Why Strong Branding Is More Important Than Ever for Your Small Business

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Being able to communicate your brand clearly and properly to your customers builds confidence and trust in your brand or name. If you pull this off, it will distinguish you from competitors and will develop lasting relationships built from your brand promise, values, and personality—all of which make up your product branding or identity.

But before being able to build up on your product identity, you need to remind yourself and others what the core of your business is about. You need to work hard and persevere in upholding what you say you stand for and make no excuses for failure. And that my friend, is how you make yourself known as a strong brand.

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What Is Branding?

Prior to understanding the process of making a unique name and image in the minds of your potential customers, let’s first talk about the core of our branding and marketing—the product.

What Is a Product?

A product is anything made for the market to satisfy a want or need. This could be goods, services, events, experiences, places, persons, properties, organizations, ideas, or information. Simply put, a product can be anything from an online app, your nude pics, to a video of a dog doing his thing, a piece of broken tooth, and whatnot—as long as it satisfies a real market need.

Your product plays a very important role in defining your brand.

Case in point. There has never been a better example of strong product branding such as Apple. If you look at the company closely, they are in the business of selling gadgets, and this is nothing new even in their time. Apple was a company then very close to crumbling into insolvency. Then CEO Steve Jobs turned the company around to become one of the most profitable companies of the era.

What were the products that Apple was selling? They were no different than any other tech company like IBM and such. So the big question lies in how can Apple sell the same things that other companies are selling and yet be able to make people buy Apple instead of say gadgets from IBM or Dell?

You know the answer. It was all because of strong product branding.


What Is a Brand?

According to the American Marketing Association, a brand is a name, design, term, symbol or any other feature that identifies one vendor’s good, product, or service as distinct from those of other sellers.

A brand can be compared to that of its vision statement—vivid and attractive display that comes into people’s minds upon thinking about your company’s product. It is both appealing to the physical and emotional sensations of an individual. Physical in the sense where it is practical and show the physical features that make a brand. Emotional in that it evokes a different kind of feeling or emotion upon exposure to the name, logo, or visual identity of a brand.

A brand means instant recognition, since a product can just be easily made or copied by other competitors. A brand makes a product unique.

Let’s take our earlier example of Apple. There are numerous brands in the market, but Apple in the late 1990s separated itself from the pack and gained stellar status through their effective brand recognition campaigns.

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It started with their company logo and with their slogan, “Think Different.” Examining the slogan, in itself it makes people want to think differently. It makes it appear that the customer who buys Apple products thinks differently or are operating on another level. Who doesn’t want that sense of being special?

Apple also established themselves as the premium brand and leading company in terms of technology and innovation. All their advertisements contained or concentrated on the apple logo or symbol along with the slogan—a technique in psychology called subconscious repetition.

Thus any product they have with the symbol or logo empowers the product and gives the power of the brand to that product. Individual products may be unique but they invoke the same feelings individuals have for the brand.

Meaning of Branding

Branding bestows the products or services with the power of the brand. A brand provides meaning to specific products or services by associating the products or services to the brand, which stands for something or means something in a consumer’s mind. It provides instant recognition and also otherwise instantly separates the brand apart from the competition.

Branding aims to instantly and literally pull customers in the direction of the brand, all the while retaining and making loyal customers through a product that is aligned with what the brand stands for or promotes.

Effect of Branding

Let’s take Nike as another example.

Nike takes a firm grip on customer loyalty by focusing on emotional branding. While they may be implementing a classic strategy of the humble beginnings of a hero defeating a great and evil foe against all odds, they’ve made an amazing trick of making the customers the hero and the villain at the same time. The villain we are talking about is our inner complacent and lazy selves. Nike focuses on defeating laziness and promoting an active lifestyle (“Just do it! Get off your lazy a$$!”) to defeat such a villain and become the hero ourselves.

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Now add that emotional branding in comparison to other products in the market, and the end result is a clear-cut and quick decision on which product to choose based on the emotions it brings about. Branding builds a company’s reputation as well as provides motivation to work for that brand.

How Is Branding Achieved?

There are different tools in creating and shaping a brand. The following can be used for a product to gain brand recognition:

  • Packaging and design – Careful time and attention when designing the packaging of a product helps in grabbing immediate attention to the product in a store. It usually contains information regarding a product or service and is designed to reflect what the product is about.
  • Advertising and communications – Advertising accounts for a lot of exposure for a product. It promotes repetition strategies that help build brand awareness and recognition.
  • In-store encounter – If your company has a display or in store sales area, having your products visible or seen help to further bring results to branding efforts.
  • Partnerships and sponsoring – Partnering with related products or brands also help in getting awareness of your product and brand recognition. Sponsoring events also otherwise gets word out for your product since it will be featured as ads all over an event being sponsored.
  • Visual identity (logo, colors, website) – By carefully designing your logo and the factors involved in the design, you can create a logo or website that may instill positive effects in viewers or consumers that would help them remember you.
  • Pricing – By being either known as a budget-friendly product or premium-quality product, you are promoting product awareness.

In other words, a brand is the image of what your are trying to sell, the product is what is being sold, and branding is the strategy of creating that image in mind for the customers. Now, how you make your brand or image appear to the people is entirely up to you.

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Why Branding Is Important for Small Businesses

A brand is considered the equivalent to the promise you have for your customer. Therefore, it is important to spend as much time as possible in investing in researching, defining, and in building your brand.

  • Marketing strategies get your brand in front of your customers. Your brand is created to make your product more enticing to the customer.
  • Your branding is a guide in understanding the reasons behind the goals of your business. It makes you adjust your marketing plan to the goals of the business and achieve your branding strategy. By having a brand that consistently sets a clear understanding of what the company stands for, your brand alone will raise your products to higher levels far above your competition.
  • The effects of branding does not end with the sale of a product but actually begins then and through out the experience a customer gets with the product.
  • A strong brand also creates loyal employees since the brand stands for something and it gives them something to believe in as well. It gives them purpose and better understanding of the goals of an organization.

Difference between Marketing and Branding

One may not argue that marketing and branding are commonly interchanged terms in business. But looking at marketing as the active promotion of a product or service makes marketing a push tactic, right? Seeing it in this light somehow defines marketing in a nutshell, but still, it is what it is and marketing is definitely not branding.

Then what is branding?

  • Branding happens way before marketing efforts. Branding employs “pull” rather than the “push” tactic.
  • Branding is the representation of all values and morals being considered in an organization.
  • Branding communicates the who, what, and why of your company and sets a clear understanding of what a brand is and is not, what it stands for or doesn’t.
  • A brand promotes the buying of a product, which directly helps any sales or marketing activity. A brand is a statement of what it is and the reasons for its existence. A brand makes you want to buy the product while marketing or sales efforts provide the opportunities for the product to be bought.
  • Branding is bigger than any marketing effort. It lingers in the customer’s minds, leaving an imprint of product and your company, way after marketing has done its deed.
  • Branding is what makes your customers stick with your business. Marketing only convinces consumers to buy your product, but branding maintains or sustains that trust in order for business to have continuity over time.
  • The brand itself is comprised of many factors—from the customer experience with the business, promises made regarding functionality of products or services, the quality standards being upheld and constantly followed, to the complete knowledge of the range of products that the business is offering.
  • Marketing is the tool to find and convert sales, while branding converts people to loyal customers.
  • Moreover, branding creates employees who stay longer in a company and customers who themselves become vessels in spreading the good word about your business.

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A Guide to Branding Your Small Business

Getting your branding right equates to having your business reap benefits for years to come. Get your branding wrong and your seat at the helm may be short lived. The following pointers should help and guide you through successfully setting a good and effective brand:

1. Make good use of your research knowledge

By properly developing your brand identity from thorough market research, you should be able to make a good brand and logo design, and be able to fully assimilate your branding across to the right people. The real secret behind building a successful brand is understanding how to bring out the right emotions from the brand design and your marketing activities, and consistently being able to target the market across different channels for brand recognition.

Consistent communication provides for the basic building blocks of a successful brand. It is important to frequently ask yourself who your target consumers are and what messages need to be communicated consistently.

2. Understand your target audience

Knowing your audience should be the first and foremost task in building your brand. Correctly investing your time and money in developing your brand in accordance to what will echo through and reach your audience—through their habits, wants, and needs—assures you are not on the path of wasting both money and time.

3. Embrace Failure

Perhaps the most valuable lessons learned in life and in business happens after failure. It is perhaps a critical and essential part of the brand-building process. Trying to stand out in a crowded market may sometimes result in a lot of failed branding efforts, but this should otherwise not deter you from trying even harder and learning from your precious mistakes.
Creating brand personality takes time and a lot of foiled plans and mistakes. Most successful businesses sum up their core values as making it easy for the customer, and sometimes it would often mean making the needs of the customer, pricing, or service as top priority over any brand personality.

4. Identical minds think alike—”think big, go big”

Another pitfall for small businesses in making a successful brand building is in thinking small. Where do you think big businesses came from? Thinking small generates small. If there is one piece of advice every entrepreneur gives out, it is to always think big. By thinking of operations encompassing regions and countries, you are opening yourself up for possibilities and global growth. And that is not a bad thing to aim for.

5. Importance of design

Creating the right first impression is important to successfully build your brand, represented by your visual identity such as your logo. By creating a smart and visually appealing logo design along with color palettes that reflect the tone and voice of your branding, you help create the vision of how you want your company to be perceived. All these design elements should be considered and incorporated in company uniforms, as well as other items like your website advertising materials, and official documents.

6. Brand name

There is that off chance that you ruin all your branding efforts by creating an inappropriate brand name—oof. Call it a case of giving it a bad name. Choosing your brand name should be given a lot of careful consideration. Your brand name should back up the key elements or goals of your business since it will always be at the forefront of any business dealing. It should at best communicate what your business is about and what it provides, which helps lessen the effort of explaining the business in the first place.

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Going Beyond

A final rule of thumb in business is not to confuse your brand with your logo. While it is true that your logo is a representation of your business but it is just a part of what makes up your brand. A brand is so much more than just a logo is. It is a personification of your company and what the company believes in and values.

It is then important in your branding efforts to consider everything from all angles or perspective specially with how stiff competition is in the market today.

Going beyond just your logo—much like what some companies are doing now—is reaching out to the community and instilling a sense of belonging. This not only adds to the appeal of your brand but also gives you a rare chance of actually knowing your target market. Active participation in your local scene actually helps your business refocus strategies that may previously have worked but need to be fine-tuned in response to any recent activity or trend that you may uncover while operating within the community.

Branding is all about personalization. Giving it a personal side and appealing to the emotions of each individual in the community.

In establishing a strong presence, it is said that, more often than not, it is not only the physical aspect that counts but also how a business may show empathy and consideration to the emotional factor of the market or consumers. Loyalty is a measure of emotional capacity after all.

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