If you’re wondering how to increase your business’s visibility and you’re looking into marketing firms to help you figure out what your company needs in order to grow, then you’re likely to hear the word “branding” very frequently. Branding is, of course, very important: it’s the process of creating and maintaining a carefully conceived public image of your product/business.
The issue at hand is this: how to construct a brand and how it fits your marketing initiative.
To quote CBS Journalist Geoffrey James,
“Branding is a currently popular buzzword that marketing professionals use in order to
make their jobs seem more important, and in order to take credit for the work of other groups, like Sales and Engineering.”
Branding is NOT all that you require for a marketing campaign, that much is easy to understand. However, branding is an extremely important part of the process, and it isn’t that hard to understand. To shed some light on this subject, we’ll go over the difference between marketing and branding,
how to plan out your brand,
how to make and maintain your brand,
and, finally, how to communicate your brand to your customers.
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Marketing vs. Branding
If you keep up with our blog, you know we’ve already written in depth about the definition of marketing and how to compose a strategic marketing campaign. If you haven’t, then we can boil it down to a few simple things. Marketing is defining the:
Branding is a sort of result of good marketing, and a brand can in turn direct a marketing campaign. For instance, a startup animation company may need to go through a marketing evaluation before they figure out their brand, whereas Disney can base its modern marketing campaigns on past successes and the central “good for the whole family” brand.
- Worth and appeal of the Product you’re selling
- Price at which you’re likely to maximize sales and profits
- People that are likely to be your customers
- Place at which you’re placing your products for your audience
- Promotion that best portrays your product and attracts the maximum amount of customers
In other words, the brand is a piece of what marketing is trying to sell. How, then, should a company make or recraft their brand? The first step, as with marketing, is research.
Branding Yourself: Where to Look
Your brand is effectively your company’s identity: for every company with a brand, consumers perceive said brand as an indicator of “who they are, what they do, what kind of quality they provide, their reputation for trustworthiness, and more”. With that in mind, you’ll need to carefully look around and research what brands are succeeding, especially for your product and field.
This stage of constructing your brand is a combination of the aforementioned Product and People aspects of a Marketing Mix. For branding purposes, you need to have a fundamental understanding of what you’re selling and who you’re selling to.
Let’s turn to our examples from the beginning to illustrate this point. Say you’re a small town bank-- your market is middle income families and older people, and what you have to offer is a small, local banking service untied to Wall Street. Your bank could benefit nicely from a family-friendly, folksy brand, ensuring the well-being of the town and its inhabitants as a core part of its function. For a startup videogame company that specializes in making family friendly platforming games, you have a wide market to appeal to, but making your brand appealing to teenagers and young adults while never pushing boundaries to offend or disturb children may be the best course of action. Finally, let’s turn to the moving company, which for argument’s sake, is a pre-existing nationally recognized company, “Elephant Movers.” Advertising has fallen behind, and the brand has been forgotten-- you’ve got dedicated staff around the country and a variety of resources for moving, and given your relatively low cost for moving, you want to market to a wide audience in the 20-55 range (when people are most likely to be moving) and capitalize on your reliability. We’ll remember these ideas in the next couple steps.
Make the Brand Fit, Then Fit the Brand
We feel it important to give a note of caution at this stage to remind you of this simple fact.
You apply a brand to your product, it is not necessary to change your product to fit a brand.
Now, it’s easy to say that if you’re in the real estate business, you shouldn’t try becoming a beef-steak sales company, because that would be ludicrous. However, if your company specializes in making a certain product and a firm you hire is telling you to change your product to fit their advertisement ideas, that is not their job and that is not the fit for you.
The process of constructing the brand can come down to three steps once you do your corporate research and introspection. Establish the following:
- Your Mission: This is what your company strives to do, whether it be creating a product or offering a service. This comes directly from your understanding of the company's value of what you make and do. If your business has something to offer, then strive to be the best in your field at the price you offer. If you’re running a bank, you want to help your customers keep their money safe no matter what; if you’re running a game company, you should strive to make the best games in your genre that you can muster; if you’re running a moving company, then you should work hard to make sure every move is easy and no one loses what they deem precious in the process. Always strive to be the best!
- Your Values: These are the things that your company deems to be important about its business practices, both in internal politics and from an external perspective. If you’re a company that values being eco-friendly, make sure you’re meeting all the environmental regulations; if you’re a company that values offering the lowest cost to the consumer, always be on the lookout for ways to lower your production costs; if you’re a company that values the community, then make sure you’re giving liveable wages to employees and donate to local charities and events.
- Your Vision: This is where your Mission and Values come together: your Vision is what you want to accomplish by combining your mission and your values for what you want to do for your customers. For the aforementioned local bank, the vision statement would be “We will offer a secure place for our community to store their hard-earned finances for the future,” because it combines their service rendered with their emphasis on the local community. For the game company, it would be “We will make the best platforming games with fun for people of all ages”, as this combines the mission of creating said games with the value of universal enjoyment. The situation for Elephant Movers would be “We will give people a simple, effective move, where every item is assured safe travel”, as this capitalizes on their service and their value of customer-reliability.
Once you have your Mission, Values, and Vision ready and you’ve explored where your demographic is looking, then you can begin designing your brand. Let’s use our example companies once more to finalize how their brand should be sold. For the bank, since it’s in Pittsburgh and works on a local level, you could capitalize on the city’s proud history and name it “Steel City Bank.” A slogan or message the bank puts out should reflect its local values, so colloquialism may work to your benefit here: “We Work for Yinz.” For the game company, the game in production centers around a humorous badger and a mole, so a simple but appealing name might be “Burrower Games.” A slogan the company could come out with, to match their values and reflect the hidden bonuses in the genre their game is in, might simply be “Dig Deeper.” Finally, since Elephant Movers has a pre-existing name, only a clear slogan is needed. To capitalize on their elephant motif and emphasize their dedication to their clients, a simple but effective slogan could be “We Never Forget.”
A brand should fit your product when you’re constructing it. If you have a brand based on what you’ve made up to a certain point and then you branch out into something contradictory (ex. Disney making an animated film with material utterly inappropriate for children and marketing it in the same way), then you’re working off-brand. Once you make a brand that works for your origins, stick with it. Your customers are the ones who ultimately make up what your brand is, as their perception of your company matters the most. If Steel City Bank loses the customers’ money on Wall Street, they won’t look like a local bank; if Burrower Games makes a glitch-riddled gore filled shooting game, families and adult gamers alike will snub them; if Elephant Movers garners a reputation for leaving things behind, people will say their slogan should be “We ALWAYS Forget.” Stay On-Brand, don’t lose sight of your company’s Mission, Values, or Vision!
Staying on Message: Communicate with your Audience
As we have stated before in our articles, reaching consumers is the whole point of marketing. If no one knows about your brand, you effectively don’t have one. Your customers are the ones who will define your brand. Thus, let’s briefly return to the topic of Promotion.
Promotion, is, simply put, every activity taken to make sure people know about your product or service. This can include your deliberate attempts at advertisements, your social media presence, and aforementioned perceived business practices. You should always strive to communicate your brand: make sure that your advertisements, your social media presence, where you put donations and charity money, and how you conduct your business match what you're selling.
For a short review on advertising, let’s go over what we know of our three companies. Steel City Bank is marketing its benefits to the community to a general demographic of middle to lower income adults. Burrower Games is marketing to both children (and by proxy their parents) and young adult gamers, based on its solid gameplay and humor. Elephant Movers is working on a national scale, selling to adults 20-55, with emphasis both on private individuals and businesses. These are all going to require different tactics. Steel City Bank, given its market, should advertise with local newspapers and television stations, with a somewhat active social media presence and an emphasis on sponsorship for local community endeavors. Burrower Games should conduct advertising efforts on two fronts: one for families and children on television and YouTube with kid-friendly video advertisements, and one for young adults on social media like Twitter and Facebook. The latter campaign has a lot more freedom to be humorous and irreverent as a branding point, as proven by the monstrously popular social media presence of a popular videogame icon from the 90s. Finally, Elephant Movers should maintain a healthy mix of online advertisements, social media, and television advertisements, perhaps an advertisement for the New York Times, as efforts to advertise in any local area may be difficult to try to organize on a national level.
Branding is a tricky thing, but it’s the most important thing to a company when it comes to public perception, but it’s not a replacement for marketing. When preparing a brand for your product or service, make sure to research what advertising campaigns go well and combine your knowledge of the market with your understanding of your product. Once you do this, establish your Mission, Values, and Vision: once you have those, form your brand and stick by it. Get the word out for your brand in the media that your audience is likely to listen to, and your brand is established.
It’s up to you from that point on to live up to that brand, whether you’re working with finances, making games, or helping people move. You need to work to be the best at your work for your customers: if you put forth the effort and are open to improvement whenever you find faults, your business will thrive. You just need to make sure you communicate to customers: that communication is key to marketing, branding, and a company’s general success.
Your company could be on the way to being the best at what you do: the development of a perfect brand lets people know that.
Enjoy this picture of a badger.
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