Written by Mark Williams
If you want to succeed in business, you need a strong, engaging and attractive brand. Get it right and your brand will set your business apart from its competitors. Your brand will attract customers and keep them coming back for more. And that’s as true of the smallest and newest businesses as it is of the largest and most established.
So, what exactly is a brand? Well, it’s much more than a business name, logo or tagline, and it goes way beyond the typefaces or colours you choose for your business stationery, marketing materials or website.
What is a “brand”?
As explained by John Williams on entrepreneur.com: “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.” Amazon supremo, Jeff Bezos, is credited with the quote: “Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
On successwise.com Allan Dib encourages us to think of a brand as the personality of a business. According to Tracy Lloyd, writing for the Emotive Brand website: “Our conception of what a brand is has become more complicated and hard to pin down. Brands are about feelings, and feelings are complicated. When you ask people why they love certain brands, they might provide rational and logical reasons, but in the end, it often comes down to a feeling.” Successful brands, she says, hold great emotional meaning for people and “that’s what makes that brand loved and respected”.
The Branding Journal website defines branding as: “The process of giving a meaning to specific organisation, company, products or services by creating and shaping a brand in consumers’ minds. It is a strategy designed by organisations to help people to quickly identify and experience their brand, and give them a reason to choose their products over the competition’s, by clarifying what this particular brand is and is not.”
Brand values and brand identity
Your core brand values are key. As explained by Rosie Frost on threerooms.com: “Brand values are guiding principles that shape every aspect of your business. They’re placed at the very core of your brand and are there to dictate your brand message, look and personality. They affect the choices you make and the actions you take and are the main reason customers will connect with you [instead of] the competition.”
She adds: “Having well defined values helps to create clear purpose and direction for your brand. They’re so simple to establish, but so often overlooked.” She recommends that businesses “forget about idealised perceptions”. Instead, they “need to discover the raw and real feelings” that will truly connect their brand to consumers and customers.
Branding can be understood to mean creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product or business from others. Brand identity is the name given to the visual elements of your brand, including your logo, colour and design choices – the things that enable customers to identify your brand as something that is distinct.
Be original and authentic
No matter how much you admire them, simply ripping off other brands isn’t advised. Be original. Create your own distinct brand, something that’s right for your business, because authenticity is crucial. Trying to be something you’re not can make you and your business look very silly. Use your own personality, not someone else’s.
Find ways to make your brand superior. Be special. Have brand values that appeal to your customers. Thinking about why you’re in business can help you to identify those brand values. Budget permitting, paying a professional to create your brand identity can ensure far better results. Your brand identity should engage and impress. Have a good logo and great tagline. Apply your branding consistently and protect it – it can be very valuable.
Creating a winning brand takes time and effort, it usually involves some cost, too, but the benefits can make it all hugely worthwhile.
Mark Williams is a freelance editorial consultant, editor, journalist and SME content specialist with more than 25 years’ experience. He has written for The Guardian, numerous leading brands and award-winning magazines and websites. Visit www.markiwilliams.com