Any discussion about advertising and marketing is inherently linked to brand development. Just as good marketing brings together both science and art, branding is the intersection of science and psychology. With a timeless brand, companies can convey credibility and quality across a range of products. As the life cycle of a product or service ends, the brand lives on to promote the next product or service released by the company. In this regard, brands are so valuable that companies often monetize this value on their balance sheet.
To see the value of a brand, business owners can look to some of the biggest purchases made in recent years. For instance, the sale of companies such as Land Rover and the Four Seasons are all about the brand. These respected brands already have a loyal following and a guaranteed income. Branding has become more important today than ever before in an increasingly global economy. Previously untapped markets are now interested in importing premium products. While quality definitely has some bearing on what is considered “premium,” this idea is also intricately tied to branding.
How does a business – especially a small business – go about creating a compelling brand? First, it is important to keep in mind that a brand must reflect the mission of a company. If there is a disparity between branding and actions, then the trust between the consumer and the company will be broken. Since trust is one of the fundamental goals of brand development, business owners must think about what their mission is and how they can convey that to the consumer in an accurate and engaging manner. Considerations should include the qualities that one wishes to associate with the company. For instance, is the product designed for wholesome families or adventurous thrill-seekers? Other factors could include the benefits offered by the product or service. Of course, business leaders also need to take into account any public perceptions about a company as they develop a brand.
Business owners should not rely on their impressions and beliefs when they create a brand. Investing some money into public opinion research or hiring a marketing firm to investigate public perceptions and desires can pay off in the long run.
Once one has conceptually developed an idea for a brand, how do those thoughts get translated into the actual brand? Branding often starts with a logo. The logo should be easily recognizable and tied to the company across all available platforms. Part of making marketing efforts consistent involves tying them all to a central brand that is reflected both online and in print. Along with a logo, a tagline can help to make the brand memorable. The tagline should be meaningful and concise, and it should accurately reflect the message that the company wants to convey with its brand. Consistency is also extremely important. Without consistency, a brand collapses. Even in formatting marketing materials, similar layouts and color schemes reinforce a consistent brand.
All employees at a company should understand the brand and be capable of conveying its key values. This sort of understanding promotes consistency. Companies should have a distinct “voice” that is consistent with their respective brands. This voice can affect everything from the way in which people answer the phone to the tone of press releases. Consistency is only possible when employees recognize and respect the brand.
In today’s digital age, consumer expectations about brands have fundamentally changed. People look for brands that they can relate to rather than those with an authoritative voice. Consumers also appreciate brands that aim to engage with them in unique ways. For example, Beyonce’s last album launch largely turned convention on its head by coming somewhat as somewhat of a surprise. The singer released no teaser singles and instead made the whole album immediately available on iTunes with a full roster of supporting music videos. The strategy said a lot about her brand as an artist, and the album’s success points to her fans’ appreciation of this tactic.
Younger generations in particular often choose brands involved in philanthropy. Research has shown that millennials prefer to work for companies with a strong commitment to volunteerism and charitable giving. Similarly, they choose to support brands with a philanthropic mission. One example of this is the popularity of TOMS shoes, a brand that donates a pair of shoes to a person in need in Africa for every pair purchased.
Moreover, brands should embrace innovation. While brands should remain consistent, they also need to evolve to stay relevant. Some brands that have not innovated in a timely manner include Blockbuster, Blackberry, and JCPenney. At one time, these brands were extremely valuable. Today, their names mean little because they did not innovate their products and strategies to meet the changing expectations of consumers. Brand loyalty is important, but it only goes so far. If a brand refuses to innovate and evolve, even loyal customers will look to new companies that are willing to give them what they want.