26 Sep Why We Need Branding
We all talk about branding quite a lot, don’t we? Phrases like ‘building a brand,’ ‘brand integrity’ ‘brand personality’ and ‘brand values’ are thrown around like cake in a food fight.
To the uninitiated, branding means a logo and choosing ‘brand’ colours. This post is a defence of branding. I’ll be arguing that it is so much more than colours and logos, and when properly thought out, it can add real value to a business.
Before we talk about how important branding is, it’s probably a good idea to confirm exactly what branding is. The fountain of knowledge that is Wikipedia describes branding as ‘a set of marketing and communication methods that help to distinguish a company or products from competitors, aiming to create a lasting impression in the minds of customers.’
In its most basic form, branding is a way to make your product and service stand out from the competition. A brand is a guarantee of a level of quality: that a product or service under this specific name will provide a minimum level of service that you can expect and rely on. A trademark so to speak.
This aspect of branding is based on reputation and can be both good and bad. For example, whether you walk into a McDonald’s in Sheffield or Shanghai, you can be confident about the experience you will receive as soon as you pass under the golden arches (artery-clogging, hangover-reducing sustenance). I’ll leave it up to you whether you class this as a positive or a negative experience, but the point is a brand can guarantee reassuring consistency.
For many, this is where branding stops. However, especially for B2C businesses where branding becomes an art, cultivating the intangible aspects of a brand that create emotional attachments and can make a business transformation in the eyes of customers and targets into a friend, confident, or even part of the family. How does your business make people feel when they hear your name? That’s truly what a brand is.
Who are we? A Defence of Brand Guidelines
To have an authentic brand, it’s essential to have a set of brand guidelines. This should be more than simply a list of fonts that represent your brand and the rules for using your logo as is the common misconception.
Brand guidelines should truly define what your business ‘is.’ It’s philosophy, attitude, tone, aims and personality. As with a marketing strategy, a good, comprehensive brand guideline can establish a clear course of action in many situations.
When you truly know your business’ personality you will find yourself saying ‘we wouldn’t say it like that. That’s not the <insert business> way.’ This brand identity can also do more than dictate marketing, it can cement your corporate culture with employees who, let’s face it, are the physical embodiment of your brand. If staff buy into the brand, you have a motivated, dedicated workforce.
This sounds great but consider, if your brand is ‘fun and alternative,’ you need to make it authentic. Ensure that your employees are able to work in a fun and alternative environment and manner. Better bring out the table-tennis tables in the break rooms and plan some staff getaways.
Branding Your Customers (not literally)
Businesses look to use their branding to create a wide variety of feelings within their target audience. It’s crucial to accurately establish to whom you are marketing to before you build your brand (conveniently, we’ve written a blog on the importance of a marketing strategy).
Some aim to create feelings of nostalgia, romance, inclusivity, elegance, patriotism or aspiration. Think of a positive adjective. Chances are a brand is aiming to create that sentiment in some industry.
Brands can help create these feelings and relationships with customers by adopting a brand personality. It has been proven that consumers prefer brands that echo their own personality, life, preferences or to represent what they would like to be. Aligning yourself with a particular brand means that it’s brand personality is a representation of you, e.g which newspaper you read and why people pay £60 for a t-shirt.
Paddy Power is a great example of creating a distinct brand personality. Their business is cheeky, occasionally controversial and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Perfect for the typical demographic for sports betting. For many customers, they see the business as an extension of the group they go ‘down the pub’ to watch the match.
We’re Cool Because We Say We Are
Having extolled the virtues of ensuring you have a comprehensive set of brand guidelines and a brand personality to connect with your audience, now come the caveats.
What I’m about to say may be difficult to accept, but
You do not own your brand.
There, I’ve said it. I mean you do own your brand in terms of the offices and the business etc. but the reputation and personality will only be successful if they are accepted by the public.
You can suggest your brand’s personality. Committing to it, being authentic and having a sufficiently effective marketing strategy to promote it will definitely help. However whether it ‘sticks’ is mostly due to its acceptance by the public.
Back in the good old days when electronic word of mouth was just word of mouth, a business could dictate to the public what it was. ‘We’re luxurious.’ Boom, you were a luxury brand. As long as your product looked nice and you had a good advertising strategy you were ok.
Even if what you sold wasn’t the pinnacle of quality or luxury, you could probably get away with it for a while as each dissatisfied customer would only complain to between 10–20 people and it would take a while for your brand to suffer a loss of reputation. You’d have time to correct the faults in the product and rescue your reputation.
However now that brand reputations can be shattered with a smartphone or a few choice words on social media, a brand’s reputation and identity have been democratised. You can say your product is the height of luxury, but if the Amazon reviews say differently, there’s only going to be one winner.
It’s never been more important to ensure that your branding is authentic, relatable and accurate. We’ll admit it’s a bit of a balancing act, but that’s what makes it fun, right? If you don’t agree, we know an agency that can take the stress out of it for you.