Branding is a marketing strategy that involves creating a differentiated name and image — often using a logo and/or tag line — in order to establish a presence in the consumer’s mind and attract and keep customers.
Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small, retail or B2B. An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. But what exactly does “branding” mean? How does it affect a small business like yours?
Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.
Conceptual Design Samples
Brand Strategy & Equity
Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages. Where you advertise is part of your brand strategy. Your distribution channels are also part of your brand strategy. And what you communicate visually and verbally are part of your brand strategy, too.
Consistent, strategic branding leads to a strong brand equity, which means the added value brought to your company’s products or services that allows you to charge more for your brand than what identical, unbranded products command. The most obvious example of this is Coke vs. a generic soda. Because Coca-Cola has built a powerful brand equity, it can charge more for its product–and customers will pay that higher price.
The added value intrinsic to brand equity frequently comes in the form of perceived quality or emotional attachment. For example, Nike associates its products with star athletes, hoping customers will transfer their emotional attachment from the athlete to the product. For Nike, it’s not just the shoe’s features that sell the shoe.
Initial Concept Planning
A concept plan is a short overview of a new business venture. It can be used to expand on an initial business idea; guide more detailed planning and communicate essential information. The concept plan signals a commitment to a diligent planning effort by organizing and documenting the intentions of the founders. The concept plan precedes the writing of a business plan and establishes the foundation for its development. The concept plan should be brief, extending to only a few pages in length. Writing a concept plan is far more than the casual recording of notes and ideas. It is the rigorous challenging effort necessary to forge the core values and founding principles that will ultimately lead to success.
Drafts & Revisions
Revision is the stage in the process where the designer/writer reviews, alters, and amends their message, according to what has been written in the draft. Revision follows drafting and precedes editing. Drafting and revising often form a loop as a work moves back and forth between the two stages. It is not uncommon for professional writers to go through many drafts and revisions before successfully creating an essay that is ready for the next stage: editing.
Defining Your Brand
Defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the questions below:
What is your company’s mission?
What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?
Do your research. Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.
Because defining your brand and developing a brand strategy can be complex, consider leveraging the expertise of a nonprofit small-business advisory group or a Small Business Development Center .
Once you’ve defined your brand, how do you get the word out?
We know that brands associated with business success will benefit most. In addition to engendering respect, business success can imply quality, reliability and value. Further, past success counts; the marketplace has a long memory. Therefore, most of the top brands are connected with business success. GE, for example, has developed a strong brand with little brand-building activity simply because of its business success. Four of the top brands, as learned in a business manager survey conducted by Brand Japan, actually are perceived as driving the most successful business organizations in Japan, namely: Toyota, Honda, Sony and Panasonic.
Brand Vision that Inspires
Many top brands have a clear and often inspiring vision that leads to shared values, interests and lifestyles with customers. Google has an unrelenting pursuit of clean and fast. Muji, described in my article of January 30, is about simplicity, moderation, humility and self-restraint. Tokyo Hands enables people to create and build with their own hands. Panasonic, with its “ecosolutions” for the entire home and building, “eco-car” systems and “eco-ideas” for individual lifestyles, is a leader in the green movement. Cup Noodle and Nissan have innovation thrusts.
What is your brand? No–it’s not your logo, your product, or your tagline. Your brand is all about consumers. What do they know (or think they know) about your company? How do they perceive you? Do they hold you in high or low esteem? The way people view your company–and whether or not they recommend you to their friends–is your brand.
That’s where brand management comes in. Brand management is the process of maintaining, improving, and upholding your brand image and ultimately remaining a consumer favorite. That means your brand strategy involves targeting the right consumers at the right time (in the right way and the right place)–and staying on their good side through advertisements, incentives, goodwill, and more.
And the best brand managers and marketers assess whether their brand strategy is working by conducting brand research surveys, which help them keep track of how consumers view their brand.
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