Each day, as we go about our usual business, we’re surrounded by branding messages. Commercials on television, billboard ads, signs in your favorite store…they all tout the favorable characteristics of the brand they’re promoting, hoping to convince you that you need to have that soft drink, that new pair of sneakers, or the latest smartphone.
Branding is the term that marketing folks give to the strategies involved in creating an image for a particular product, service, or organization. Branding often involves the use of a logo and/or a tagline – either or both of which a customer will remember and then associate with the product or company. Good branding attracts customers and helps them remember your product/business by providing images or phrases that will stick in their minds. (Like “M&Ms melt in your mouth, not in your hand” or Apple’s partially-eaten apple logo.) Most of all, your brand differentiates you from your competitors and turns your customers into loyal followers and consumers.
Creating a brand is essential to the success of your business. Your brand tells potential customers who you are and what they can expect from you. So, how do you go about creating a successful brand and what touch points should you consider when branding?
A sensible first step in developing your brand is to determine exactly what your vision is for your company. A vision statement is a succinct thought that states what you want your company to become in the future. It should be short but should consider the long-term, offering a broad view but one that’s not too generic. When crafting such a statement, you should consider:
- What is unique about my business?
- What is the most compelling problem my business exists to solve?
- What are my most important products and services?
- How would my customers describe me?
- Where do I want my business to be in five years? Ten years?
- Answers to these questions will help you create a short vision statement, like these well-crafted gems:
We seek to save a planet, a world of life – reconciling the needs of human beings and the needs of others that share the Earth. ~ World Wildlife Federation
To be the world’s premier food company, offering nutritious, superior-tasting foods to people everywhere. ~ Heinz
In-store or online, Nordstrom works relentlessly to give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible. ~ Nordstrom
Mission statements assist with branding but differ from vision statements in that they specifically describe the purpose of the company. This statement will likely be a bit longer than your vision statement and will serve as motivation to you, your personnel, and your customers. When pondering a mission statement, ask the following:
- What market needs are we hoping to meet?
- How will we address these needs?
- Why should someone buy from us and not from our competitor?
Consider this mission statement offered by Citigroup: Our goal for Citigroup is to be the most respected global financial services company. Like any other public company, we’re obligated to deliver profits and growth to our shareholders. Of equal importance is to deliver those profits and generate growth responsibly; or this much more succinct, to-the-point mission statement by CVS pharmacies: We will be the easiest pharmacy retailer for customers to use.
The “spirit” of your company speaks to the emotions you want your customers to feel when using or experiencing your brand. Some marketing professionals call this the “essence” of a company and it’s best described in just a word or two. When considering your spirit or essence – the heart and soul of your company – consider the following:
- What emotion do you hope your product or service elicits in your customers? (Happiness, excitement, contentment, etc.)
- How would you describe your brand’s “personality”?
Some “spirit/essence” words associated with well-known companies include: safety (Audi), magic (Disney), class (Mercedes Benz).
A brand’s personality is a bit different from its essence. When considering your brand’s personality, think about it in terms of human characteristics. For example, Apple is associated with trendy, fun, and young while Volvo might be better described as serious and perhaps a bit on the yuppie side. Ask yourself this:
- How does your business compare to these and others with which you are familiar?
- Is your brand fun or is it all business?
- Are you best described as young or more mature?
Whatever you decide best describes your product or service, be consistent and use this voice throughout all of your communication, advertising, etc. It’s important for customers to receive the same message at all times.
Your Position in the Market
Finally, what you believe is your product’s or services’ unique value to the customer should be a part of what marketing professionals refer to as a brand positioning statement. As you pen this statement, you’ll need to think carefully about how your product/service benefits those who will be using it and how it differs from others in direct competition, who your target market will be, and – finally – your brand promise and how you’ll deliver on that promise at all times.
For example, Target’s positioning statement is “Style on a Budget”, so it’s important that they always adhere to that statement. Should they begin to carry upscale, expensive clothes and furnishings, they’ll no longer be the Target we all know and love.
Pulling it all Together
They’ll all play a huge role in your branding success. As you move forward, also take time to gather input from customers and staff, and – when necessary – consult a marketing expert who’s well-versed in creating brand recognition, especially if you’re struggling with how to proceed. Remember, your brand will always be one of your most important assets. Cultivate it well and stay true to it.