Everyone in business acknowledges that the most successful companies depend on the strength of their branding identity. And yet for all its importance, the art of branding itself is somewhat shrouded in mystery.
People are generally much more comfortable with the concepts of marketing, promotions and advertising. By contrast branding, which plays a key role in linking all of the above together, has a certain abstract quality to it which goes beyond the practical requirements of attracting customers and making sales.
Is branding really just about company logos and catchy taglines? That is certainly a part of it, but we believe it goes much deeper. Branding is perhaps best understood as the development of company identity, the personality that the rest of the world sees.
Like a skilled actor preparing for a performance, branding is not just a case of throwing on a costume and some stage make-up. The best branding requires the careful development of a complete character that is reflected in every aspect of how the business operates. Anything less and you risk coming across as a ham performance.
So what does it take to create a convincing and compelling brand identity that will win your audience over? Here are some of the key starting points that we prioritise:
Start with your business strategy
Branding should be understood within a broader context - namely achieving your business goals. To put it simply, whatever your business strategy is, your starting point for branding should be: “What sort of business would be most likely to achieve those goals?” Your approach will be influenced by the sector you operate in, whether you are a B2B or B2C business, the demographics of your target customers, whether you sell goods or services and so on. Branding is your opportunity to create an identity for a successful business operating within those parameters, a bit like a novelist script writer creating a lead character.
Understand what your target audience wants
No business can achieve its objectives without customers. Another useful way of thinking about branding is as the link from your business objectives to your customer base, providing the foundations for how you are going to turn intentions into action. It is therefore critical that you do your market research to understand your intended customers, and especially what they will typically want from business like yours. For example, if you are a business that sells goods online and you know your target market expects fast delivery, you can develop an entire brand identity around convenience, speed and efficiency. Branding in that sense is about living up to expectations.
Stand out from the crowd with your branding identity
Whatever your sector and the nature of your business, it is always a good idea to assume that there are lots of other companies out there looking to make more or less the same proposition to customers as you are. A fundamental part of branding is therefore about standing out, offering something slightly different and unique which will capture attention. An obvious place to start is whatever USPs your products and services offer. But branding can also be about recognising new opportunities to add a unique value proposition and building that into how you operate. Branding therefore becomes much more than keeping up appearances. It goes right to the core of how you run your business.
From these starting points, developing a winning branding strategy involves going into detail about how the identity you want to create translates into company visuals, marketing, service provision and even organisation. The key to successful implementation is consistency and communication - ensuring your brand values are evident at every point of contact with your customers, and that every staff member is working in accordance with them.