Sometimes, as an internal marketing team, it is easy to get caught up chasing the latest trends and “what’s hot” without stopping to get a clear grasp of what it means and how they will actually benefit your business.
With a seemingly endless carousel of the latest technology and ever-developing professional services trending, businesses can be bombarded with buzzwords promising to transform our fortunes. When you are rushed off your feet running a business, it is often easier just to cling on and follow the herd.
Branding is hardly a new entry in the lexicon of business jargon, but it is probably one that you hear most regularly. So as we start a new year, what better time to ask - what exactly is branding? And, perhaps more importantly, what is a branding agency? What is it that a branding agency does, and why should you be tempted to part with your hard earned cash to invest in one?
Crafting a Brand Identity
Branding is all about creating the way people - and in the case of most businesses, therefore, customers - see and remember you. From the colour and fonts you use on signage and published materials, to the tone you strike and manner you use to communicate, branding is all about creating strong, positive, lasting impressions. Put simply, it is about creating personas or an identity that people will respond well to and, more importantly, remember.
In the popular imagination, branding tends to be associated with products, due to the significant impact good branding has on purchasing choices. Think of people referring to cola as Coca-Cola, vacuum cleaners as Hoovers or Dysons - this substitution of the product for the brand is an extreme example of the kind of loyalty and vivid, lasting associations all branding aims to achieve. When successful, brand identity alone is enough to sell a product.
Corporate branding is about creating those iconic names - the logos, slogans, straplines, colour schemes - that customers associate with quality, value and service. It is this implicit trust in corporate identities which drives people to buy.
Agents of Change
But how does all of this translate into a need for branding agencies? Why hire a third party to develop and manage the all important public persona of your business?
There is an argument that the past decade has seen a fundamental shift in how marketing works, one which has made branding agencies more important than ever. In the past, branding could be viewed as a function of advertising - the names and reputations of the likes of Coca-Cola and Hoover were forged by very direct, broad and pervasive advertising campaigns.
In the age of digital marketing, a case can be made for this relationship being reversed - that branding has become more important, and advertising is just one facet of it. It is well documented that the impact of direct advertising has waned since the hey days the Coca Colas and Hoovers of this world enjoyed. Consumers have grown aware and wary of overt sales messages, especially online.
It could be said now that successful brands cannot rely on simply selling to a target audience - they have to interact with them, grab their attention in informative and engaging ways on their chosen digital media, and enter into a constructive dialogue with them on social media. Branding has become more subtle, more complex yet much more powerful method for it in the digital age, because, unlike traditional marketing such as newspaper and televisions ads, the likes social media now allows the audience to talk back.
More and more businesses are discovering the value in hiring a digital branding agency to get ahead in this new marketing landscape. Digital branding agencies hire people who understand the audience even more than the technology, and who can then design websites and manage digital marketing to capture this audience. They offer people with the creative skills to run campaigns across six or seven different forms of media. And, just as importantly, they offer people power - with blogs to update and social media channels to run, good branding is more labour intensive than ever.