As a business advisor for our local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and a small business mentor for the Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE), I have noticed an increase in the number of questions I receive regarding l ‘brand image.
I usually start any branding discussion by asking my clients “What is branding?” What I often hear is a list of marketing-related things like logos, websites, and slogans, which are the most visual or tangible elements that contribute to a brand. Of course, this is an incomplete definition of branding. Branding by my definition is “Creating a positive opinion in the mind of a person upon hearing your name.” Whether it is your name or the name of your company or its branded products. Simply put, branding is your reputation.
The benefits of having a great brand reputation in your industry are numerous. It allows you to charge more, spend less on advertising, it creates loyalty that you can leverage, and it creates gravity for customers, employees and the media.
When it comes to discussing branding, we need to understand that there are two types of branding, personal branding and corporate branding.
Personal branding has received a lot of attention lately and is growing faster because of the internet. Personal branding is important for businesses where the founder or owner is the primary face of the business.
One of my current clients is a family counselor and is developing an online training program to teach parents how to deal with uncontrollable children. She is the hallmark of her company and is well respected in her industry. Anyone doing their due diligence on their program is likely to enter their name in a Google search. What they will discover are many results related to his personal brand.
Personal Branding gives everyone the opportunity to create a personal brand by using their skills, personality and expertise to solve the problems of others. Like it or not, everyone has a personal brand. The real question is “Are you taking full advantage of your personal brand?” “
Personal branding is also important in recruiting. Not so long ago, I was part of a panel for the transition of soldiers, sailors and airmen from a life of service in the armed forces to the civilian world. Many of my cohorts were discussing how to write a resume to get a job. When speaking, I asked a simple question: “If I Google your name, what would I see?” The room fell silent. I then added: “Google is the new CV”. Basically, I was trying to convey the value of having a personal brand.
In business, you have to have a personal brand. You want to make people aware that you exist with a large network, and then have the information on the Internet to back it up when a prospect searches for your name on Google.
Branding a business is what most people think of when they hear the term branding. Corporate branding is how your customers recognize and experience your business. Like personal branding, corporate branding is your reputation in your industry. When you think of a company’s branding, it’s not just about your marketing materials and advertising, such as your logo, tagline, and website. The company’s branding is reflected in everything your customer can see and experience, such as your customer service, uniforms, community involvement, social media presence, etc. If a customer can see or experience it, it’s part of your branding.
How to build a brand
The easiest way to build a brand is to offer benefits to your customers. That said, building a brand takes time as you need to develop a level of audience trust related to your brand. Remember, your brand is your reputation.
One way to build trust is to offer a no-cost option to let the prospect feel comfortable with your brand before you jump into selling. The more value there is in the form of free or low cost offers that are of great value to the customer, the more you will become an essential resource in the eyes of the customer. The more trust you build with customers, the more secure they will feel when purchasing your premium paid offers. Your goal is to create a promise of quality and satisfaction that the customer will believe. The more you live up to this reputation, the stronger your brand will be.
Having a reputation as a quality brand has many advantages. Here are some of the most common.
What business buyers get
A well-established brand is a valuable asset and is often what a business buyer buys when they acquire a business. I remember that scene from the movie Tommy Boy where Ray Zalinski wants to buy Callahan Auto not for their products but for their reputation for making quality parts.
Your name and reputation are more valuable than your inventory since you can replace your inventory, but you can rarely rebuild a tarnished brand. It takes a lifetime to build a quality brand and a second to destroy it.
Reduces advertising costs
Why are brands so popular? One of the reasons is that with a good brand, you don’t have to spend so much on marketing and sales. When you have a quality brand, you don’t have to ask the customer to do business with you because your reputation for quality and satisfaction precedes you.
For example, how often do you see ads for Amazon, Starbucks, or Google? The reason is that we are all well aware of their reputation for keeping their promises.
You can charge more
Plus, when your brand has a good reputation, consumers are willing to pay more for it. Omaha Steaks has a well-known brand; as a result, it charges more per pound than your local supermarket or butcher for the same cut of meat. Oakley and Ray-Ban charge more for a pair of sunglasses than Armani Exchange because of the reputation of their brands. The only difference in most cases is the name and the promise that the brand brings with it. In addition, big brands are fueling the concept of conspicuous consumption where consumers are willing to spend more money on goods or services with the aim of conveying higher social status or invoking envy in others for earn their respect. As a result, trusted brands see higher profit margins, so the brand actually creates greater profitability.
Big brands also create loyal customers. With a good brand, a business can launch a new line of products under the same brand and customers will be inclined to use these new products. For example, let’s take a look at Coke Cola. Coke is a trusted brand. It used the reputation it gained with consumers to introduce many line extensions such as Coke Zero, Vanilla Coke, Cherry Coke and others. In fact, Coke has even launched a line of energy drinks, leveraging the reputation of its Coke Cola brand.
Creates gravity for customers, employees and the media)
Brands create a kind of gravity that not only attracts new customers, but also makes it easier for quality brands to recruit new employees. As your brand gains visibility, it attracts more influencers who cite or link to your content, creating free publicity. Your brand becomes an essential source, which further makes the brand grow.
So, in conclusion:
- Branding includes both individuals and businesses
- Branding involves building trust and the best way to start is to offer something free before you sell.
- Your brand is your most valuable asset
- Brands create loyalty and notoriety
- It is very difficult to rebuild a tarnished mark
- Strong brands need to spend less money on marketing and advertising
- A brand’s reputation allows it to charge higher prices, which equates to higher profitability
- A quality brand makes it easier to attract quality employees
- Branding makes you a go-to media resource, which equates to free publicity
What will you do today to improve your brand image?