Understand why branding is the is so important to your reputation and why you should make it a priority.
While the basic definition of the word brand is “a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name,” it’s pretty vague and non-descript. It does it absolutely no justice, because, frankly, branding is so much more than that. It’s your reputation, and it’s instrumental in the success or failure of your business.
Let’s face it: people make snap judgements.
The notion to not judge a book by its cover is great in theory, but rare in practice.
Mere moments after meeting a person, you’ve already made many assumptions, from what they wear to what they say. You may notice how much hair gel someone has slicked through his ‘do, and what kind of attire she’s deemed appropriate to walk out the door in. You can gauge how confident they come across, and whether they’re more interested in reciting their life-story or learning a little about you. Between all that, and all the 3rd party things you’d already heard about him/her, you’ve already made up your mind about who he/she is. And, of course, whether they are now worthy of your friendship bracelet.
The same concept applies to business. Before you’ve even had a chance to come into contact with your customer, they’ve already started putting the pieces of their perception together. From the look of your logo, to the navigation of your website, or the catchiness of your marketing message, you’ve either been pulling them in, or inadvertently pushing them away.
The bottom line is that your brand is your reputation. And its beauty (or lack thereof) is found in the eye of the beholder (your market), not the business owner. Yes, we realize this is often a tough pill to swallow. Sure, your business personality may sparkle, and you may have a mission so socially conscious, it rivals that of Mother Teresa, but unless you’re communicating that loud and clear, how can your customer properly appreciate it.
So, while it’s important to know what branding is, it’s critical to know why it matters. Allow us to elaborate.
1. Customers are savvy. They’re well-informed. And they wield more power than ever before. Long gone are the days of naming your business “AAA Anything” so that you can get listed first in the Yellow Pages, and wait for business to start pouring in. Better Business Bureau rankings have been replaced with Yelp Reviews, and you’re one crummy customer experience away from losing your 5-star status. Testimonials matter, and for every platform you’ve come to master, there’s always a new one in development.
2. They’re tribal. No longer is mass commoditization the path to prosperity. It’s the niche brands that are booming. The ones that have identified exactly who their customer is and catered to their specific needs. The ones who speak their language and run in their circles are the ones they’ll pledge their loyalty to. Meanwhile, the companies trying to be everything to everyone are slowly circling the drain. They’re the equivalent of the desperate guy covered in cheap cologne willing to date anything with a pulse. Translation: They don’t make the customer feel special. And customers love to feel special.
3. They have options. And they’re not afraid to use them. With such a global market, it makes it easier than ever to hang a shingle and set up shop. But it also makes it easier than ever for your customer to find alternative options. The market is saturated and demands you stand out. Maybe you’re the cheapest, but someone, somewhere can likely undercut you. Continually cutting your cost also drives down your profits, and that’s just plain counterintuitive. Which is where flaunting your personality comes into play. They say if you don’t differentiate, you die. And in this case, that seems pretty on point.
4. It’s really about them, not you. Bottom line, someone chooses YOUR brand on the basis of how it coincides with THEIR personal brand. People are focused on their image, and the choices they make are a direct reflection of that. For example, Apple and Samsung are the modern day version of Cowboys and Indians. Their customers are fiercely loyal to thier preferred brand, and upon closer inspection, you can identify who belongs to which allegiance, no headdress required. The mom driving the minivan is making a much different statement than the one toting her tots in a Toyota 4 Runner. Just like the person carrying a Whole Foods loyalty card is looking to be perceived a certain way.
As you can see, it requires a crystal clear focus on who your customer is, and how they want to be seen so you know exactly how you should be communicating with them. It could be the difference between billions and bankruptcy. This means knowing what want and how you can provide that. To see if your branding is on point, start by asking yourself a few questions. For instance, does your logo have any relevance to what you do, or does it just look cool? Does your web content portray you as trustworthy and reliable, or kooky and charismatic? Does your marketing message pop off the page, your business card stand out from the pack, and do your advertisements keep your company top of mind? Can you confidently say that from every angle, and every point of entry, your brand personality states the same thing. Simply put, it’s the basis of authenticity. So, why bother to blend in when your business was built to stand out?