Indeed, what is a brand? This is certainly a complex and widely-debated topic. By definition a brand is: The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol, or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products. However I don’t think that definition tells the whole story.
“Brand” is one of those words that is used a lot, but often in the wrong context. In the past half-century or so the idea of a brand has really been transformed and turned on its head. One hundred years ago, brand was what farmers did to identify their cattle. Later, a brand became a non-generic name with which to identify a product. (For example: Coke was a fizzy, caramel-colored soda.)
It wasn’t until the tail-end of the 20th century that marketers started to realize that there was more to a brand than just a name and a logo. They began to understand that a brand could be used to conjure different emotions and perceptions in the hearts and minds of their customers, and the idea of “branding” took off.
Think of a brand identity as a person – we are all made up of purposes, beliefs, and values that determine how we behave, what we say, and what we wear. Brands are essentially the same; in order to build customer relationships, it’s important that the messaging we use to communicate with those customers conjures up a certain type of emotion or feeling.
It may be hard to believe, but branding isn’t just for big corporations and chain stores. Branding is one of the fastest and most effective ways to connect with your target audience, and there are plenty of ways a small business can take advantage of that. So, how does a small business begin on the path of creating a brand identity? I have five simple steps to get you started:
1. Consider what drives your business.
What does it believe in? What is its purpose? Why is it different? Knowing these things will establish your emotional brand positioning and create an identity.
2. Use a consistent tone of voice (without being redundant).
Being consistent with your messaging will help reinforce your brand’s character and help outline its offerings, too. Remember to make your key messages work together to tell the story, rather than repeating yourself over and over.
3. Don’t mimic the look or feel or big brands.
Customers are drawn to independent establishments. Own the fact that you are original and authentic, and your customers will be sure to appreciate it.
4. Be innovative and bold.
Another benefit of being a small business? You aren’t tied down by multiple layers of bureaucracy whenever you want to change something. Being small allows you to be flexible, daring, and able to react to the ever-changing needs of your target market.
5. Don’t cheapen yourself by stamping your logo on everything.
It’s important to respect the intelligence of your customers by generating intriguing content and messaging with which they can engage. Throwing everything in their faces all the time doesn’t give them a chance to discover for themselves what they love about your brand. Doing this will guarantee the loyalty of your customers, who in turn will want to tell everyone they know about your business!