There’s an enormous amount of confusion, especially among small businesses, as to what a brand is.
A search on the Internet gives the following diverse range of answers:
- “It is the emotional and psychological relationship you have with your customers”
- “A type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name”
- “The name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers”
- “It is the idea or image of a specific product or service that consumers connect with, by identifying the name, logo, slogan, or design of the company who owns the idea or image.”
All of these are only partial answers. I like to eliminate fluff and keep things simple. So here is my definition.
SO A BRAND IS THE PERSONALITY OF A BUSINESS
Think of your business as a person. What attributes make up its personality?
- What’s its name?
- What does it wear? (ie design)
- How does it communicate? (ie positioning)
- What are its core values and what does it stand for? (ie brand promise)
- Who does it associate with? (ie target market) Is it well known? (ie brand awareness)
This personality varies dramatically between businesses. Toyota and Rolls Royce both produce functionally the same product, but their answers to the above are very different.
THE BEST BRAND BUILDING IS SELLING
Some small businesses look at the flashy advertising campaigns of well-known brands like Apple, Coca-Cola etc. and get caught up thinking that they also need to spend time, money and effort building “brand awareness”. That’s putting the cart before the horse.
Let me ask you a simple question, what came first; the sales or the brand awareness? The sales of course.
It’s true that as a company gets bigger, brand awareness does feed sales. However don’t look at what they do now as big companies. Look at what these businesses did to get big in the first place.
When they were small, they certainly didn’t spend huge amounts of money on flashy ads and brand awareness. They hustled, they closed deals and sold their products. If Apple and Coca-Cola didn’t concentrate on sales to begin with, they wouldn’t exist today and there’d certainly be no awareness of them.
That’s why I tell small business owners the best form of brand building is selling. If a brand is the personality of a business, what better way is there for someone to understand that personality than by buying from you.
BUILDING YOUR BRAND EQUITY
When all is said and done, branding is something you do after someone has bought from you, rather than something you do to induce them to buy from you. If you’re in the startup phase or a relatively unknown small business then you’ll want to focus on direct response marketing, but I digress.
In the same way that you get a sense of someone’s personality after you’ve dealt with them, so too it is with your business and its personality or brand.
Brand equity is the goodwill you build up that compels people to do business with you rather than your competitor.
I once heard brand equity described as customers crossing the road to buy from you even though there’s a supplier of an equivalent product on their side of the road.
The things in your business that cause customers to figuratively “cross the road” and buy from you, is your brand equity. This can manifest itself in the form of customer loyalty, repeat business or even a price premium you can charge for your product or service.
For me, nothing illustrates this better than seeing queues of people lining up for the latest Apple gadget while their competitors with plentiful stock and no queues get much lower demand.
This kind of brand equity is born out of amazing previous customer experiences, which turn customers into raving fans. This is something that simply can’t be bought with hype-filled “brand awareness” campaigns.
THE HARD TRUTH
Focus on sales and create raving fan customers after the sale. This is the advice I’d give to any small-to-medium business wanting to work on branding.