Branding

For the next week, we are going to take an in-depth look at branding – literally ‘making a name for yourself.’

If you think about some of the most successful businesses, their names immediately elicit thoughts and feelings and emotions in your mind. Think about this list – McDonalds, Coke, Apple, Dow Chemicals, Blackberry, Pizza Hut, Wal-Mart, Goldman Sachs. Do you see how you can put a whole list of feelings and ideas next to these names, ranging from hunger, fear, admiration and possibly even envy?

THIS needs to be the ultimate goal for your company – so that within at least the smaller circle of people who know your business, your name immediately bring ups pleasant feelings and good thoughts.

1-6

Day 1: The Basics of Branding

Branding is the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a business and/or product from other products.  In a nutshell, it’s the act of using something simple to help consumers identify your company. So, in essence, branding is all about creating your public image.

But designing logos and graphics is only the start – they are just a tool for identifying your business.  Your overarching brand is about everything that you are – what you stand for and the feelings both customers and potential customers have about your company.

Why Is Branding Important?

Branding is important because it instantly identifies your company.  If you properly establish your brand, every time people see your logo or hear your tag line, they will immediately think of you. Having a well-established brand is an invaluable piece of the marketing puzzle that every company should capitalize on, although sadly, most don’t.

Many people think that branding ends with the creation of a suitable logo and a catchy company slogan. Yet in reality, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Your logo is an almost empty box, into which you must put the image of your company.  Good graphics and the use of color begin to create an image or mood – for example, a business card in calm greens and neutrals sends a different message from one with exploding fireworks on it.  Quality graphics begin to tell customers what your company is about, but after that, it’s all about building associations with your brand.  More on this a little later…

Branding Is Important: A Case Study

The Kellogg brothers, Dr. John Harvey and Will Keith, created corn flakes in 1897. Dr. John had a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan that offered health-treatments based on his religious beliefs. With his recipe for a healthy breakfast food, W.H. founded the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company with an initial staff of 44. Today, Kellogg’s global market-share is around 28%. While breakfast foods that can be eaten on the run, like fruit-and-nut bars, are cutting into the marketshare of cereals, the Kellogg brand has dominated the breakfast cereal market for over 100 years and diversified to produce a wide range of breakfast foods, while staying true to the original image created around the brand – a healthy breakfast.

So, let’s take a look at what successful branding looks like.  The All-Bran brand grew steadily between the 1930s and the 1990s, mainly because of how much doctors stressed the importance of a high-fiber diet, particularly in the 70s and 80s. Using its all-ready-existing reputation as achampion of healthy breakfasts, All-Bran became the ‘go to’ high-fiber cereal. What made All-Bran such a success was the fact that Kellogg had a leg-up in the health market, because the company already had an existing reputation.

Advertising for All-Bran focused on images of sports, fitness, families glowing with health – and perhaps most important of all, young, healthy, slim women. Add-on brands like Special-K and Raisin Bran targeted the same market, but focused on much smaller niches.  By doing so, Kellogg made it harder for competitors to gain a foothold.

Day 2: Defining Your Business

Before developing a plan for the branding of your company, the first step is to conduct some pretty in-depth research. I know it’s probably not something you’re looking forward to, but if you want to develop a solid brand for your business, it’s a necessary evil.  So, let’s get started!

To kick things off, you must first define your business.  And when defining your business, you need to be able to answer the following 4 questions…

What purpose does your business serve?
This question is about the niche your business occupies, and your core activity in relation to your customers. For example, perhaps your business provides people with affordable, custom-made clothing. Or, starts everyone’s morning off with a fresh cup of piping hot coffee.  Now be careful here, since your answer to this question doesn’t need to be overly complex.  Many people try to make this much more complicated than it needs to be – don’t suffer the same fate!  Your business’s purpose may be as straightforward as offering individuals a simple tax preparation service. Think about what exactly it is that your business does for your customers. THIS will be your answer to this question.

What is it that you want your company to do best?
What one thing would you like your business to do best? Searching for – and finding – the answer to this crucial question will pinpoint the strongest and most marketable aspect of your company.  If you already have an existing business, ask yourself what it is that you already do best. Perhaps you make the most durable clothing, or the best cappuccinos the world has ever seen. Often, when asked this question, business owners don’t have an answer. If that sounds like you, NOW is a good time to reflect on what you do and decide what it is that you would like to do best. If your cappuccinos are not the best in the world, what can you do to make them so that they are?  If you’re setting up a new business, then your answer to this question will be a key component in your business’s long-term success, so take the time to truly work through your answer. And if you get stumped, think about some famous companies. Each one of them offers something that is the best: the best soft drink (Coke/Pepsi), the best computer (Apple), and the best shoes (Manolo Blahnick). Now, don’t get me wrong here.  Plenty of people will argue that Dell has the best computers and that Nike has the best shoes.  It’s simply the idea or feeling of ‘the best’ that probably comes to mind when you think about these brands… even if you personally don’t agree they actually ARE ‘the best.’ This is successful branding.

What would you like your business to accomplish?
What I’m talking about here is your reputation – what you would like to be known for.  Ask yourself what the ultimate goal of your business is. Perhaps you want to make unique clothing that’s affordable to everyone, no matter what his or her budget is. Maybe you want to make sure that a delicious cup of coffee is always available to start a person’s morning off right. What you ultimately want to accomplish doesn’t have to be huge, but it does need to be something that’s important to your customers.

What would you like people to associate with your business?
What will set your company apart? What would you like a customer to instantly think about when they think about your business? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a product. It doesn’t even have to be something to do with your niche. It can be either one of these things, of course, but what other things do you do that you that people can associate with your business? ‘Outstanding customer service’ or ‘super-fast deliveries’ are good examples of other aspects of a business that cross niches.  For example, quickest delivery of pizza, or quickest delivery of business documents, are essentially the same thing, just in different industries.

Another way to think about this process is to consider three things:

  • What are your skills? Write down what you have been trained to do, or what you know how to do.
  • What are the needs of your customers? What do you think your customers want – the cheapest coffee or the best coffee? Do they want quick service or a relaxing place to sit?
  • What separates you from the competition? Imagine that you are on a street that is a row of coffee shops. Why would someone walking down that street come to your shop instead of all the others?

Once you’ve gone through this process, you should be able to effectively define your business. Using our coffee shop example, here are some possibilities:

  1. A friendly coffee shop that always has freshly brewed coffee with homemade cookies, clean washrooms and comfortable chairs.
  2. A specialty coffee shop that features unique fair-trade coffees from around the world, and with an emphasis on environmental responsibility.
  3. A fast-service coffee shop with an ‘out the door in three minutes or free’ policy.
  4. A European style coffee shop with daily papers, fresh croissants, classical music and sofas.

Day 3: Defining Your Target Audience

Now that you have defined your business, you can move on to the second phase of your research, which is defining your target audience. All your branding and marketing efforts will be useless until you know who it is that you are targeting (aka: who you are selling to).

To define your audience, you’ll need to use a mixture of common sense and generalizations – and yep, you guessed it, you’ll need to do more research.  Analytics, keyword searches, social media, and generalized sales reports will help you to identify the kinds of people who will ultimately make up your audience. Unless you have a very narrowly focused business, your customer base will be diverse, so you’ll need to identify ALL major groups, which can be done several ways.

To kick things off, you’ll want to identify your general market by conducting keyword searches. I would also suggest looking on social media to find people who are talking about the products and/or services that are like yours.  Look at your own sales figures and whatever is in them. Survey your existing customers, if you have any.

Using several different methodologies to identify your target audience may be time consuming, but it’s also 150% necessary since nothing is fail-proof and each method has its own deficiencies.

To create worthwhile profiles of customers, you’ll need to aggregate two sets of data – their demographics and their psychographics.

Demographics

Demographics are the basic facts about your clients. Think of them as a series of questions:

  • How old are your customers?  ? Are they millenials, middle aged, or senior citizens? Your target audience may cover a wide variety of ages – or a very specific range. It just depends on what types of services your company offers.
  • What is their gender?  Some services cater to males or females exclusively. Does yours?
  • What is their marital status?  This is also a useful piece of data, especially if you own a business like a restaurant or spa, and can make ‘couples’ offers.. Perhaps you want to cater to single moms, or divorced males. It’s important to notate this.
  • Where do they live?  Do your customers live in your local area, or is your target area much larger than that? You may only do business in your own town, but if you have an online ecommerce business, you may have no geographic boundaries at all.
  • What is their race or ethnicity?  This may not be a question you are interested in, or feel uncomfortable thinking about (let alone asking about), but it’s important to note here that some products and services are designed to appeal to certain demographic groups.  For example, if you import high-end Asian food products, your primary target market may be Asian Americans, with a secondary target market of foodies.
  • What is their educational background?  This may also be relevant, depending on the type of products and/or services you offer.  If your product is more technical in nature, you target audience is most likely going to consist of people who have more advanced education than those who didn’t graduate from high school.
  • What is their income level?  Knowing what your customers can afford will guide you in the types of products and services you offer, the margins you use, and the overall ‘tone’ of your web site.  Some products and services are considered ‘luxury,’ and ‘high end,’ and only those with plenty of disposable income will be able to afford to buy them.
  • What do they do for a living?  Do the people who purchase your product have certain careers or work in a particular industry? Are they stay-at-home parents? Are they students in grade school, high school or college?
Psychographics

If demographics tell you who your customers are, psychographics tell you why they buy your products.

Psychographics tell you more about the types of people your customers are.  Do they value quality over price? Do they have limited free time?  How do they feel about personal health and fitness?  Is their career or their family the most important thing to them?  What do they do to relax?

Obviously, the kinds of psychographic data you need to collect will depend on your business, but as an example of just how important it is, consider this.

Imagine you have a site selling health-care products. A customer who cares about their health and values quality over price will not be interested in money-off coupons, but they will be interested in an on-line counseling service. If you do not know your customer, you will not understand why your coupon promotion did not work.

Some of the key psychographic metrics are…

  • Socio Economic Scale – This is a combined measure of income, occupation and education, and can provide useful, albeit broad, insight about your customers. There are several schools of thought related to socio economic class.  Here’s one of them.
Class % of population Typical Characteristics
Capitalist class 1%
  • Top-level executives
  • Major politicians
  • Inherited wealth common
  • Educated at top schools
Upper middle class 15%
  • Highly-educated (often with graduate degrees)
  • Paid by salary, not by the hour
  • professionals and middle management
  • Able to set their own work patterns
Lower middle class 30%
  • Semi-professionals and artisans
  • Average standard of living
  • Most with some college education
  • Mostly white-collar jobs
Working class 30%
  • Clerical jobs and blue-collar workers
  • Standard of living varies depending on number of income earners in the home, but usually just adequate
  • High school education
Working poor 13%
  • Service industries, lower clerical work, lower blue-collar jobs
  • High economic insecurity and risk of poverty
  • Some high school education
Underclass 13%
  • Limited or no participation in the labor force
  • dependent on government welfare or pensions
  • Some high school education
  • Life Style – This is a good measure of broad tastes and inclinations. There are several schools of thought related to lifestyle as well, but the one I use is known as the 4C’s(Cross Cultural Consumer Characterization).
Type Education / employment Age Bracket Brand Choices Characteristics
Resigned Various Older Stresses safety, familiarity and economy
  • Rigid, strict, authoritarian and chauvinist values
  • Oriented to the past and to standard social roles
Struggler Physical or mechanical skills All ages Seeks impact and sensation
  • Alienated, disorganized.
  • Heavy consumers of alcohol, junk food, lotteries and trainers
Mainstreamer(the largest group) All All ages Favors big and well-known value for money ‘family’ brands
  • Domestic, conformist, conventional
  • Sentimental, passive, habitual
Aspirer Clerical/sales Younger Attractive packaging is more important than quality of contents
  • Materialistic, acquisitive, joiners
  • Sees externals, image, appearance
  • Attracted by charisma and fashion
Succeeder Top management All ages Choices based on reward, prestige – wants the very best
Also attracted to ‘caring’ and protective brands and stress relief
  • Strong goal orientation, confidence
  • Strong work ethic, organized
  • Supports status quo, social stability
Explorer Student Younger Seeks difference, sensation, adventure, indulgence and instant effect
The first to try new brands
  • High energy, autonomous
  • Seeks experiences, challenges, new frontiers
Reformer Higher Education Typically younger, but can be all ages Looks for intrinsic quality favours natural simplicity ‘small is beautiful’
Supports growth of new product categories
  • Freedom from restrictions
  • Personal growth, social awareness, value for time, independent judgment
  • Tolerant of complexity, anti-materialistic but intolerant of bad taste
  • Curious and enquiring

Other questions you should ask that relate to psychometric measure are:

  • Why do they need your products or services?This very important question is often overlooked. Why are your products or services important to your target audience? What do your customers need your products or services for? How important are they to them?  What do they mean to them?  Once you start asking yourself these types of questions, it’s easy to see why lifestyle classification is so important.
  • What is their emotional response?  Customers have quick responses to products and services, and often times, these responses are based on emotions instead of rational analysis. Put simply, people’s simple ‘likes and dislikes’ are usually not so simple. Behind their preferences are a combination of socio economic class and life style tendencies. Understanding why a customer likes – or worse, dislikes – your product or service is EXTREMELY important.
  • Is there anything special or different about your target audience? Are your products or services such that only a special or unique group of people would be interested in them or need them?  Perhaps you want to sell products for left-handed people, or that only cater to very large or very small people.  In the broader picture, niche marketing of this type can be very lucrative if you are the only provider in the space, or if you can develop good customer loyalty.  But it’s important to note here that you don’t want to get too far down in the weeds.  For example, a hairdresser who only cuts the hair of blondes over six feet tall may be restricting things a little too much!
Customer Personas

Once you’ve aggregated all of this data, now it’s time to create your customer personas. A customer persona is a fictional person, like a character in a book or film. You will probably develop several customer personas, unless you have a business that serves a very narrow niche.

Thinking again about our coffee shop example, you’ll probably have one kind of customer in the morning – those who are in a hurry to get to work. Around 11 a.m., you’ll see some older people come in who have been out doing their morning errands and are now taking a break. If you offer simple lunches, you may see a mid-day rush (most likely that will consist of the same types of people who stop by for their morning cup of joe while en-route to work), and in the afternoon, you may attract mothers who are meeting to socialize. If you stay open late, you might attract a single’s crowd, most home are doing some work on their laptops, or relaxing with social media on their phones.

Once you start working through all of these different types of scenarios, it’s easy to see why you need to develop several customer personas to profile all of these groups.

2-3

Developing a Customer Persona

Developing good customer personas takes time and effort, but the results will prove to be very useful in your marketing efforts. To create them, you’ll use the basic demographic information you collected, and couple it with your own gut instincts about your customers. If you interact directly with your customers, be it face-to-face, on the phone, by email, SMS or chats, use each interaction as an opportunity to collect information about them that will be useful in developing your personas.  This exercise will pay off for you ten-fold in the long run.

Day 4: Creating Your Brand (part 1)

Pick A Name

Your brand name is your business name, which means you may already have a business with an existing name. If you already have a business and are just now now working on your branding, you can skip the rest of this section all together, and start working on step four. If you are creating and branding your business at the same time, however, please keep reading.

Choosing a great name for your company is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.  After all, this is the first thing potential customers will see or hear about your company. It should be something that will stick with them.  It needs to be something that they will remember.

Here are a 10 tips to help you choose an amazing name for your business:

  1. Steer away from anything obvious and widely used. Your company name should always be as unique as possible.
  2. ALWAYS check to see if there is an existing trademark on the name you plan to use. If there is, you’re unfortunately out of luck and will need to go back to the drawing board. You must come up with something original and new.
  3. It’s important that your company’s name somehow reflect the activities of your company as a whole. It needs to tell people what you are offering them, or at least give customers a general idea about it. Consider your target audience. If your customers are mostly ‘explorers’ or ‘reformers’, something like ‘Cheap Stuff’ is not going to attract them.
  4. Think about the general ‘look’ of your name. It shouldn’t be too long or too short.
  5. Google your proposed name and see if it’s already in use in another geographic area, and if it is, if it’s something you are OK with erroneously being connected with. Imagine if you called your landscaping company ‘Heavenly Plots,’ only to discover later that the same business name in another state actually represents a firm of morticians!
  6. Make sure the name is easy for your customers to understand. It should be easily readable, and only pronounceable in one obvious way. OF NOTE: don’t discard a name just because it is unique since that uniqueness could be it’s greatest strength.  This is one tip that you’ll really need to use your best judgement on.  Common sense rules here.
  7. Ask for input from friends, family, business connections and clients. What might seem great to you might not seem that way to them.
  8. Ask yourself whether it will well through all of your online channels, like your blog, social media, and email lists.
  9. Don’t limit yourself. If your coffee shop is called ‘Just Coffee,’ then it’s hard to expand into tea, cookies, and other related products.
  10. Don’t rush. Make a short list – and then let it sit for a day or two (or heck, maybe even longer).  Then go back and revisit everything.  As the saying goes, ‘act in haste, reflect at leisure’.

Tell Your Brand’s Story

Telling your brand’s story is a great way to get your brand out there, as well as build momentum. A brand story will set you apart from the competition, as well as help you develop your unique selling proposition. Your brand story will help you stand out, and differentiate you from the competition.

A good brand story will have your customers passing three other coffee shops just to get to you. It will be the foundation of your brand and the source of your future growth. Your brand story should include the reason why you created your company. If you have a unique new product or service, it should be the story of how you created that product or service.

The good news is that creating a story is actually much easier than people make it out to be. You already have the foundations for a great brand story using your material from steps one through three of this chapter.  All you need to do is take that information and actually apply it.  For this example, we are going to revert back to our coffee shop example and ask a few questions.

  • What does the company do? Makes coffee.
  • What authority does it have? Makes the best cappuccinos.
  • Who is the target audience? College students.

These naturally lead into actually building the brand story.

Using our coffee shop, here is a simple example of how we can tell its brand story:

College students lead busy lives and live off of caffeine, which is why most students want to grab a cappuccino before they head off to their first class of the day. Thankfully, XYZ Coffee Shop makes the best cappuccino’s in CITYNAME, so that college students can start their day off right.

Notice that every important aspect of your company is covered. People now know that your company makes coffee, and that you make the best cappuccinos. You have also clearly targeted college students. A good brand story is as simple as that!

One thing to note here is that your brand story is not an ad, so please do NOT confuse the two.

Once you develop your brand’s story, you’ll want to start marketing it via multiple channels.  Use social media, email, and your blog to get your brand story out there in the most effective way possible. Just be sure that you are staying true to your story and not placing contradicting information all over your various online outlets.

If you are not sure how to write your brand story, one strategy you might want to consider is letting customers write it for you. To do this, simply collect customer feedback and post it on your site.  Sometimes these are the best brand stories of all.

If you’re not comfortable with this strategy, using message architecture may help you develop your brand story. Here’s how the process works:

  1. Write down all the words you can think of related to what you do, what authority you have and who your customers are (the first parts of our branding process). Jot down everything you can think of, no matter what you think about it at this stage.
  2. Put these words onto cards.
  3. Now review these cards, discarding the words that seem irrelevant. This is great to do as a team exercise.
  4. Sort the remaining cards and organize the words from best to worst.
  5. Arrange these words into sentences.
  6. Develop those sentences into your brand story.

Create a Unique Selling Proposition

A unique selling proposition – or USP – is something that only you offer. It essentially implies a promise, or a pledge, you are making to your customers. Your USP differentiates you from the competition and, as the name suggests, makes you unique. It sets you apart, gives you an identity, and provides a platform for advertising and projecting your image. Differentiation is considered to be one of the most important things a company can do to become successful, so please do NOT rush through this exercise. It may only involve 4 short steps, but they are important ones.

  1. Go back to the basics. Define the products and/or services you’re selling. Define your target audience. Define what you do well.
  2. Solve a problem. Identify your target audience’s problem and explain how your product and/or service solves it.
  3. Identify your differentiators. Identify what about your solution is better than your competitors.
  4. Make a promise. This step combines the most important elements of the previous steps into a concise statement that embodies the value your company has to offer.

As you work through these 4 steps, one thing should immediately jump out at you: if you’ve worked through everything in this chapter as instructed, you already have everything you need to complete this step. You just need to package it all up.

Since your USP is, well, unique, there is no one-size-fits-all set of recommendations I can provide that will help you get from point A to point B. At the end of the day, coming up with your USP is a creative process that develops partly through hard work and partly through inspiration. Here are a few tips that I feel will help you along this part of your branding journey, however:

  • Appeal to your ideal customer. Your customer personas represent your ideal customer – the person you really want to sell to. As long as they exist in sufficient numbers (a consideration not to be forgotten!), don’t be afraid or ashamed to appeal to them directly AND boldly.
  • Create a unique personality in your industry. Ask yourself honestly, what the public’s perception of your industry is. Is it ideal? Is your industry highly respected and valued? If not, how can you overcome that perception and be different and better? Whatever answer you come up with may end up being your USP.
  • Avoid the ‘be the best’ rat race. Everyone wants to be the best. If you’re constantly racing to be on top, you’ll never stop running and unfortunately, despite your best efforts, you will probably never get there. So instead of focusing on being the best, focus on being different. Find things that set you apart – then nurture and develop them.
  • Get personal. As a business owner, you are your own best company asset. Don’t be afraid to cultivate your personality – quirks and all – and project that out as the foundation of what makes your company different.
  • Don’t forget to sell. Amongst all this differentiation, don’t forget that at the end of the day, you need to be selling if you want to stay in business. Your USP says, “Buy this brand for these unique benefits.” Stick to the message and don’t get lost in fluffy ‘image’ creation that doesn’t sell. Find a USP that is not offered by your competitors, and one that has mass appeal.

Day 5: Creating Your Brand (part 2)

Develop A Memorable Logo

Your logo is the symbol of your company, which you’ll use everywhere, including your website, social media, literature, and on all of your products. Therefore, it should tell a story about who you are. This will come across in EVERYTHING about your logo, including your choices of font for the writing, colors, and other graphical elements. When creating your logo, it’s imperative that keep all of the research you have done thus far in mind. Remember who your audience is, what your company does, and what your brand story reflects. Your logo needs to be appealing to that audience. Imagine people carrying a shopping bag down the street with your logo on it. Will they be proud about having shopped with you?  Or embarrassed?  Will they keep using it?  Or will they quickly throw it away?

There are many free websites where you can work with graphics and create your own logo. If you have some artistic skill, you should be able to develop something worthwhile.  If that sounds too daunting, or you just don’t have the time, you may want to consider hiring a graphic artist.  If you have the funds, I strong suggest this route since a professional will be much more in tune with trends and preferences.

At the end of the day, make sure that your logo is something your audience will easily understand and relate to. Keep it simple. Many companies think that they need a complex logo, but simple is usually better.

Come Up With A Catchy Tagline

A tagline is that catchy phrase that your customers will associate with your brand. It is very likely that you can quickly name the brands associated with each of these famous tag lines:

Just Do It
Melt in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hand
A Diamond is forever
Finger Lickin’ Good

Think about Gerber for a minute. The company offers a variety of baby products, and its logo incorporates a baby face.  Gerber’s tagline is – Shouldn’t Your Baby Be a Gerber Baby?  The face and the words work together to express what the company is all about, and who needs their products. Everyone can easily identify the company based on its simple logo.

Your logo and tagline should serve the same purpose.

Your tagline should reflect everything your logo does. The two will work hand in hand to represent your company and your brand.

Here are four tips for creating a great logo:

  1. Keep it simple. Use keywords that fit your product, your goals and your audience.
  2. Keep it positive. Your logo should reveal the purpose and benefits of using your product or service. Remember that these can be the benefits of the products or services themselves as well.
  3. Differentiate yourself. In a crowded market, you need to stand out.
  4. Make it Memorable. A good tagline will be memorable and leave a lasting impression.

OF NOTE: your tagline should be just as simple as your logo.

Establish Your Voice

Establishing a unique voice is another important aspect of branding, and goes hand in hand with everything else you’ve already done.

Your voice is your brand, so be consistent, informative, and unique. If you’re target audience is millennials, you’ll probably want to be more conversational and relaxed in nature.  If you’re offering high-end financial consulting services to Fortune 500 IT organizations, your voice and tone is going to be extremely professional and polished.  Remember that your brand should establish your unique place in the broader market, so your voice must always speak to that. Developing your voice can take some time, and your voice will likely evolve over time.

What Next? How To Successfully Market Your Brand

FACT: developing a strong online presence is essential for marketing and growth. Having developed your brand and done all the foundational groundwork, now is the time to establish and secure a strong online presence. Most marketing efforts take place online these days, and branding your company is no exception. There are many benefits to having a strong online presence, including building momentum, prompting more sales, and garnering more followers.  The greater the online presence of your brand, the more business you will generate, the stronger your brand will become, and the more you will grow.

How do you go about establishing and securing a strong online presence?  Check out these tips to get started:

  • Secure a domain name (website address) that incorporates your company’s name.
  • Design your website to be attractive to your target audience (more on this in the next chapter). Do you remember what I said earlier about the impact of color and graphics in branding your company? Those concepts and ideas must be applied to your website as well. And please, be logical!  For example, a hot-pink design will be ineffective if your target audience is middle-aged men.
  • Create appropriate social media accounts for your company (again more on this in a later chapter). Popular social media sites include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram. While you may not need to have to have an account on all of these sites, you should set up accounts on one or two of them at the very least.
  • Regularly update social media.  Once your social media accounts are setup, make sure you keep them updated. Nothing is worse for your image than stale social media profiles. Post something regularly, monitor your metrics, and make sure you successfully use these sites to promote your brand story.
  • Establish a content strategy. Work out the type of content you would like to post on your website and/or blog. Remember that content should not just be “buy my stuff!” Your content should share valuable information. If you sell plants, blogs on selection and care are obviously useful, and most markets connect to all kinds of broader information that goes beyond raw selling. Keeping your customers informed prompts them to purchase what you are offering.
  • Garner followers. Direct some of your marketing and branding efforts towards getting people to like, follow, or subscribe to your various channels. The larger the number of followers you have, the better it is for your business.
  • Make connections. There are two equally important ways to make connections.
    1. The first is to connect with other companies and professionals in your business niche. Networking with other professionals in your field is a great way to raise your profile and develop useful links that are mutually beneficial. Networking also gives you access to information and research you can use to expand your skills and services.
    2. The second is to connect with your customers. You can do this by liking and responding to comments via social media. Nothing develops customer loyalty and respect more than a response, both to positive comments and even more to negative ones. A careful response to even the most negative comment will raise your profile with everyone who reads it. Never be defensive or claim the comment is unfair. Responding to likes and comments shows your customers that you care about them and appreciate what they have to say. Nothing sells your products better than making your customers feel appreciated.

Rebranding…

While branding is for new companies, rebranding is a similar process that existing business’s sometimes undergo. You may want to think about rebranding if:

  • Your business has changed fundamentally. This usually happens when new products and/or services are offered. For example, if you used to sell fixed-line telephones, but now you sell smart-phones, chances are you probably need to rebrand.
  • Your target market has changed. This happens when people who used to buy your products and services don’t buy them anymore, and some other demographic does instead. If you used to sell vintage mid-century furniture, your original target market was probably people over the age of 60, as well as collectors. When this furniture started to become more “fashionable,” your target audience’s age probably dropped considerably.
  • Your business has suddenly grown. Perhaps you merged with another business as part of an aggressive expansion strategy. If this is the case, you may want to consider rebranding so that there’s more synergy in messaging between the 2 companies.
  • Your current brand is no longer effective. If you’re seeing declining sales and your public image isn’t what it used to be, it’s time to think about what you can do to turn things around. As an example, the growth in public fear of chemicals makes it hard for chemical manufacturers to create a positive brand. So replacing the now nasty word chemicals with a neutral word like materials in all literature and advertising rebrands a company, even though the products most likely have not changed at all.

It’s important to note that rebranding is a full-scale process that doesn’t just involve tinkering around with a logo or company slogan. If you already have an existing business and are thinking about rebranding, you need to be committed to changing the image of your business from top to bottom. Your company philosophy will change, as well as your brand story and image. Rebranding means a complete makeover, so it’s not something to take on lightly.

It’s also important to note that rebranding is much different than the less-severe process of brand refreshing, which is much like buying a new pair of jeans that are pretty much like your old pair, but with some new design features, like a higher waist or wider legs. A refreshed brand still retains your style and image, these things are simply updated to better fit with your target audience and current market conditions.

If you’re considering re-branding, start by researching internal and external audiences… aka: your staff, your clients, and your prospects.

  • Internal interviews, either in a group setting or individually, should focus on how your employees perceive the company and where they want it to go in the future. The difference between the two is called the “brand gap.” To be successful in your rebranding efforts, you need to create a bridge between the two.
  • External interviews should focus on how the company, your current brand, is perceived and what your audience thinks of you. Doing this will help you uncover attributes you can use to truly make your company brand stand out.

When conducting your analysis, consider using the following chart to help you navigate through the sometimes murky water:

circle-img

To be successful in your rebranding efforts, it’s IMPERATIVE that you be able to differentiate between required attributes and unique attributes. Required attributes are the things that every company in your niche has. Unique attributes are something only you have.Maybe your company has had a lot of turnover, or people think you do. Rebranding can help you project the image of stability, but it won’t really change the facts (this falls under “issues: in the chart above).

Maybe your company has been in business for 25 years. Sure, this is impressive, but it doesn’t buy you anything from a client’s perspective. And yes, you can certainly use it in your marketing, but it is not a differentiator (something that no one else can claim). Chances are that another company has been around longer. So this would fall under “neutrals” in the chart above.

Requirements are the things that every company in your niche can claim like. So, for example, if you’re a accounting firm, “dedicated client service” and “experienced staff” is expected. Yes, these are positive, but they won’t set you apart because they are essential for every business.

The things that are most important are your differentiators. Identifying two or three compelling differentiators isn’t easy, but your company DOES have them. Every company does. Research your company, analyze your competition, and really dig deep.

Once you find them, weave them together into a positioning statement. Your positioning statement tells people what is unique about your company… what unique value you deliver that no one else does. This needs to be credible, so obviously don’t exaggerate. And don’t just focus on where your company is today, but where you want to be in the future.

This positioning needs to be expressed in your brand’s voice as well.

How does your company “sound” when it communicates to the world? Does it sound thoughtful, practical, or aggressive?

Think of your brand as a message map that helps you communicate your core message to specific audiences like prospects, clients, or referrals. By doing so, you can easily communicate your brand in a way that is tailored to your intended target audience.

Here is how a message map can help you adapt your core brand to specific audiences:

circle-img2

The Benefits of Rebranding

Good rebranding can help you:

  • Stand out from the competition. If your competitors are a lot like you, then customers have no particular reason to bring you their business. By rebranding you can create a new, unique image that sets you apart and helps you develop better customer loyalty.
  • Stay current. Trends change, and a new logo, tagline and brand story can breath new life into an outdated brand.
  • Reflect new goals. If your goals as a company have changed, then your brand needs to reflect that. Rebranding will align your brand image with your goals and products, and help boost your business in the process.
  • Connect with a new audience. If you want to attract a valuable audience that you are presently not effectively reaching, a rebrand can play a pivotal role in turning things around.
  • Improve profitability. Businesses need to be profitable to keep their doors open. A successful rebrand can increase business, and possibly even allow you to increase your profit margins in the process.

Apple – A Successful Rebrand Story

It may be hard to believe today, but back in 1997, Apple was close to bankruptcy. After being an early developer of personal computers, newer manufacturers had eclipsed the company, and there was little variety in their product line – they were all rather boring black boxes.

Apple decided to rebrand by repackaging the working parts of their computers inside sleek cases, with a distinctive modern design. Their slim silver cases became iconic, and they combined them with flashy graphics in their operating systems.

This had instant appeal with young trendy users, so much so that Apple shares went from $6 to $350 in a decade. And now, every new product is assured of immediate sales. Combined with the elevated profile of their charismatic CEO, Steve Jobs, Apple’s rebrand is a perfect example of what can happen when everything goes right.

The Risks of Rebranding

It’s important to note here that there are some very real risks associated with rebranding as well:

  • You may betray your brand equity. Brand equity is the value that your customers place in your brand, outside of its material value. It is mainly how a customer feels about using it or the social status they gain from owning it. Imagine if Rolex watches launched a new brand of dime-store watches that sold for $49. The owners of Rolex watches who had previously paid tens of thousands of dollars for them would feel that Rolex had betrayed their brand equity.
  • You many confuse, rather than clarify. Poor rebranding can blur the lines of your brand, and weaken the niche it belongs in. When this happens, existing customers become confused about why they are using your brand, so your hold is weakened, rather than strengthened. Introducing a new line of products that is not well integrated into your existing brand is a perfect example of this.
  • You may alienate or confuse your audience. If your fundamental brand is good, then rocking the boat may upset many of your long-time customers. So your rebranding ends up being counter-productive. Here is a famous example.

The Risks of Rebranding – New Coke

In 1985, under pressure from its long-time rival Pepsi, Coca-Cola launched an updated version of their iconic drink – called New Coke. The goal was to appeal to a younger audience who preferred sweeter drinks.

Coca-Cola’s customer base was outraged, and demanded their old favorite back. After weeks of bad publicity, Coca-Cola launched ‘Coke Classic,’ which was the old formula in a new can, and slowly abandoned New Coke.

OF NOTE: although often talked of as a ‘branding disaster’, there are those who believe it was really a clever campaign to strengthen customer bonds with the drink.

There are many pro’s and con’s to rebranding, and only you can decide what is going to make the most sense for your business. If you do decide to go forward with your rebranding efforts, you’ll simply follow all of the 9 steps I’ve outlined above. The good news is that you won’t be starting from scratch and will already have a lot of the information needed to work through each step of the process.

8 Tips for Success

When creating and managing your company’s brand, utilize the following quick tips to ensure you garner the most success from branding your company.

  1. Be consistent.
  2. Be unique.
  3. Post to your social media accounts regularly to continue your brand story and keep it in front and center for your customers.
  4. Remember that over posting is just as bad, if not worse, than under posting. No one likes to be spammed, so don’t barrage your followers with empty words and meaningless fillers.
  5. Continually make new connections. Networking is a vital part of all marketing aspects, branding included.
  6. Expand and develop your brand story regularly. To be consistent, all new brand stories need to spin-off from the original idea you put together when you started.
  7. Always keep your target audience front and center so everything you do with your brand, brand story, or company is relevant to them. It does not matter one bit what you want or like. What matters to the success of your business is what your customers want or like.
  8. Keep your research current. Develop new, up-to-date metrics on a consistent and regular basis. This way you always know what needs improving, what to eliminate, and exactly how your target audience is growing or changing. You need to grow and change with it, or they will leave you behind.

5 Things to Avoid

For your brand to be successful, there are a handful of things you must NEVER do:

  1. Inconsistent output – If you are inconsistent about your branding, consumers will become confused and not see your goals. Your brand, brand story, and company must always be consistent. This is vital.  NEVER forget it.
  2. Copying – Never copy another company’s brand story, logo, tag line, or anything else. No one will be purchase your product if the exact same, and original, thing is available somewhere else. Customers and your industry will disrespect you. Even worse, violations of copyright and the illegal use of intellectual property belonging to another company will lead to legal problems. Lawyers and courts have ruined many businesses.
  3. Being overly complex – Nobody understands overly complex material. Complex and long tag lines and ornate logos are instantly forgotten. Complexity goes against everything we have discussed, so keep it simple!
  4. Forgetting – A ‘call to action’ is a message to your customers to encourage them to act at that moment. ‘Call now’, ‘find out more on our website’, ‘visit our store today’ are all typical calls to action used in marketing. You will put these in your blog and social media posts. A call to action tells your customers what you would like them to do. If they do it and there is nothing on your site, or no one on the phone lines knows about it, your company reputation will suffer a serious fall. Not only will your calls to action be ineffective, they will be damaging. So be organized and never make a call for action that goes nowhere.
  5. Becoming stale – Letting your social media profiles, blog, and company website go stale is easy when you are busy working on other things, but it is a big mistake. You must keep them up to date and you should post worthwhile material on a regular basis, while avoiding spamming.

Your Top Daily Priorities Moving Forward

Not all companies or individuals have plenty of time each day to devote towards creating and promoting their brand. If you have only a limited amount of time, what should your top priorities be?

If you have five minutes each day to devote to building your brand, here is a plan for how to spend those five minutes:

    • Monday, Wednesday, Friday
    • Post something original promoting your brand story on one or two of your social media accounts (estimated time: 3-4 minutes)
    • AND
    • Share on at least one of your social media accounts, something relevant that someone else has posted (estimated time: 1-2 minutes)
    • Tuesday, Thursday
    • Develop ideas for blog posts to enhance your brand and/or inform your customers of something special and important (estimated time: 5 minutes)
    • Saturday, Sunday
    • Connect with one new individual or company (estimated time: 1-2 minutes)
    • AND
    • Like and respond to as many comments on your posts as possible (estimated time: 3-4 minutes)

If you only have five minutes each day to devote towards branding your company, these basics are about all you’ll be able to do.  And while I hate to be the bearer of bad news, here goes: if you only have 5 minutes a day to devote to building out your brand, it’s going to take you an awfully long time to develop the type of brand presence I know you want.

Getting Professional Assistance

If you have the budget, I would strongly suggest you hire some professional help who can help you develop your branding.  I can assure you that if you do, the investment will yield a great return. Hiring a professional for various tasks frees up your time so you can focus on what you do best, and better manage your business in general. With professional help, you will get quality work done the first time around, with no learning curves required.

When thinking about hiring help for branding, here are some areas where professional help will pay dividends in the long run…

Branding Consultant

Obviously, when it comes to branding, a specialist in the field can be a tremendous asset to have on your side.  A branding consultant may be an independent specialist, or part of a larger business like a management consulting company or advertising agency. This person will know how to identify the correct target markets for your products or services, as well as evaluate the perceptions people have of your business, analyze your competition and identify business trends. Branding consultants can play key roles in creating effective logos, taglines, brand stories and USP’s.

Design

It’s no secret that design plays a central role in branding.  Your website, logo, and visual advertisements will all benefit from hiring a professional who knows what they are doing. People often fail to recognize the importance of top-notch design, and that failure can spell major disaster for your company. Remember that the first thing people notice when they visit a website is the design. A low quality, crowded design with poor graphics and faults in the layout is off-putting from the very beginning. Your logo is the core of your brand, and just thinking about major brands you know will show you its value. A good logo becomes the heart of your company, and a professional design is a small investment for something so important to a business. If you can’t afford the comprehensive services that a branding consultant offers, working with a graphic designer is the next best thing.

Content Creation

Hiring one or two professional writers to create content for your blog and/or website helps you establish brand presence quickly.  So, if the power of words isn’t your strong suit, you may want to think about using a 3rd party to handle this one for you.

When Will I See Results?

The amount of time it takes for a brand to become profitable varies from company to company, but what I will say is that you should see results from branding your company rather quickly. If you’ve taken the time to work through each step outlined in this chapter, you should see minimal results within one to two weeks. These minimal returns might include more interactions, more likes or follows, and better company visibility to your customers and potential customers.

Marginal results should appear after two to three months. These types of returns will include more interaction, likes and follows, along with improved enthusiasm about your company – and hopefully an increase in sales.

Maximum results from branding your company will take quite a while longer, however, and will appear gradually as time progresses. It may take up to a year to see the full effect of your branding activities. Maximum returns will include much more interaction, more sales, more momentum and more brand recognition.

How to Measure Success

Of course, after all this hard work, it’s natural for you to want to know how your branding campaign is actually performing. After all, knowing how your efforts are working out keeps you better informed about changes that may be needed, as well as what can probably stay the same. Unfortunately, measuring success in branding is difficult because it lies at the very core of your business.  Branding should be so pervasive that at the end of the day, EVERYTHING you do is about building a better brand.

Nevertheless, some metrics will at least give you some guidance regarding how well your efforts are working – even if you cannot calculate specific ROI for your branding activities.

  • Customer Engagement – How many people are actively engaging with your brand? If you keep track of this number, you will see how it rises or falls with different types of advertisements, or at specific times of the year.
  • Views  How many times has someone looked at your blog or website? How many views does each of your social media posts get? If this number is consistent or rising, your brand is performing well. If it is decreasing, there are some problems that you’ll need to address.
  • Sign-Ups  Keep track of how many people subscribe to your emails, your website, and your blog. If that number is rising at a steady rate, your branding campaign is effective.
  • Surveys and Polls – Don’t be afraid to utilize surveys and polls to see how well your customers are connecting with your brand. These are vital research tools that provide you with information that’s coming directly from your customers.

A good mixture of the above metrics will help you effectively measure the success of your branding efforts.

Summary

Over the course of the past week, we’ve covered the following topics. Make sure you understand them all:

  • What is branding? – the development of your public image
  • Why is branding important? – it is the image of your company you want to create
  • Eight steps to branding your company
    • Define your business – your skills, your purpose, what separates you
    • Define your audience – demographics and psychometrics
    • Create a name for your brand – how to get the perfect name
    • Develop your brand’s story – your story is what you are
    • Create a unique selling proposition – offer your customers something only you have
    • Create a logo – how to design the perfect logo for your company
    • Create a tag line – the simple words that capture your audience
    • Establish your voice – your voice comes through in everything you do
    • Establish a strong on-line presence – an on-line presence is essential in today’s markets
  • Rebranding
  • Tips for success
  • Things to avoid
  • Your top priorities
  • Getting professional assistance – why professional help pays for itself
  • When you will see results
  • How to measure success

Conclusion

Branding can help consumers easily identify your company. Easy identification is the key to every company’s success. To begin reaping the benefits of branding, follow the instructions and other useful information you’ve learned this week. The results are well worth the time, money, and effort you invest, since you will begin seeing results quicker than you ever imagined.