So much about branding seems logical and sensible that it’s difficult to imagine a time when the concept wasn’t so obvious. With the advent of marketing science, and its expansion into advertising, packaging, and corporate identity, we are all now far more conscious of image and impression when it comes to products on our supermarket shelves and high street stores. But as a small business owner, or as a sole trader or someone about to start up a small business, how do issues of branding affect you?
Is this something you need to consider or is it just for the “big guys” Most people understand that if you are going to have a business, or if you are going to trade at any level, the base minimum you need in relation to image is a logo and some business stationery unfortunately, for many, this is as far as they go and complications evolve over time through having a business which is not represented in clear terms by the information it distributes about itself. Branding isn’t just about logos and stationery, its about the letters and emails you write and the adverts you commission, its about the way you interact with your customers and workforce. Its about showing people who you are and what you do as much as it is about telling them.
If you ever get into a discussion with a brand manager or brand marketer you will soon hear them use the word “personality”. It is a core concept in brand marketing and provides a useful device for understanding brands and how they gain a foothold in the public imagination. Especially in the consumer, retail and service industries, every high profile company will have a “brand image”.
This is more than just its logo or corporate stationery, this is a considered core strategy for dealing with everything from their internal office affairs to the public relations and products. And its based upon the concept of “personality”.
Simply put, the idea is similar to one that actors and fiction writers would be familiar with: You have a character name, and you describe his or her values, characteristics, qualities, philosophy, interests, politics everything, in fact. You create a complete character profile of this fictional entity so that when you write about him or her in your story, you know him as if he were a real person.
This is often referred to as the character’s “back-story”. Because of this work you know how your character will act in a particular circumstance and what he will say and do. In fact, when two such “characters” meet in your work of fiction, they almost write the dialogue between them.
Because of the research, fictional characters become quite lifelike, and the best made characters enter the consciousness of the readership so deeply that they cry when something bad happens, to them, and they talk about them among their friends as if they were real people.
So, let’s get back to the issue of branding. A brand begins like a fictional character’s back-story. A brand begins as that list of qualities which the company or product stands for. This list of core qualities or characteristics is often referred to as the DNA of the brand since it acts like an implicit blueprint or genetic profile and determines the unique characteristics of the explicit brand.
The bigger the company or product, and the wider its range of products or services, then the more detail has to go into this “branding exercise”. Once those core attributes are established, and that DNA has been identified, then the entire workings of the company or service will be fine tuned to reflect those core qualities and attributes.
The more these qualities and attributes become associated, in the minds of the consumer or service user, the more the company is said to be “branded”. It is an exercise of association, not unlike that of Pavlov’s dog. Pavlov was a Russian psychologist famous for observing that if he rang a bell each time he fed his dog, it would begin to salivate on hearing the bell even if food wasn’t forthcoming.
In a world where advertising is everywhere, branding is a way of positioning your company or product in the minds of your customers, and potential customers. Having a strong brand means you don’t have to fight for people’s attention on every billboard and television advertisement because your audience is pre-informed: they carry an awareness of your company and it’s values in their memories and you just have to reinforce that perception each time.
This is a far more intimate relationship than mere advertising since it has to be built over time but once established, it is a connection that perpetuates. Whatever your business or whatever the size of your business, considering your brand and how that is perceived by your customers is an essential ingredient of building your business and credibility.