently throughout the day.

2. Twitter

If Facebook appears to be losing its grip on younger users; only 9% still frequent the site, not so with Twitter. This is a great social platform to use if your business caters to a younger market, both men and women.

Its short messaging format appeals to those who frequently search for topic- based news or quick but timely insights.

The best way to optimize the power of Twitter is to engage frequently with your audience. Thus,  Twitter is a valuable tool at the early stages of your social media campaign when you are trying to acquire followers.

3. LinkedIn

LinkedIn offers a completely different vibe compared to other social media networks. You might say everyone who is on LinkedIn at any particular time is still on work mode.

This is a fantastic network for you to focus your campaign on if you are in the B2B industry. LinkedIn account users have their own blogging platform which allows you the medium to share your expertise and provide valuable insights to those in your community.

LinkedIn is particularly effective in helping you find clients or end users for your business. Stay active with your blogging, frequently engage your targeted audience and you will soon have professionals reaching out to you.

4. Instagram and Pinterest

We paired these two social networks because both Instagram and Pinterest are valuable for businesses with image or visual driven products. Visual content is a powerful vehicle for delivering your message.

According to a study, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual and those images are processed 60,000 times faster than text. Using Instagram or Pinterest is important for building your brand.

But if you had to choose between the two?

Choose Pinterest if your business caters to women. 42% of the female online shopping segment use Pinterest. Women aged 18 to 49 account for 62% of Pinterest’s users.

5. YouTube

If you have the resources to produce great and compelling videos, sign up for your own YouTube channel. With videos, you can deliver your message within 3 minutes and viewers get the entire experience: sight, sound and feel. It has a more profound impact on your audience than text content.

You can also run your PPC ads in YouTube and be assured of a large and targeted audience. If you want to learn more about PPC ads, please refer to our article  “SEO vs PPC: Which One is Better for Your Business?

Conclusion

Social media marketing is a proven way of building your business and establishing your brand. But it is not an exercise that you should go in blindly. In the same way that it could help your business grow, it could also damage your reputation if the campaign is improperly handled.

Here are a few examples of botched social media marketing:

  • United Airlines – After security personnel forcibly dragged a passenger off his seat, CEO Oscar Muniz issued a statement in social media blaming the victim while simultaneously praising security. United Airlines lost billions in revenues over the next few weeks.
  • McDonald’s – The company Twitter page sent out a tweet calling President Donald J. Trump “a disgusting excuse of a President”. It turned out their account was hacked but the backlash showed how an ill-advised tweet can affect your brand.
  • Adidas – The company tweeted “Congratulations! You Survived the Boston Marathon” for those who completed the iconic race. It was an innocent but poor choice of words which triggered memories of the 2013 bombing that killed and injured several participants and bystanders.

If you want to avoid these mistakes, it would be best to outsource your social media marketing to an experienced third party.

We’ve managed a number of social media campaigns for clients and make it a point to review, research, test and double-check all content before distributing them online.

Are you thinking about running a social media marketing campaign? Give us a call or drop us an email. We can go into detail on how we can design, implement and track your social media campaign for the best results.