Jan12

Branding 101

Branding 101

Any conversation about marketing should begin with branding, for that is the central hub for all sales and promotional activities. Everything you do that makes an impact on how people feel about your company will affect the value of your brand. Simultaneously, knowing what you want your brand image to be—and then working toward that goal—gives focus to how you should conduct business.

Your brand will always be linked to your pre-eminent value proposition—that is the ‘thing’ about your company that is most valued by your customers. Typically, a company’s value proposition can be found in one of five general categories.

  • Appeal to Price –  For all those people looking for a bargain. Example: Walmart
  • Appeal to Convenience – For customers who love that you’re so easy to do business with. Example: Amazon.com
  • Appeal to Service – For customers who like you to go the extra mile for them—full service everything! Example: Ritz Carlton Hotels
  • Appeal to Quality – For people who say “penny-wise, pound-foolish!” Example: Mercedes Benz
  • Appeal to Identity – For people who want to feel special or part of a select group. Example: Rolex.

As you decide what your value proposition is, beware wishful thinking. For instance, you may think that your success is rooted in the high quality of your work, when it’s because you’re your customers’ only option within a three-hour drive. In such a situation, you could suddenly try to make quality the theme for your brand, but only if your work is truly outstanding. (In the real world, there’s nothing wrong with ‘adequate.’) Otherwise, it would be much easier (and ring truer) if you enhance and expand the convenience message to support your brand. That way, when you eventually do get some competition, your customers will have your value proposition locked in, making you their go-to provider.

Your brand is your promise, and the key consideration for effective branding is that it be based on something good and true about your company. After all, the only consistent path to happy customers and repeat business is making a promise and then delivering on it.

The Importance of Consistent Brand Messaging

If you’re living up to the promise of your company’s value proposition, then your existing customers already have a feel for what your brand represents. But what about all those non-customers who would also find your value prop very appealing? Consistent brand messaging is the best way to get the word out that you’re the kind of company they’d appreciate.

While all of us are bombarded by thousands of marketing communications every day, there’s no guarantee that a company’s message will be heard by any single member of a targeted audience. Big companies with huge advertising budgets can win the numbers game, but small-to-midsized businesses must make the most of every connection. If your central brand message isn’t carried in each marketing communications effort, there’s a good chance a good prospective customer will miss it.

Let’s say, for example, you operate a pre-owned car lot. Your value proposition is that you’re very adept at assisting customers with less than stellar credit buy a nice vehicle. Now imagine, that you have quite a few new arrivals on your lot that are the same popular model—too many in fact. Time for a promotion!

But if you create an ad that focuses solely on the great deal you’re offering on this model, people who aren’t familiar with your value proposition may simply see your business as “that company that sells ABC cars.”

Don’t worry, the fix wouldn’t be hard. You simply craft your advertising message to say something like, “Now it’s never been easier to own the popular ABC car! We’ll help you with the financing!” Let the specific message you want to convey (buy this model car), work in conjunction with your overall brand message. This way, members of your target audience will know that you offer easy financing, regardless of the sale your running or how often they hear your message. And if that’s important to certain prospects, they’ll think of you when they ready to buy.

The brand message isn’t just for advertising campaigns, either. Work it into everything as basic as external emails or voicemail messages. And make sure it’s in your company’s slogan or tagline so that your value proposition virtually omnipresent in all your marketing communications. You never know which message may be the one that finally creates an indelible impression on a prospective customer.