Small businesses need to build branding that is meaningful, communicative, supports the company values and drives the overall marketing strategy.
By Cleveland SCORE
Branding is the development and implementation of identified features to your products so that customers can identify them with your company. Marketing is the mechanism utilized to communicate with potential customers your business, products and services. While these two concepts should not be considered identical, they go hand-in-hand in building a business’s marketing and advertising plans.
The first goal of branding is to let potential clients know your product/service exists. Taglines and logos are common components to branding that provide “hints” to the potential target audience. There are differing types of brand awareness all leading toward the optimal goal of “top-of-mind” awareness: Brand recall, brand recognition and brand dominance.
Brand Recall – Brand recall can be aided or spontaneous in nature. It means that your brand or company comes to mind when a potential client needs a service/product that you offer. The optimal marketing would allow customers to think of your company without the need for a hint or aide. This strategy comes in time as your logo and tagline become “household names.” Brand recall can lead to long-term loyalty, inspires word of mouth referrals and suggests effective marketing.
Brand Recognition – This type of branding implies that customers can identify a brand simply by its attributes. These attributes can be tagline, logo or jingles. As this sounds like aided brand recall, that is true as it is another name for that type of branding. This level of branding uses more personal aspects such as examples, testimonial stories as these reach customers on a more direct and personal level.
Brand Dominance — Brand dominance implies that no matter what your cost or competitor products are, clients will select your products. This is considered obtaining the optimal position within a market. To hold this position means you must continue to have a large presence in the market, reinvest profits in brand marketing, and importantly, keep up with future trends in products and markets to be able to make the proper strategic moves.
Understanding the phases of branding, consider how branding is a crucial component of the marketing plan:
Branding and Recognition — In order to have optimal recognition there are two primary components to branding that are necessary: Messaging and identity. Messaging should separate you from the competition and tell customers who you are and what you can offer them. There should be an emotional connection to customers as presented in your value statement. Brand identity is a visual clue to clients and is best created through a logo, tagline, font style, color scheme, etc. It is important to ensure the messaging and identity are consistently communicated in all marketing activities and materials.
Branding and Competitive Advantage – Consistency in messaging and identity also flows into providing your business with a competitive advantage especially as you move to enter or further penetrate the market. The same branding guidelines should be implemented for both online and offline materials.
Branding and Customer Loyalty & Shared Values – Your customers are the best ambassadors and allies in fortifying your brand. Perception plays a significant role in creating brand loyalty. Much of this centers around a company’s values and how they align with client values. It is a known fact that approximately 64% of customers first selected a product due to similar values. When customers react to the fame, fluency and feeling of your marketing this leads to a high level of branding sometimes referred to as “absolute brand.” A strong brand conveys values thus evoking a strong emotional connection for the customer. This connection can last a lifetime for the customer and fosters their willingness to refer the product and company to friends and family.
Branding and Customer Retention – Branding needs to be managed to keep customers engaged in your product and marketing efforts. This means that you cannot be routine in your marketing efforts but must recognize the individuality of their needs and perception to keep them attentive and engaged. Customer retention is a crucial factor in developing branding and the marketing strategy. Through retention you not only keep existing customers but build a networking framework that will provide new customers.
Branding and Trust within the Marketplace – Previous discussions on branding have centered around trust and credibility with customers and how a consistent branding message and communication plan can support that. But the same characteristics of consistency and communication can also help establish your position of excellence within the industry. This builds a sense of credibility within the general public.
Branding and Brand Equity – Brand equity refers to the value you can create with a product that has a recognizable name versus a generic substitute product. This can help establish your product/service as an industry leader thereby expanding the customer audience to those who may never have made a prior purchase but know your product and its excellence.
Without having strong brand messaging, values and identity, the marketing strategies of advertising and messaging would not have the same impact.
Having identified the important factors that make branding successful, consider some of the pitfalls that can adversely impact your branding and thus marketing strategies.
Understand that branding is not advertising – While it is a major factor in determining marketing and advertising strategy, it does not directly constitute advertising. The difference being branding centers on how customers will perceive your company – its identity and image – while advertising is a communicative means for getting the messaging to the public.
Neglecting to establish business values – Branding cannot be determined without first understanding the company’s mission and values. These two components are what make the company and brand connect with potential customers.
Relying on trends – Never copy or rely on how other competitors create branding and related strategies. This weakens your brand and makes your products look less unique. This is the opposite of what is needed to move up the brand recognition scale.
Using confusion imagery – The logos, colors and taglines need to relate to the product and make sense. Be mindful of how visual details can represent the mood, value and products of your company.
Writing lackluster text – Be mindful that branding is more than logos, colors and taglines. Textual sections should tell a story about the company and brand. Consider vocabulary, style and overall tone of the text to ensure you have made your brand appealing.
Foregoing market research – Research provides a mechanism to learn what your potential audience values in a brand. Without research you may be delaying your ability to connect with your potential customers.
Posting the same content everywhere – In today’s business environment, it is common to utilize multiple social media platforms such as Google Business, LinkedIn and Facebook. While the standardized guidelines such as text style, size, colors should be consistent across all platforms, the content should not be. By posting the same content you may disengage viewers, therefore you should specialize content for each platform. Create unique but consistent content that offers something slightly different in each.
Changing too quickly – While it is acceptable to make changes in branding, logos, taglines it should not be done too many times or too quickly. This becomes confusing and customers may see it adversely.
Be too general or too specific – Being too specific may make it difficult for the audience to relate to its value, purpose or use. Being too general makes it difficult to determine its value for the customer.
Infrequent updating – Companies and products are dynamic in nature. Your branding should also be dynamic and reflect product changes.
The importance of branding and its connection to an effective marketing strategy cannot be overstated. It is evident that there are many factors to be considered when building both these crucial elements to ensure your business reaches the appropriate audience with the appropriate messaging.
In the event your business may have a unique need for outside assistance with operational issues, growth initiatives or other business matters, SCORE mentors can offer you expertise and support. Mentors with a wide range of technical and user experience are available on request.
The Cleveland Chapter of SCORE was founded in 1965 to foster and support the small business community in Northeast Ohio through mentoring and education. There are currently 80 volunteers with experience in the fields of business ownership, managers, accountants, attorneys and other business fields that are ready to share their knowledge through mentoring. For more information about our services for small business visit the website at www.cleveland.SCORE.org or call (216) 503-8160.
In addition to mentoring services, there are also webinars and on-demand classes listed on the website. To attend a webinar, visit the site and register. Following are upcoming events in July:
Seminar Title Date & Time
Quickbooks Online for Expert Users July 6 – 8:00 AM
How to Protect Your Business & Invention Using Trademarks,
Patents & Copyrights July 11 – 1:00 PM
Increase Sales by Attracting More of Your Best Customers July 11 – 7:00 PM
Soft Skills: Understanding your why July 12 – 7:00 PM
Quickbooks Online Final Review July 13 – 8:00 AM
Increase Your Sales by Attracting Your Target Market July 13 – 1:00 PM
Soft Skills: Solving Problems at the Source: How to Empower Your Team July 19 – 7:00 PM
Creating a Social Media Marketing Strategy for your Small Business July 20 – 9:00 AM
How to start a Food Truck Business: Step-by-Step Guide July 20 – 1:00 PM
How to Effectively use Artificial Intelligence in Your Business:
A Step-by-Step guide July 25 – 1:00 PM
Soft Skills: Part 2 Solving Problems at the Source: How to Empower
Your Team July 26 – 7:00 PM