“Products are made in a factory, but brands are created in the mind.”
A core aspect of running a business is the perception it retains in the minds of the target market, and by extension, the public. Ultimately, what makes the difference transcends the confines of routine buying and selling. It lies in designing an experience that customers live, and a journey they troop to embark on without regrets. Getting your business to this point demands a systemic procedure, beginning with a clear motive to be consistently recognized, remembered, and recommended.
This motive is the essence of branding.
You will find multiple versions of branding’s origin stories, however, the definitions of branding commonly find root in its earliest forms of use, going as far back as 2000 BC. It was common practice among the ancient merchants who branded their goods, just as farmers branded their livestock, craftsmen their artifacts, and the wealthy their property (such as slaves), to show ownership and for easy identification of their possessions from those of others. However, the ancient form of branding was in practice different from the scope of branding that this blog is about to examine. Digital age branding also seeks to distinguish a business for recognition, but it doesn’t harm, dehumanize people, or torture animals.
Shedding its initial melancholic nature, branding has evolved into an indispensable modern concept in
marketing that benefits the business and its customers. So, what is branding and why is it important for your business? What is a brand and how does branding work?
You’re about to find out.
Brand, Branding, And Rebranding – Know the Difference.
Achieving that powerful combination of quality output (of goods and services) and the complete branding je-ne-sais-quoi makes marketing clear-cut and effectual.
In the course of exploring branding and how to do branding for your company, similar words like “rebranding” and “brand” will occur. While it is often assumed that these words mean the same thing, they represent different aspects of the whole and should not be used interchangeably.
Branding is the process of creating a distinctive identity for a business. It is the summative, all-encompassing aspect of giving a business its unique persona. Branding is definitely not the same as advertising. The latter is more about promoting a business, while branding is about etching a business’ brand –which brings us to the next word frequently conflated with branding.
A brand is the end result of branding. It describes the perception created by a business through branding. Semantically, a brand is a noun and branding is a verb, but the dynamics go beyond surface grammar. Branding represents internal efforts at being recognized, while a brand is how your customers feel about the business (or company) at the end of it all. That is why in some definitions, branding is described as a marketing tool and a brand as the emotion that is directed at your business.
In the course of running a successful enterprise, it is common for a business to change or expand its scope of services. To accommodate these changes, certain aspects of the already-made brand are redesigned to generate a fresh perception. This is called rebranding. Basically, like branding, rebranding is a process, but for furbishing purposes.
Undoubtedly, all these terms stem from branding, underscoring its foundational integral importance to any business that is committed to recognition and growth in a competitive market.
To better appreciate the significance of branding and the knowledge of how to do your own branding, you are about to read about how it has made all the difference in the realms of marketing – beginning with the story of one of the first men to discover branding and its purpose: Walter Landor.
Walter Landor was a German expatriate who had settled in San Francisco with his wife Josephine during the Great Depression of the 1930s and started his own design firm years after. It was nothing grand, and San Francisco was not a very industrial area at the time, save for a few food processing companies. In a corner of their living room, Walter and Josephine launched their company Walter Landor & Associates in 1941.
The Great Depression had an array of fascinatingly contrasting impacts on the American economy. While unemployment surged to 25% and the standards of living of many Americans plummeted as a result of job scarcity and housing crises, industrial businesses mapped out a new survival route and flourished.
Realizing that the depleting consumer motivation to spend was dangerous to industrial production, companies in key sectors such as food processing, fashion, healthcare, and retail focused intense efforts on making their products more visually appealing to the public, among other politically-inclined strategies.
Ironically, the public, including the people who grappled with the economic recession, responded favorably to the trend. In light of this, the demand for industrial designers like Landor grew astronomically in America. Product repackaging, interior redesigning, and business rebranding became quite lucrative during and after the Depression.
Landor’s decision to start his design firm was undoubtedly sound, and the firm embarked on a few good projects at inception, bouncing off Walter Landor’s impressive career record.
In time, however, Walter Landor must have introspected how much his business needed the same rebranding that he did for a living. Running his company from his living room was cost-effective, but hardly profitable for the company’s image in the long term.
After moving from his home to a few larger offices within the next twenty years, Landor made a profound statement in May 1963. He purchased a ferry boat named the Klamath, had it docked at a pier in San Francisco, and named it his company headquarters and corporate symbol.
It is likely no coincidence that soon after, Landor’s company began a new lease of existence. Walter’s most profoundly remembered design projects were assigned to him thenceforth, which established his reputation as a pioneer in industrial design and corporate branding. Walter Landor designed logos, corporate identities, and other aspects of branding for famous companies such as Del Monte, Levi Strauss & Co, Coca-Cola, British Airways, Bank of America, and Fuji Film.
Subsequently, with his success-rippling expertise in how to do product branding, his company, renamed Landor & Associates would fill out the Klamath, and the headquarters would be eventually moved to its current location on 1001 Front Street, San Francisco.
What are the odds of this inspirational progression if Landor & Associates had endured as an unbranded business in the confines of an obscure living room? You know the answer, and this captions our subject, branding, as the high-priority process to undertake for any business set to thrive. This begs the next question “what are the steps in branding?”
The rest of this piece headlines the best tried-and-true tips for complete and impactful business branding.
The “Who We Are”- Identity as A First Step to Branding
Give It a Name
Identity overshoots mere existence.
When a child is born, its existence is practically untraceable and potentially unmemorable without a name. Similarly, a name is where every brand begins, whether small, medium, or large in scale. Choosing the word(s) you want on the lips of people when they refer to your brand provides the structure to which they
will ascribe the recognition, loyalty, and advocacy it garners along its line of existence.
A business name can be deduced from anything—from the owner’s name (like Landor and Associates, Walt Disney,), initials (like P&G, T.M Lewin, B&Q), to those of their family or friends ( like Mercedes Benz). It can also be influenced by the nature of services the business is established to provide (such as Burger King, and Walmart). While there are no hard and fast rules to naming your business, it is expedient to choose names that will be easy to remember and pronounce, especially for a brand seeking to globalize. The significance of business nomenclature is palpable, yet not to be played past.
When Fred De-Luca and his family friend Peter Buck started Subway in August 1965, the business was named “Pete’s Super Submarines.” Submarine sandwiches were the restaurant’s specialty, and so the name was not ill-fitting, however, the reality of expansion, coupled with the realization of just how much of a mouthful “Pete’s Super Submarines” was, led to the restaurant’s renaming as “Subway” in 1968 (this is also an example of rebranding)
Give It a Logo and Tagline
Every time you see that one-bite-eaten black apple logo or the multicolored letter “G,” you automatically think of the brands Apple and Google respectively. Also, the infamous catchphrase “Just Do It” is almost instantly recognizable as Nike’s, just as “Finger-Lickin’ Good” points to KFC.
Names aren’t all there is to brand identity; logos and taglines are equally significant.
A logo is the most visible element of brand identity, capable of making the boldest impressions on customers and distinguishing a business from competitors. A recent study revealed that 75% of people recognize a brand by its logo, and that a staggering 94% of the world population recognizes the Coca-Cola logo. This is proof that the right logo can go a formidable distance in branding.
Taglines are the short, catchy phrases that highlight what a business has to offer its customers, or what it represents. Asides from being an aspect of brand identity, taglines can be designed for promotional purposes. This is why taglines are commonly intermingled with slogans as they have the same outlook and to a reasonable extent, convergent purposes. However, unlike taglines that are more company-focused and permanent, slogans are typically designed for the company’s specific products.
Give It a Voice
A brand voice is best described as the unique style of communication from a business to its customers. It is one of the tenets of brand personification, which gives the brand a human outlook as one that can speak and be spoken to. You’ll read more about brand personification in the next section.
A brand’s voice (or tone of voice) is lucidly expressed in all aspects of its public relations, from marketing campaigns on electronic media to social media copies, videos, and images.
Typically, brand voice is influenced first by your target market and their lingo. This is an obvious factor since all of a business’ communications are directed at a specific audience and must be understandable by the audience to get any (positive) responses.
A second brand voice influencing factor is brand purpose. What does your brand have to offer? Are your products for the formal workplace, or an informal setting? Is your brand purpose to inspire customers or to make them laugh? These will determine how to speak to your target market.
The wrong tone of voice always rubs off badly and will do the opposite of attracting the target market to your business. This is as natural as getting rebuffed for using a “certain tone” when you speak to people. As a guide, understand your audience and learn how best to reach out to them.
To illustrate, Dove, a company dedicated to manufacturing beauty products (especially for women) employs a tender, empowering tone of voice for a good reason. Statistically, many women feel insecure about their bodies, and seeing the need to encourage them to confidence, Dove’s brand voice aligns to draw their attention.
Brands like Mailchimp express more casually, balancing between very formal and very informal. Duolingo, in line with its audience diversity, has a dynamic tone of voice sub-defined to each demographic group. DeadHappy, an insurance company is popular for its irreverent style, defying the formal archetypal voice associated with the finance industry. At Smplcty Marketing, the tone of voice is professional, while keeping it simple and interesting.
Brand voices can be formal, casual, funny, motivational, elegant, quirky, or unapologetically irreverent – what truly matters is that your audience does not find it repulsive, uncomfortable, or inappropriate.
The “Why”- Beyond Conventional Identity in Branding
Tell Its Personal Story
Everyone has a story behind their current situation in life.
This alludes to our humanity, which skirts resonance, empathy, and interdependence. The human mind is designed to respond to sentimental stimulation, and this is highly applicable to how you do your own branding. It is called brand personification, and it is only too effective.
Brand personification is the technique of “humanizing” a business in order to connect with people, capture their attention, and win their loyalty. People begin to see your business as a friend they can trust, interact and have a formidable relationship with – making it easy for them to invest in it (as customers). A good first step to brand personification is for your business to what every person has: a story. Popular brands are known to showcase the story of events that led up to their establishment; some touching, others inspiring.
For example, Landor & Associates started in the founder’s living room and rose to industrial design repute, and Facebook was a college student’s hacking experiment now turned multi-billion-dollar tech conglomerate. The stories of how Walter Disney’s work was rejected over 300 times, and how Samsung started as a grocery-producing and delivery outlet in South Korea, were compelling conversation-starters that have contributed to the brands’ respective acclaims.
Brand stories can also be told during marketing campaigns. These stories do not necessarily portray the founder’s backstory or originations only. They also amplify the brand’s purpose and showcase the promise of fulfilling the complete brand experience to customers.
A good instance is Beardband’s popular story about the company’s purpose to populate a community of men who were sick of their beards being “left to kitschy, cheap products.”
Nike is famous for drifting away from product-focused style brand storytelling in their ads. Instead, they tell inspirational stories featuring their products as a side detail—as observable in the 2017 Equality Campaign.
Give It Purpose.
Every business sets out to achieve something, and having a clear-cut vision for your brand adds a wholesome dimension to its existence. Beyond catchy names and fancy logos, a business must design what it seeks to fulfill for customers – a purpose for its existence.
This purpose not only provides direction and coordination to other branding activities, it projects the business as a well-rounded entity, beyond the generic limits of profit-making.
For instance, Unilever’s famous purpose statement, “to make sustainable living commonplace” has steered the brand’s outlook and production culture for over ninety years. Patagonia, an American retail outdoor clothing company boldly states their purpose to “save our home planet,” and feature this in their range of sustainable products.
As illustrated in the Weight Watcher’s story, as well as Subway’s, a brand’s purpose is not absolute. It can be modified or changed when new services are integrated into the company’s offerings. More crucially than occasional changes, a brand must have a defined purpose at every point in time to guide its operations and carefully chisel its public image.
When people can relate to a business’ story and purpose, they seamlessly assimilate and become willing to experience the business brand.
This is the ultimate feat of having a genuine, quintessential “why” in branding.
The “For Whom?”- Demographic Specifics in Branding
Very few products are designed for everyone regardless of taste, gender, age, or personality. While it remains a good marketing practice to not blatantly segregate audiences, branding operates on the specifics of your target market. As expansion and other realities of operations set in, businesses that fecklessly aim to appeal to every demographic become increasingly misdirected, and consequently ineffectual. Mapping out your target market synchronizes brand identity with operations, product innovation, and marketing strategies. The “for whom” component of branding facilitates the understanding of consumer behavior and potential reactions—all of which guide your brand to the best commensurate approaches.
The “How Well?” – Keeping Up in Branding
As an important touch, branding efforts and results should be trackable—and tracked.
Tracking ensures that your branding is hitting the high scores with your target customers in terms of brand awareness, recognition, perception, and association. The results often determine whether or not rebranding is necessary. Tracking can be conducted through thorough research into how well your branding is doing with the target demographic and the marketplace in general.
If aspects of your branding need to be changed to better appeal to audiences, consistent tracking will urgently inform.
There is another angle to tracking. A decent amount of resources is required for branding your business, and every dime is an investment. Granted that the whole idea of branding is to not rub off on customers as salesy or dispassionately transactional, business is for profit-making.
Therefore, a business must ensure that valuable investments committed to branding are generating proportional returns. In other words, branding finances should also be tracked. This is more than the cherry on top of branding; it is the desired outcome that branding seeks to achieve, along with customer satisfaction and trust. Returns on Investment (ROIs) can be measured by dividing the net profit income made over a period by the total amount invested. If an acceptable ratio or percentage is expressed, it indicates that a business (or brand) has made good on the promise to its customers, and also, the promise to itself.
Consistency Is Key
So far, you understand what is branding and the purpose of branding in business. You also better know about how to do branding for a company, as well as rebranding, and the world of good that the entire process does.
On this note, it is imperative to highlight that while rebranding can be advantageous to your business, especially while exploring new frontiers, branding consistency is also beneficial to conserve customer trust. Consider the long term when choosing a brand identity, purpose, and demographic; and be mindful of how well your brand will fare in the unforeseen future.
As proven by the many real-life brands you know and love, a business branding well executed imprints on your audience and secures a prominent spot in the tidal recognition pool.
Also Read: How To Pull of Brand Consistency
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