Branding is one of the most important aspects to successful marketing. A brand not only conveys what a business offers, but also – and even more importantly today – what the business stands for. Today, people are more interested in what a business stands for versus simply what it offers. Leading brands know this, which is why they take developing and promoting their brand first and their products second very seriously.
For example, a recent article in The Seattle Times reads, Starbucks CEO stands behind pledge to hire refugees. On the different yet related topic, CNBC covered Starbucks CEO Schultz weighs in on employment: ‘We can’t wait for Washington,’ which conveys how Starbucks is taking a stand on the social impact agenda. Bottom line, Starbucks is not afraid to stand up for what it’s customers believe in. And, oh by the way, they sell coffee and related foods and products.
Apple is another great example. Their brand message is simply, “Think Different.” Nike is “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” Coca Cola is “To inspire moments of optimism and uplift.” Notice that the brand message doesn’t directly convey what the company sells. That message comes through, but second to conveying what the company stands for.
It’s About Emotional Appeal
The key to successful branding is to identify and speak to an emotional value that your target audience shares. It is this emotional cue that will provoke action much more predictably than conveying the features and benefits of your offerings. This is because the human brain is wired to respond to emotional triggers more than intellectual triggers. A good example is why people smoke. Intellectually, it’s easy to understand that smoking leads to all types of physical ailments. Emotionally, however, smoking provides experience and meaning relevant to those who choose to smoke.
4 Tips to Developing Your Brand
While the examples given above include large businesses, size is not a factor when developing a successful brand. Instead here are 4 key tips for developing your brand whether you are self-employed, own a small business or are a large business.
- To Thyself Be True | A successful brand is 100% congruent with what you as the business owner believe in. A barber client of mine, for example, is passionate about baseball. Hence the name of his business is All Pro Barbers. His shop displays many posters of famous baseball players. His social media page includes baseball statistics and images, and he offers a customer loyalty program where repeat customers earn discounts based on the level of repeat business and referrals provide. He calls these levels first base, home run and grand slam.
- Provide an Experience | In the case of the barber, he knows his target audience – mainly male – likely shares a passion for sports, and as a result he provides them with more than just a cut and a shave – he provides an experience. Do you want to own a Volvo that was once promoted as “boxy but safe,” or do you want to drive a BMW, which is “The Ultimate Driving Machine?”
- Leverage Publicity | If you’re in business today, there is likely something going on somewhere that relates to what you believe in. Look for it and find a way to leverage it to generate publicity. For the barber, it would be the local little league team. Trade associations, the daily news and social media offer great reference sources for other ideas as well.
- Be Consistent | Last but not least, be consistent with your branding. It is not wise to convey that you and your business feel strongly about something at one time and then change it the next. People will do business with whom they believe they share a strong value with. If you’re frequently changing what you stand for, they will likely do business elsewhere.
The bottom line to good branding is to establish an image that your target audience can relate to. It is about creating a sense of belonging to something first, and then delivering products and/or services that satisfy expectations.