Branding will make or break your business. It’s as simple as that. But you might be wondering…what is branding, really? Is it THAT crucial for business success? And how do you get branding right so it works for you?
As a businessperson, you are likely to have heard your peers constantly praising the importance of good branding.
That’s because—well, branding is everything.
Everything? You may not think so, right? That is why we are here to convince you otherwise.
Without a well-constructed brand, you will not be able to continuously grow your business and make it sustainable.
Not a lot of people grasp the concept of branding and why it is so valuable for long-term business success.
In fact, most still hold on to the popular myths and misconceptions about branding, which could be the reason why you are here, reading this article.
So, let’s first put those misunderstandings to rest, once and for all.
Top 3 Common Misconceptions About Branding
1. You don’t need branding.
There are many business owners who believe that all it takes for their business to succeed is simply, a killer product or a stellar service at an attractive price.
Now, these people are not completely wrong and those things are definitely important, but what you need is more than that.
A winning product or service only gets you so far but they do not guarantee continued customer loyalty.
Debunking the myth
Psychology Today wrote in their article about how emotions influence consumer decisions. According to the piece, studies have shown that positive emotions toward a brand have a very notable influence on consumer loyalty.
In other words, if you do branding and execute it well, your customers will associate positive feelings and experiences with your brand.
This, in turn, leads to brand loyalty which overrides the logical aspects when deciding between your brand and your competitors.
I’d like to call this ‘biased behavior response’ to your brand. In the marketing context, it’s brand affinity and it is known that high brand affinity score brings stronger brand loyalty.
Your competitors could have products and services of a higher quality or a more reasonable price but if your consumers love the way your brand makes them feel, logic pretty much flies out the window.
Those positive emotions that your brand evokes will affect your customers far more than your competitors’ superior features.
Take, for example, potato chips.
Local supermarkets sell various brands like Pringles, Jacker, and Mister Potato. These places also tend to offer their own brand of potato chips like what Tesco does.
Despite the relatively similar taste of the chips and the lower price, customers will still gravitate towards the brands they know. This happens because they rely on their familiarity with those brands.
That’s the power of branding, right there.
2. The ultimate authority on your brand is you and you alone.
There seem to be two main viewpoints on this; one side believes the business owner to be the ultimate authority while the other sees that authority as belonging to the consumer.
However, it’s not as black and white as often portrayed.
Debunking the myth
A brand’s authority is actually shared between your company and your consumers.
Your company has to firstly choose its brand values carefully and craft a solid brand identity from there.
Once you kick things off and start promoting your brand to your target audience, it won’t be long before the consumer authority steps in.
Your consumers’ desires and interests will certainly influence your branding and marketing but that does not mean your company has to cater to their every whim and fancy.
If competing businesses were to simply shape their brands around what their target audience wants, there would be an abundance of similarities between them.
This would mean you have more work cut out for you when it comes to setting yourself apart from your rivals.
What you should do
“Brands that inspire a higher emotional intensity receive 3x as much word-of-mouth as less emotionally-connected brands. The same academic study also found that highly differentiated brands earn more positive word-of-mouth.”
If you are vehemently against consumer feedback, your brand will not appeal to your target audience. You will get left behind as your competitors’ branding evolves.
Instead, try to achieve a decent balance between company and consumer authority on your brand.
You set the branding process in motion and then, use consumer needs to guide your branding’s future direction.
Example of why brand authority is shared
Panasonic is one such example. The multinational electronics corporation has always branded itself as a business that strives for the betterment of society through its products and services.
Over the years, Panasonic has increasingly endeavored into green technology and made it an additional offering to consumers. This came about as the modern consumers developed a taste for socially responsible brands.
As consumer trends change, so should you. Your brand needs to include and reflect what consumers wish to see in brands.
3. Branding is all about the logo.
In the later section of this article, we’ll explain what branding really is. But simply put, branding goes beyond a company’s logo.
It’s normal for first-time or inexperienced business owners to assume that a logo is the only element involved in their branding.
Debunking the myth
For the record, your logo is merely ONE aspect of many that need to work in tandem to achieve good branding.
Besides the logo, your business should incorporate the following when building your brand:
- A compelling tagline that easily explains what your business does or stands for.
- Company colours, shapes, etc. that your target audience will associate with your business.
- A consistent tone or voice to be adhered to by everyone working in your company.
People who view branding as solely a logo affair also believe that the responsibilities of branding lie entirely within the marketing and PR department.
In actuality, it doesn’t quite work this way.
As long as you are part of a business in some way, then you represent the brand and therefore, you play a role in branding too.
Whether you’re a janitor, receptionist, sales assistant or supervisor, you have to acquire a certain amount of understanding regarding your business’ brand values.
People are a huge and essential part of branding, that’s for sure.
Example of why branding is more than just logo and stationaries
Simply take a look at the ride-hailing app Grab. Whenever there’s an incident with their drivers, its effects extend to their brand because Grab places a strong emphasis on quality drivers and transport safety.
If any of Grab’s drivers were found harassing their passengers and the company reacted slowly or badly in handling the situation, consumers would begin to question Grab’s core values.
Branding is, in reality, a complex process which entails brand values, brand identity, and brand story. It is not as straightforward as having a decent logo to represent your business.
What Is Branding?
Up to this point, you must be curious what are all those branding terms you’ve been seeing bouncing around online and in our articles. So to make things clear, here are the definitions we’ve put together to help you make sense of all the jargon.
Glossary of Brand Terminology
This is how many consumers are aware of your brand. It is important to gauge how well your target audience knows your company’s products or services.
The accumulated financial and strategic value of your brand. The qualities that make your brand valued as well as valuable.
The mutual belief that your customers share common values with your brand. Creates a deep level of trust within the customer-company relationship, which leads to brand loyalty.
Has to do with how inclined your customers are to keep choosing your products or services over your competitor’s.
Values that your brand upholds or values that your customers associate with your brand. These matter because they are how your target audience relates to and gains trust in your company.
The outward expression of your brand, which includes its name, logo, colour scheme, and anything related to its appearance.
Perception of your brand which is based on practical experiences (for users) or uninformed impressions, opinions, and beliefs (for non-users).
The attribution of certain personality traits to your brand as a means of achieving differentiation.
Branding in a nutshell
Branding has got a lot to do with how your business is perceived by your consumers. This perception is what immediately comes to mind when they see your logo or hear your tagline.
The branding process is how you distinguish yourself from your fellow competitors. You will create a strong and lasting impression on your target market that sticks with them.
But you must remember that branding is an ongoing and constantly shifting thing. It is not meant to remain stagnant.
What happens when branding is done right
Your branding has to keep up with consumer trends and behaviours or you risk being seen as an outdated or unappealing brand and lose out on customers.
How your consumers perceive you will determine the likeliness of winning their loyalty.
When your products and services match up to your brand values and promises, the consumers will see you how you wish to be seen. Once they develop positive reactions and experiences with your brand, you will receive their loyalty.
The prime objective of branding is to attract and retain loyal customers through the establishment of a significant and differentiated presence in the market.
Furthermore, branding doesn’t just produce loyal customers, it produces loyal employees too. Branding gives them a more profound appreciation and understanding of the business they work for.
Since effective branding requires employees to really grasp the company’s values and story, their actions will be steered by those concepts. They will have something to believe in and to strive for.
How To Do Branding
1. Determine your brand values.
For your brand to be valued by customers, it has to have values in the first place.
To define those values, you need to figure out your company’s purpose.
You will ask yourself:
- Why did I start this business?
- Why do I want to help my target audience?
- Why do I wish to solve their problems or fulfill their needs?
It’s quite common for business owners to not have put much thought into answering these questions previously.
This is your chance to start digging deeper for your purpose and if you just keep asking yourself “Why?”, then you’ll get there eventually.
Once the layers have been peeled back and the business purpose is defined, you now have the knowledge it takes to form your brand values.
Another great technique to find your brand values is by thinking about the bad brand experiences you have personally had.
Perhaps you found the service at a store to be slow, unfriendly, unhelpful, and so on. Next, think about how you would have preferred the service to be.
By doing this, you can decide the kind of positive values you wish your brand to project instead such as efficiency, customer-oriented service, and hospitality.
2. Create your brand identity.
This aspect of branding has to do with both the physical features and the personality of your brand.
Your logo, tagline, business name, colors, website, and so on are essentially the physical and most recognizable elements of your brand.
These should be aesthetically-pleasing yet memorable to your target audience. You want physical elements that consumers can effortlessly associate with your brand.
“What our research shows is that effectively managed brand logos can help companies to build stronger customer brand commitment and thus allow a brand to improve its financial performance.”
Make sure you have a solid reasoning behind your choice of colours, fonts, and images when creating these elements because this will strengthen your brand identity.
For example, research on what colours reflect the type of values or attributes your company strives for. Be mindful as well of cultural associations with certain colours to avoid negative reactions to your brand.
Determining your brand personality
Consider how you want your consumers to perceive you. Do you want to portray your business as a professional, high-class brand? Or maybe a brand that’s humorous or wholesome?
Moz has done a pretty good job of describing the 12 top branding archetypes. The archetype wheel below should help you decide the type of personality you want to project to your audience.
Consistency is key
Whatever you decide, you need to be confident in your ability to maintain consistency in your brand identity. These chosen personality traits have to be consistent so that customers don’t lose sight of your identity.
You may update your physical elements like logo, packaging, and tagline but as long as the right voice is there, your customers will recognise you. They will know that despite the new look, the same brand values remain and can be relied on.
3. Tell a good brand story.
“In a story, you do not only weave a lot of information into the telling but you also arouse your listener’s emotions and energy.”
A key activity to successful branding is through the use of powerful brand storytelling.
You’ll want to form strong and meaningful connections with your target audience and the best way to do so is with your brand story.
When you tell a good story, consumers will sit up and take notice. This is how you get their attention and make them aware of your brand.
The way to your customer’s heart
This may sound harsh but the truth is your customers don’t really care about you. They are only looking out for themselves which is why your brand story will only pull them in when it relates to them and their needs.
Give your audience convincing, authentic brand stories and watch as they feel empathy for your business and build an emotional bond with it.
Connections on a personal level are the foundation that trust is built on and trust is the gateway to improved sales and a loyal customer base.
A simple brand story outline
Just last month, Google Business Group (GBG) George Town organised an event at aCAT Penang titled “Brand Storytelling for Startups”. The speaker, Julia Koh, who is the Executive Director of Brand 360 Degree Sdn. Bhd., gave great tips on telling an effective brand story.
“Like businesses, brands will also grow up and evolve. For those looking to start building their brands, there is never a better time. Start crafting your (authentic) brand story, and build it as you go along”.
- Julia Koh, Brand 360 Degree Sdn. Bhd.
With her input, I have created the infographic below detailing the 6 steps needed for a basic brand story outline.
You’ve read the entirety of this article and now you’re musing on where to go from here.
Since you know what branding is and what it definitely ISN’T, you can go forth and create an awesome brand.
Remember that you don’t need to be a big company with a huge budget to do good branding. Knowledge is an incredible tool that goes a long way.
We hope our article has equipped you with relevant knowledge about branding to bring you better business results.
Please tell us your branding experience in the comments section below. We’d love to hear your stories.