06 Jan ‘I know you are, but what am I?’ Reasons why branding is essential for business
By J’Nel Wright
“Who are you? Ooh. Ooh. Ooh. Ooh.” The Who
It seems like a rather obvious question: Who are you, and what do you have to offer customers? But it’s surprising to see how many companies struggle to develop a consistent message that clearly defines their business, audience, culture, product, and services.
So what exactly is branding? And how can an established brand improve your marketing strategies, create a more cohesive work environment, and build a loyal customer base? Let’s talk about that.
What is branding, really?
In a nutshell, branding is your message to the business world that you know what you are talking about when it comes to a particular product or service. And you can prove it through experience, connections, performance, etc. Branding explains why you are taking part in this industry and confirms to the customer why they should consider doing business with you over your competitors. And that often requires constant care.
“Look at your brand as a living, breathing, growing entity,” says small-business owner and brand strategist Pia Silva. “The more proof you have, the more credibility you have, and the stronger your brand’s reputation will be.”
Once you realize that branding is a continual process that requires maintenance and monitoring, you’ll discover that a solid brand is a great way to build your business. Here are five ways branding is great for business.
1. Helps define the customer experience
Today’s customers are making informed decisions about where they shop and what they buy, often before you even realize they were browsing your business website. And studies show that the customer experience makes a huge impact.
“‘Customer experience’ is an unavoidable topic these days, and here’s why. Eighty percent of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services,” explains Vala Afshar at Salesforce. “A majority take this sentiment a step further by voting with their wallets; 57% have stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience.”
With customers having access to a retail landscape spanning websites, apps, emails, and social media sites as well as the physical store location itself, customers can be selective on which platform they want to use to connect with your business. But that means every channel you offer must provide a positive, satisfying, and consistent brand experience to entice the customer to stay. All the more reason to ensure you have a clear understanding of what you want your brand to project to those customers.
2. Builds trust
Is this a family business? Have you been operating in the same community since the first mayor took office? Have you been providing this same trusted product or service since Blondie topped the pop charts? Has your company been recognized as a great place to work by organizations? Promoting things like experience, commitment, longevity, and quality help build a platform of trust that customers can count on.
Or maybe you are a new company trying to break into the industry by offering innovative solutions to a problem that other companies haven’t fully addressed. There’s a lot of power in a “We get you” brand. It projects a message that you understand your customer, recognize the problems they face, and have a solution to make things better.
By being accessible through online sites and social channels, for example, you provide an outlet for customers to learn more about you. Don’t look now, but that’s adding to your company’s brand. And that receptiveness carries over to the workplace culture as well.
3. Defines the workplace culture
Consistent messaging is key to developing a strong brand, and that strategy applies to your company’s infrastructure as well. For example, if you encourage customers to share product ideas or different ways to improve your service, that open-door policy should be an invitation for your staff, too. If you empower staff with front-line authority that gives them the tools necessary to remedy customer service situations, then that trust—and decision-making power—should be part of the work environment.
“It doesn’t matter if your company culture is friendly or competitive, nurturing or analytical,” says HBR contributor Denise Lee Yohn. “If your culture and your brand are driven by the same purpose and values and if you weave them together into a single guiding force for your company, you will win the competitive battle for customers and employees, future-proof your business from failures and downturns, and produce an organization that operates with integrity and authenticity.”
4. Exposes your target audience
As tempting as it is to try speaking to a mass audience, don’t do it. Designing an online brand that appeals to everyone will surely result in appealing to nobody. Here’s why:
Your brand should prove to customers that you have an important product or service that will satisfy a specific need or want. It’s an important part of building a relationship with your customers. If you try to generalize your message in the pursuit of a mass audience, you miss out on those meaningful connections.
“In order to form a bond with the customer, a brand needs to be transparent and authentic,” explains Guy Parker. “Branding is the combination of marketing and advertising elements that form a cohesive snapshot of a company. Without a good branding strategy, companies are not going to be able to express their nature to their customer base.”
A lasting—and profitable—bond forms through thoughtful and specialized branding that shares insight into a company. As Parker says, “Customers are more likely to care about a brand when they understand what the direction of the company is and ‘buy-in’ to the feeling the brand portrays.” And it’s a strategic move when it comes to building marketing campaigns.
5. Helps create a stronger marketing strategy
If you haven’t developed a campaign that connects your branding with targeted customers, you may be wasting valuable time and money.
“Knowing the different groups of people who use your business, allows you to determine their fit and value. This lets you prioritise certain groups in your marketing,” explains Arnt Eriksen, marketing expert. “This prevents you from wasting resources on people that won’t purchase, or marketing to an audience that’s too broad.”
Your branding should answer the all-important customer question: Why? “An identity begins with your company’s ‘Why,’” says Adam Fridman, Mabbly founder and Inc.com contributor. “Whatever your slogan is, it needs to reflect your company’s values and provide consumers with an understanding of the brand itself. Your brand identity represents your company’s values, its purpose and the emotions you want your customers to associate with your business.”
Fridman adds that when you don’t understand your target consumer or recognize the one thing that brings your business together, you will always struggle to find your brand’s true identity. And that results in confusing and expensive campaigns, inconsistent messaging, disappointing ROI, and missed opportunities to build a strong customer base.
Branding is more than just a clever slogan or fancy Instagram post. Effective branding connects with your target audience and helps build a trusting and lasting business relationship and company culture that will contribute to some exciting business growth in the future.