Branding is a very powerful business tool. People vaguely associate branding with advertising and marketing, but exactly what is it, how do you get it, and more crucially, will it help your business?
Quite simply a brand is a name, symbol or design feature that allows people to identify a business and its products or services. A brand name separates you from the competition and people recognise the brand even if they do not know much about your products and services. The brand can be the business name or the name of a product combined with the logo, symbol or design feature. For example the Andrex puppy, the Dulux dog, the particular red and white used for Coca Cola, the Nike ’swoosh’ symbol, the Adidas three stripes, are all familiar, strong brands.
The main benefit of branding is that customers are much more likely to remember your business and retain your company image in their minds. A good brand is associated with trust, which is a key part to forming loyalty to a business. Customers are definitely more loyal to a business with a strong brand than an identical company without one. If your brand is trusted, people may buy your products even if unfamiliar with them. Add good service and value and customers will remain faithful.
Because not all businesses have a brand name, and people associate strong brands with large established business that spend lavishly on advertising and promotion, branding can make your business seem bigger than it really is. This in turn can help reassure customers and expand your company.
A strong brand also projects an image of quality and value. It also creates an image of experience and reliability – after all a branded business is more likely to have been around for a while and people believe a business would be hesitant to put their brand name on something inferior. Another advantage of branding is that you can link several products and ranges together and put your brand name on every product or service you sell.
But there are disadvantages. To create and maintain a strong brand presence involves expensive design and marketing. Once you have the brand you need to keep reminding people of it, which can mean lengthy advertising and public relations campaigns (people need to see an advert at least three times before they absorb it, and it takes considerably longer before it becomes well known). Merely creating the image or logo involves a series of one off costs (paying for a designer, printing letterheads etc.) and takes time. You may want to protect your brand with a registered trade mark (see separate trade mark article). Proper trade mark protection will stop others using your branding for their own gain.
Another disadvantage is that can be that branded companies are often seen as impersonal – perhaps no longer small and friendly. The ability to deal with customers on a personal basis is one of the biggest advantages small businesses have, so consider this downside carefully.
If you decide to go ahead with branding there are some basic rules to follow. Firstly you need a memorable brand name and effective logo that suits your style of business (see separate article on creating a logo). It could either be something short and easy to remember, possibly a shortened version of the company name, or something completely new aimed at selling a particular product or service. A symbol or image is usually far more memorable than text.
The overall image of your business is a crucial part of creating strong branding and a professional looking image is vital. Use the brand on all stationery, and make sure someone can view your products or services and identify your business without even seeing a name. Make sure you expose your brand to a large number of people in a short space of time. Advertising can be very expensive and needs to be planned. Editorial exposure is invaluable. Send press releases to local newspapers, television and radio (see separate article on how to write a press release). If you decide to use a public relations company instead of doing your own, be confident of its ability and experience. Word of mouth exposure from satisfied customers will help in branding your company. Advertising, promotions, discounts to existing customers introducing business are equally valuable.
Effective branding promotes loyalty to your business, products and services and helps create an image of a large, reliable company with high quality products. Creating the brand name takes time and money, but for some businesses it is vital. Others can live without it. Before you decide which category you come into, seek knowledgeable advice about your particular business.