If you’ve read a few of our blog posts you should have a good understanding of what a brand or brand strategy is, this post will delve into the importance of branding, and how it affects your business. Branding is important to areas of your business you probably haven’t even identified yet. Below will help provide you some insight into the importance of branding and how it can help you build a more profitable business.
What is a brand?
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” Seth Godin.
It almost doesn’t get better than that explanation because it doesn’t reduce branding to the basic aesthetic (or identity) that is commonly done. Instead, it’s straight to the core of what a brand is in its totality and how it influences customers. From this definition alone it’s easy to gain an understanding of how important branding really is.
A brand should sum up the business and its story and intentions within its first introduction with a consumer. Many business owners believe they have already addressed their brand, or that they are equipped to manage it themselves, but often struggle to consistently communicate why they do what they do. Who they do it for (brand positioning) and how it will positively impact a business.
Why is branding important to your business?
A business that has taken time to develop and invest in brand strategy will have developed a unique selling point. This is what will make you stand out from your competitors and is the first way a brand adds value. As a quick example, if you’re a pizza restaurant that openly caters to allergens and dietary requirements, it will set you apart from that chain pizza place that just has two gluten free choices. Therefore, your USP is adding further value to your business via that market that your competitors aren’t tapping into.
A well thought out, considered brand will easily establish consumer loyalty. By understanding its target audience, a business with a brand strategy will be able to use storytelling and emotions to engage its customers and build those relationships. This loyalty creates a community of consumers who adore your products/services. This community once established is a huge driver in your success. A community could be established through social media.
By nurturing and understanding, this community becomes almost your fail-safe. For example, if you are launching a new product or service, you should be launching it to the community of customers you already have first. This means you are giving them a sense of exclusivity and appreciation. In return, you gain feedback and an insight to the potential success of the new launch.
Branding is so crucial to adding value because when executed properly, it is the solid foundation of a successful business. On a larger scale, branding makes your business more appealing to investors or collaborators. So in the event of expansion, or new ideas, the success of your branding speaks volumes, and becomes a more attractive, ‘safe-bet,’ for potential investors or business collaborations.
How can brand building attract and win you new customers?
If you nail your branding, then customers aligned with the brand will come to you. That’s not saying they will flock to you with no effort from yourself. What it means is that when someone is googling ‘restaurants near me,’ and they look through the results, they will pick one that feels more uniquely positioned to them. It goes without saying that as consumers we find ourselves more attracted to brands that we feel we share similar values with.
So, to get those customers that will pick you out from a crowded and competitive market place, your brand needs to be strong in who it is and who it attracts. By focusing on your target, ideal consumer, when they do walk through the door, they will feel like they have found a home away from home.
In this aligned interaction as long as you deliver on the promises you make to your customers you will have transformed a new customer into a returning customer. These customers are the ones who are likely to recommend you to their friends and family, who are also likely to be within that ideal target audience you are aiming for.
This is a powerful form of advertising that people aren’t utilising enough, word of mouth. It’s worth remembering that people are much quicker to tell everyone about a bad experience than a good one. So, by providing an excellent first impression and a memorable brand experience you are increasing your chances of people spreading the word for you.
While you cannot control what people say about your business, you can take control of the brand and the perception you want to portray. This control of your brand positively affects relationship building with new and returning customers.
How can brands build relationships and trust with their customers?
Well executed brands can evoke powerful emotions, or memories. Many have almost become a cult of advertising, I bet the same ones spring to mind for everybody: Coca-cola (Christmas or attractive man mowing the lawn, take your pick!) Nike, ‘Just do it’, KFC and its FCK apology, Got Milk, Spotify and so many others are literally famous in their own right.
So how do these brands keep coming up with advertising gold? They tap into human nature. By pulling on a certain emotion, they tell a story that resonates with their target audience. In doing so, the audience feels seen and understood. These are the triggers that help form relationships and enable customers to build trust and confidence with a brand. In any relationship if trust is formed then this is often rewarded with loyalty. This is no different when it comes to branding.
Nike have their ‘Just Do It’ slogan. This famous slogan is often told in advertising campaigns showing everyday people and athletes overcoming adversity and obstacles. Their adverts are powerful and memorable, and they carry this storytelling throughout, building legions of cult fans that are loyal to Nike.
In recent years, Christmas advertising has stepped up, with many retailers competing for the best advert. These adverts all have a strong storyline throughout, with that magic moment at the end that warms the heart. It goes without saying that John Lewis has many victorious Christmas adverts, firmly making that association between Christmas and their department stores.
Although we’ve spoken a lot about advertising, it’s just one of the ways that companies can use their brand to build relationships and trust with their consumers.
Another example would be their brand voice. Although their brand voice would be consistent through different channels, such as advertising, website copy and social media, how they use their brand voice is a powerful way of aligning with your audience. Big companies do not always get it right. Let’s stick with Nike, most sporting fans know that Nike treated their star female athlete Alyson Felix poorly. When it came to her pay and compensation in her contract renewal once they found out she was pregnant. Felix stood up for herself, left Nike and spoke out about it. Since this Nike has publicly responded and reviewed and expanded its payment protection for the women they work with.
Nike faced severe backlash at the time, but in addressing the issue and making change, they have managed to practise damage limitation. When brands speak up and use their voice, it’s always noticed, in the same way, it’s always noticed when they don’t.
How can your brand align a team and impact the culture of your business?
The importance of branding that you’ll hear mentioned frequently, is that values are an integral part of any brand. Not just because your values will resonate with your customers and target audience, but your brand values most certainly impact your team, culture and business reputation.
Companies such as Salesforce continually rank as one of the best brands to work for, here’s their mission statement.
“We believe that the business of business is to improve the state of the world, and we work to make sure Salesforce is a platform for change through serving the interests of all our stakeholders — employees, customers, partners, communities and the environment.”
They’ve stated they want to improve the world, serving the interests of their consumers, employees, communities, and environments. Some of the ways they deliver on that promise:
- Employees get a paid wellness day off per month
- Employees get a monetary payment they can claim monthly towards self-care or personal development.
- Launched their #TEAMEARTH movement, where employees must reach a set number of hours each year working on designated projects within local communities. These hours are paid and within your working schedule. The projects are designed to give back to the local community and environment, such as working on new public spaces, children’s parks, libraries and more.
- Salesforce is one of the leaders for remote and flexible working.
All the above (which isn’t everything,) has created a formidable reputation in the industry, holding salesforce to the standard that other companies aspire to be. Salesforce didn’t just create a mission statement and leave it at that, they instead built tangible, measurable actions against it and worked accordingly.
In doing so, they have made a global workforce where the culture of well-being and philanthropy is at the heart of it. We know all jobs have deadlines and pressures, but no doubt that their employees are generally happy and feel well looked after. So, when their recruitment team are head-hunting or hiring, they genuinely aren’t ‘selling’ the company, as much as informing. Immediately giving off a positive first impression of the business.
Despite being a global company, with employees working around the world remotely, some having never met physically in real life, they have manufactured a workforce that believe in the business, and its core values. They work aligned with the company, its partners and each other.
So as examples go about how a well-defined brand can align teams and impact culture, we think Salesforce is a pretty good example!
If you want to think about it on a smaller scale, then perhaps think about hiring staff for your business. Firstly, they are representatives of your business and brand, they are often the first and main point of contact. Because of this, it’s important that when hiring, you take that into consideration. Once hired, and when training, it is advisable, from a brand success point of view, that you include everything brand related in part of their training. In doing so, you are getting the employee on board and excited. This process means that they can accurately represent and communicate your brand and understand the importance of doing so.
This approach needs to be consistent with all hires, as this aligns the team and delivers a consistent experience for your customers, which we know is important for building a cohesive brand and strengthening customer experience and reputation.
What can we learn from salesforce though? It’s not just having all employees singing from the same hymn sheet so to speak, but it’s reward and recognition as well. If you haven’t already, it’s worth revisiting your values to assess what you can implement that has a positive, rewarding impact on employee well-being and culture.
Unfortunately we hear too many horror stories from brands that didn’t get it quite right. A good example would be a brand like BrewDog. A disruptive global brand that from the outset did so many things amazingly well. They were always so very strong on their brand values. However these quickly came back to haunt them, when they weren’t authentically living by the values and standards they had set out for the BrewDog brand. Many consumers (including us) that love BrewDog will have been so disappointed when the business hit the news for all the wrong reasons. James Watt has come out and openly spoken about these issues on the Diary of a CEO which helps to provide some context however it strongly confirms and underlines that brand values and culture need to be at the forefront of any business looking to make an impact on their staff and of course their customers.
The importance of branding is not to be underestimated, it builds reputation, consumer loyalty and team well-being. Quite literally, branding adds value to your bottom line in ways that many business owners haven’t even thought about.
Branding is important because it drives consistency across all aspects of your business, and this consistency is what upholds the standards set out in a brand strategy. Combined, they too positively impact customer service, reputation, and success of the company.
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