Effective marketing begins with your brand, and building your brand is the most worthwhile investment of your time, energy, brain cells and, finally, dollars there is.
What’s a brand? A brand, in short, is what comes to your mind when someone says a word like Coca Cola. Or Mercedes Benz. Or Ben & Jerry’s. Customers give their business, and their loyalty, to brands they like and like to be associated with.
Venture Strategy Group defines branding this way:
Branding is the process of creating a stand-alone identity for a product or a company which fuels and sustains all customer/company relationships. Branding involves a dialogue between company and employee, employee and consumer, consumer and company.
In today’s competitive world, developing strong, differentiating brands should be one of the top priorities of growing businesses – of any size. It’s more and more evident that customers connect with brand personalities, and are willing to pay more and give greater allegiance to brand personalities they like and equate with commitment to quality and a passion for their product.
Ben & Jerry’s is a prime example of effective branding. The Ben & Jerry’s personality is communicated on every product, every bag, and every napkin. Their customers feel as though they are members of their club, and are willing to pay 3-4 times what they used to be willing to pay for ice cream.
Starbucks is another example… loyal customers pay a premium not only because they love Starbucks coffee, but because they feel good about the entire experience and their association with it. Starbucks communicates the brand personality consistently through all they do: their d?cor, their packaging, their logo, their branding of each individual blend and other components.
Each of these companies communicate an appealing personality and passion for both their product and their graphic presentation. This brand personality runs deep, for it is felt by their employees and investors as well. There is a passion that comes through, and customers are willing to pay a little more for products worth being passionate about.
What is your brand personality? Fun & whimsical? Serious & methodical? Trendy & sophisticated? Rugged & edgy? Is your brand clearly and consistently communicated through all you do? The way you answer the phone? The look and feel of your website? The dress and demeanor of your sales staff? Take some time out this week to take a look at your business through your customers and prospects eyes… and see if you are communicating your brand image at full strength, half strength, or less.
Building a brand takes an investment. But it’s a worthwhile investment, and it will keep providing returns for years to come. If Ben & Jerry’s packaging looked like Sealtest’s and if Starbuck’s looked like Folger’s, we’d probably never heard of them. Yet these companies’ investment in and commitment to their brands gave them the unique, compelling edge they needed, and enabled them to create great awareness without spending millions of dollars in advertising.