Another marketing concept that is often misunderstood is the meaning of brands. Every company and organisation is a brand. Yes, that is true. Whether it is the fishmonger at the market, the independent investment advisor, the global retail chain or the exclusive boutique in the High street.
So what is a brand? Is it a logo ,a name a slogan ,a graphic design or colour scheme, a picture on a billboard?
Your brand is the entire experience your customers have with your company. It’s what you stand for, the promise you make, and the personality you convey to your customers, your market and your community , as a business.
And while it includes your logo, company colours and pay-off line, those are only creative elements that convey your brand. Instead, your brand lives in every day-to-day interaction you have with your markets and your customers.
Your brand lives in:
- The images you convey
- The messages you deliver on your website, proposals and sales materials etc
- The way your employees interact with customers
- A customer’s opinion of you versus your competition
Branding is crucial for products and services sold in any consumer markets. It’s also important in Business to Business marketing because it helps you stand out from your competition.
- It brings your competitive position and value proposition to life;
- It positions you as a certain “something unique ” in the mind of your customers.
- Your brand consistently and repeatedly tells your prospects and customers why they should buy from you.
Think about successful consumer brands like Disney, Toyota, Gucci, MTN, Samsung, Homebase, Google. You probably know what each brand represents. Now imagine that you’re competing against one of these companies. If you want to capture significant market share, start with a strong and unique brand identity or you may not get far. When you put two companies up against each other, the one that represents something valuable will have an easier time reaching, engaging, closing and retaining customers.
A strong brand strategy is a big advantage.
So what do your customers think about your brand?
Best Case Position
- Customers know exactly what you deliver and they feel great about your products.
- It’s easy to engage new customers because they quickly understand what you stand for.
- You close deals more quickly because your clients’ experiences with you supports everything you say.
- You can charge a premium price for your services because your market knows why you’re better than your competitors and they are willing to pay for it.
Why do you think customers are willing to pay such a high price for an iPhone…. isn’t it just another smart phone?
Middle of the Ground Position
- The market does not have a consistent view or impression of your products and company, but in general you think it’s positive.
- You haven’t thought a lot about branding because it doesn’t seem relevant, but you admit that you can do a better job of communicating consistently with the market.
- You don’t have any brand strategy, but on the whole you are getting by with ad hoc advertising.
- Your own impression is that you’re not helping yourself but you’re not hurting yourself either.
Why are women spending thousands of dollars on one Luis Vuitton bag…. isn’t it just another handbag
Worst case position
- You don’t have a brand strategy and it shows.
- It’s more difficult to communicate with potential clients and convince them to buy from you.
- Customer don’t have an impression of your products/services or why they are better that the competition.
- What you do in your company to serve customers, what you say to them and how you say it frequently contradict each other and this confuses your customers.
- Competitors who communicate more effectively have a better shot making sales than you.
Why are customers willing to pay so much to stay in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong…. after all it is just another hotel?
Successful branding also creates “brand equity”
Brand equity is also reflects in the prices that consumers are willing to pay for the brand, the company’s market share and how profitable the brand is compared to its competitors. Customer brand equity is reflected in the consumer’s brand loyalty and your customers’ repurchase behaviour. It is no longer sufficient to customers for brands to meet their functional expectations, therefore brands should also meet the emotional and psychological expectations of consumers in order to differentiate themselves from other brands. Feelings influence consumer actions and therefore what customers feel when they experience your brand creates or breaks their commitment to your brand.
Here is a quick lesson on developing your brand strategy
Develop your brand strategy around emotional benefits
- List the features and benefits of your products or services. A feature is an attribute – a colour, a configuration; a benefit is what that feature does for the customer.
- Determine which benefits are most important to each of your customer segments.
- Identify which benefits are emotional – the most powerful brand strategies tap into emotions, even among business buyers.
- Look at the emotional benefits and boil them down to one thing that your customers should think of when they think of you. That’s what your brand should represent.
Define your brand
- Think of your brand as a person with a distinct personality. Describe him or her, then convey these traits in everything you do and create.
- Write positioning statements and a story about your brand; use them throughout your company materials.
- Choose colours, fonts and other visual elements that match your personality.
- Determine how your employees will interact with prospects and customers to convey the personality and make sure your brand “lives” within your company.
For African regional branding and marketing consulting, contact Chipo on firstname.lastname@example.org