An Overview to Branding

Launching a new or developing an existing brand can be a daunting prospect. In an overcrowded market place where every area of specialisation is deftly positioned to draw our attention to new services and products, businesses are seeking new and more effective ways to increase their brand awareness and stimulate brand loyalty. To ensure a brand's success you'll need to develop an effective brand strategy.

You must try to develop a brand proposition that when conveyed in marketing and advertising campaigns, will provide an attractive, unique, and relevant message to current and potential customers. It is equally important that once realised, this proposition should be echoed and reinforced by all members of the company from senior executives down to marketing and sales staff.

So why is successful branding so important today?

Companies seeking to experience long-term success will have to create the most compelling, relevant, and consistent brand experiences for their customers. You can't escape your brand. Either you make the customer experience, or it gets made without you.

In order to successfully develop the most effective branding strategy, a firm understanding of what a brand is must first be answered.

What is a Brand?

In marketing, a brand is the symbolic embodiment of all the information connected with a company, product or service. A brand typically includes a name, logo, and other visual elements such as images, fonts, colour schemes, or symbols. It also encompasses the set of expectations associated with a product or service which typically arise in the minds of people. Such people include employees of the brand owner, people involved with distribution, sale or supply of the product or service, and ultimately consumers.

Core values

The development of a branding strategy must begin with identifying the brand's (the business) core values. These are qualities which an organisation deems most important eg. honesty, integrity, excellent communication, and client satisfaction.

Though these values are usually never revealed to the public, they are evident in every aspect of the organisations' business routine, from customer service, to direct marketing, to website design, to the treatment of its employees and strategic partners. This conveys a consistent perception to the target audience in every medium of communication that is used.

Consideration for these values should not be taken lightly for they represent the Œprincipals' for the business and become the cornerstone for developing the brand's proposition. And though the brand's proposition may change from time to time, the brand's core values should never change.

Invest in a strategical approach to understanding and positioning your Brand

Once the brand's core values have been identified, effective brand proposition development begins. To ensure a successful outcome, comprehensive and objective research involving at the minimum, the brand's strengths and weaknesses, the target audience, and the competition will be conducted. If the resources are available, research should also involve extensive observation into the brand's industry, its history, the current market picture, and potential growth and direction.

The Target Audience holds the keys to your Brand's success

If I had to choose only one area of research to focus my efforts on, it would be to identify first who the target audience is and second, what their needs and desires are. This information should be as comprehensive and exact as possible. Applicable factors such as; age, gender, income, and shopping habits (online and off) are good places to start. Of course if your target audience is another business, your research will involve different factors.

Developing a Brand Statement (Brand Proposition)

From the research, development of the brand statement, often referred to as a brand proposition, commences. The brand statement is a promise.

The brand proposition must be clearly understood, engaging, presented in the right context for relevancy, and offer a solution to the target audience's current wants and needs.

Providing a Brand Proposition that is engaging, is easily understood, and offers an emotionally positive solution to needs and desires only serves to enhance the current customers' perception of the brand and will get new customers to look your way. Following through with an excellent product/service and customer support will put an indelible mark in the memory of your existing customers; one that will create brand loyalty through good and bad times; a sure sign of a brand's strength.

Deliver the Unexpected

When developing a brand proposition, never let your brand's promise be one that is already expected; this is a sure way to NOT stand out from your competitors. Advertising efforts that utilise adjectives like 'good, or nice' are sure to fail when seeking to be both engaging and unique.

An Emotional Attachment

An important aspect of brand development is to create a positive emotional attachment to the brand which creates a response in its audience without the audience seeing the product or directly experiencing the service.

Positive emotional bonding comes from a mutually beneficial relationship built on intrigue, trust, understanding, and support.

And of course these qualities will be dictated by the current needs and desires of your target audience.

 

Your brand proposition should convey a message that is:

• Aligned with the brand's core values

• Clear, engaging, unique, and relevant to your target audience

• Able to incorporate an element of positive emotional attachment that is better than just good

• Echoed within your business, internally and externally

• Consistent across multiple marketing and advertising mediums (print, online presence, etc)

• Continually reinforced within the organisation so that your employees consistently deliver what is promised

• Able to adapt to a changing marketplace.

The final phase of the branding process consists of a series of implementations demonstrating how the brand could be manifested in various scenarios.

If you can't clearly articulate your brand you'll be unable to control customer perception of your brand.

Once the brand parameters have been created and the brand personality defined, a period of education and dissemination is required to nuture, grow and protect the brand.

Remember that in every organisation, it is the brand that is it's most valuable asset.

 

[ Writing is thinking on paper William Zinsser ]