Developing a brand. Brand as a marketing tool.
Let’s talk about something often misunderstood in developing a brand— the true nature of a brand. Many people mistakenly believe a brand is merely a list of equities, like logos, colors, slogans, and product attributes.
But, it’s much more than that – a powerful, persuasive marketing tool that can make or break a business.
What is a brand?
First things first, what exactly is a brand? Well, a brand is all about the customers that embrace it. It’s not simply the essence of a company, product, or service.
When developing a brand, remember it’s the emotional connection consumers have with the business, and it goes far beyond a simple list of visual elements. Think about your favorite brands – they evoke feelings, memories, and associations.
When you see their logo or hear their slogan, you instantly know what they stand for and what to expect from them.
Tell a great story
Let’s talk about brand identity examples. Branding is all about storytelling. A successful brand weaves a narrative that resonates with its target audience, creating a sense of identity, trust, and loyalty. Take Nike, for instance (But let’s not forget Apple).
Their iconic swoosh logo and “Just Do It” slogan isn’t just random visuals and words; they represent a lifestyle of sportsmanship, determination, and empowerment. As a result, people feel inspired to be associated with the brand and its products.
When developing a brand, most get caught in the trap of equities
Now, let’s address the misconception that branding is merely a list of equities. Elements like logos and colors are essential when developing a brand, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg.
Think of them as the visual cues that trigger consumers’ emotional connections with the brand. They serve as memory triggers that reinforce the brand’s story in the minds of consumers.
However, a brand’s strength lies in effectively communicating its unique value proposition. A well-crafted brand message influences consumers’ perceptions and preferences, making them more likely to choose one brand over another, even if the products are similar.
It’s like a magic wand that compels people to believe in and buy from the brand. That’s why effective branding requires understanding the emotional fiber of the customer.
You're never too small or too large to look at developing a brand
Branding is not just for big corporations either – it’s equally crucial for startups and small businesses. In fact, for these enterprises, building a strong brand might be the key to survival and success. A memorable brand helps them stand out in a crowded marketplace, creating a lasting impression that keeps customers returning for more.
When developing a brand, consider the local coffee shop you love visiting. It might not have the budget of a global coffee chain, but its brand is built around a warm, friendly atmosphere, high-quality coffee, and personalized service.
Those are the things that differentiate it from the competition, making it a preferred choice for customers who value that unique experience.
The biggest mistake when developing a brand
One common mistake many businesses make is assuming that branding is about self-expression. While a brand needs to reflect its values and identity, the ultimate goal is to connect with the target audience.
Understanding the customers’ needs, desires, and pain points is critical in crafting a brand that resonates with them.
When developing a brand, authenticity is another critical aspect of successful branding. In today’s hyper-connected world, consumers are highly perceptive and can quickly sniff out inauthenticity.
Brands that try to be something they’re not just to chase the latest trend are often met with skepticism and distrust. On the other hand, genuine brands that stay true to their values and consistently deliver on their promises build strong relationships with their customers.
Developing a brand. Brand as a marketing tool
Effectively developing a brand is nearly impossible to execute in-house because it is difficult to be dispassionate and objective when evaluating the state of your business. As a result, companies often make the mistake of confusing the business of their business with the business of their brand.
Strategically speaking, the business of your business is what you make and sell. Businesses often describe their brand by what they do, obscuring the marketing position and strategy.
This is the reasoning behind many marketing positions and brand identities that merely reflect category benefits. That does not create brand differentiation.
That approach defines the offerings and presents a banal claim that is neither important nor believable in the eyes of the target audience.
Your responsibility when developing a brand
There are a few essential responsibilities in defining the business of your business. And these are vastly different from the brand strategies that arise from your brand’s business. So, your product must perform according to the standards set by the market.
For example, if you are selling laundry detergent, your product needs to clean clothing, have a pleasant fragrance, and be competitively priced. It needs to be consistent in quality and value, and it needs to perform a function.
You are also selling your brand identity and must preserve that identity with great care by consistently delivering the value your corporate identity promises.
Here, many companies (including our competitors) get confused. Developing a brand is a strategic process.
Your logo, mark, theme line, and look and feel are part of your corporate identity. Not your brand.
Marks and equities are all about the recognition of you and your company. As a result, they are how the customer remembers you. These values are all about processes, operations, and ingenuity.
What your customers buy
You see the beginnings of developing a brand strategy when you can take a dispassionate look at your customers. When you see them, not as you imagine them, but rather as they are.
Your customers buy a category and then choose a brand within that category. Referencing our laundry detergent example, the customer needs it to wash clothes. The customer then chooses a specific brand as a preferred purchase.
Purchasing decisions are all about positioning, meaning, and integrity. Prospects choose a brand within a category based on an emotional litmus test. Efficacy and product values are, for the most part, equal across the market space.
All laundry detergent brands available on the market will clean your clothes. So, claims of superiority are mere distractions for consumers.
Nonetheless, most packaged goods companies continue to try to differentiate their brands with efficacy claims. They think they are developing a brand, but in fact, they are just brand managers.
What dictates consumer preference?
How, then, does the consumer determine preference? What price are they willing to pay for that brand? Considering that almost all products sell commodity benefits, what could possibly be left? What is left is an authentic brand.
The strategy begins with a clear understanding of your target audience. Never stopping at a simple usage and attitude study. The study of the customer has more in common with anthropology than marketing.
Marketing strategy focuses on tactics and values, while brand anthropology focuses more on the target audience. It focuses on their beliefs about themselves and the world.
Choices are made (with all else being equal) because of personal identification with the attributes assigned to the brand by the target audiences.
Reflecting the customer
The brand that best reflects the customer’s self-description and personal identity will win the day.
Developing actionable strategies requires digging into the perceptual context of the target audience. Stealing Share’s consultants use rebranding tools like behavior modeling to understand the precepts. The beliefs drive the target audience to act and ensure that those values are always communicated in the strategy.
Your customer must recognize the brand and find within its promise not simple efficacy but affirmation.
This is not advertising. it's BRANDING
Those who continue to believe those purchase decisions are cognitive choices live in the 1950s—a world of unique selling propositions (USP). When the market was immature and less crowded, such business promises could incite trial. Today, USPs represent a flash in the pan.
A USP has no lasting value.
Your brand does not belong to you, a truth many brands miss. It belongs to your customer and is more of a reflection of them than you and your business.
If your strategy for developing a brand includes descriptions of your product or service, history, or category benefits, chances are you have a failing brand, and we should talk.