Branding design written on a paper on a desk with office supplies

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.