When considering the question of ‘’what’s in a brand?” it helps to think of well-known international brands to get an idea. For example, Coca Cola not only adds life and fun to everything, but it seems to know your name too. Apple is believed to be different in every way and Investec is a reliable means to keep your money safe and help it grow.
The impressions that we have of these giant corporations didn’t come about by accident. They have been carefully built up over decades to cater to their specific audiences. These big names know that customers buy from brands that they can depend upon for reliable products and service.
The same principle applies to your business and your brand identity from the word go.
What is Brand Identity?
One of the ways we identify these icons of the marketing world is by their colours, logos, fonts and imagery. Does a logo represent a brand’s identity? Yes and no – there’s more to it than that.
It’s difficult to define the word ‘’brand’’ because it’s made up of both tangible and intangible elements. While a brand of soft drink or soap powder may be recognised by its logo and packaging, that logo and packaging also conjure up certain beliefs about the product.
Esteemed marketer, David Ogilvy, defined a brand as “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes.” Other experts believe brand to be the impression that people have of a business and its products.
Every business, no matter how small, has a brand whether you like it or not, and it extends way beyond the logo you stick on your products or the side of your building. A logo is merely a continuation of your brand and should only be crafted after careful consideration of what you want your brand to mean to your customers.
Indeed, work on your brand should start long before a designer puts pen to paper, before you sign the lease on your building, and long before the first item leaves the production line.
How Does it Make a Difference to Your Business?
Your brand determines everything about your business, from the way you advertise to the way your receptionist answers the phone. The way that customers perceive your brand means the difference between success and failure and you don’t get a second chance easily.
So how do you go about creating a brand that your customers identify with and love?
Building Your Brand Identity
When you’re starting a new business, you are in a very fortunate position because you don’t have any public preconceptions to deal with. You can get your branding right from the outset.
For example, nowadays it’s common knowledge that non-environmentally friendly methods are a no-no, a trend which has left non-compliant companies scrambling for solutions – or excuses.
When you’re starting from scratch you can move with the times when it comes to popular ethics and beliefs. In line with this, you don’t want to blindly follow everybody else’s ideas – your business needs it own unique brand identity and it all starts with you.
What do You Want to Achieve?
Step one in any marketing endeavour is to know your customer and align your aims with theirs.
To do this, you need to ask yourself some questions.
1. What is Your Vision?
Your vision is a clear mental image of where you want your company to be within a specified amount of time. Get these ideas out of your head and onto a piece of paper.
When they’re written down, it’s easier to see where you are being too ambitious and where you can improve.
Your vision should include aspects like:
- Quality standards
When you’ve committed your thoughts to paper it’s easier to stay on track too.
2. What is your Mission?
A mission statement is a short description of your business goals and philosophies. Take your time thinking about these.
An example of a mission statement could be “to provide customers in the Windhoek area with homegrown fruit and vegetables delivered at competitive prices”.
Something simple will do for starters, you’ll need to revise your mission statement as your business grows and time changes. For example, you could need to change your mission statement to ‘’organic fruit and vegetables” as trends change or amend it to “fruit, vegetables and pickles’’ if your product range increases.
Now we’re getting to the complicated stuff.
3. What are your Core Values and Beliefs?
This is where things get interesting. It goes without saying that your number one aim with a business is making a profit unless you are operating a charity.
Your businesses core values and beliefs are things which you aim to uphold no matter what. These could include aspects like:
- Integrity in all your dealings
- Safety of your workforce
- Environmental responsibility
- Commitment to customers and investors
- Valuing and rewarding employees
Never forget, what your employees have to say about your company when they leave work
can have an enormous impact on your brand.
Once you’ve accumulated all this information about who you are and what you hope to stand for, you’ll have a good idea of how to present this to your customers, but first you need to do some sleuthing.
4. Check out the Competition
Take a look at some other successful brands in your area. What impression do you get of their brands? Some may be super-professional, others may be fun and friendly.
You can get valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t by analysing your competitor’s tactics.
Pick a personality for your brand and stick with it. Nobody likes a schizophrenic brand.
You can easily see how this aspect, in particular, will affect your brand’s logo and packaging.
Bright, loud colours and rounded shapes suggest fun and games, while austere greys and blacks imply seriousness. It’s important to consider the longevity of your logo too, changing your logo seldom has positive consequences.
Keeping Your Brand Relevant
That said, your brand needs to move with the times. No only do fashions and trends come and go, but your business may take an unexpected turn in a different direction. This usually means a change in your market which affects your brand persona and logo. No only that but you need to adjust your core beliefs and vision too.
For example, if a local market wants to secure your entire stock of fresh produce for the foreseeable future you suddenly become a B2B business and not a B2C one. You will need to adjust your entire brand to focus on attracting more businesses into your client base, instead of individual clients.
Don’t remain stuck in a behind-the-times brand.
Getting Your Brand Out There
Once you’ve got all your ducks in a row, you need to get the word out there about your brand. This goes far beyond advertising in the local newspaper. Today’s digital world is the perfect place to showcase your wonderful ethics and brand.
Write blog posts with helpful information for your clients, this establishes you as an expert in their eyes.
Get involved in community outreach to help those around you. This creates a sense of camaraderie among your employees and shows your customers that you are not just after a quick buck.
Publish press releases about your latest products, attend expos and trade shows and sponsor events in areas where you want to attract clients.
There’s a lot of work to be done when starting a business, and judicious marketing is one of your most important tasks.