Branding is likely the oldest form of marketing in the world. The practice of using a mark to indicate ownership or craftsmanship has been in use for thousands of years, with the word itself coming from the Old Norse verb “to burn” and likely originating from the practice of branding livestock. But what began as a signifier of cattle ownership and craftsmanship has evolved into something much different in the modern era, and it’s fair to wonder, how, exactly, a brand can help your business.
If you ask people to define a brand today, the first thing that many of them point to would be aesthetics: colors, fonts, a logo design. These are the kind of details that companies spend many thousands of hours and dollars pouring over in the hope that their choices will drive increased sales in some indirect fashion. And because of branding’s indirect link to results, the practice is often dismissed by smaller businesses who have a more immediate focus on marketing activities that drive measurable results. But a brand is much, much more than its aesthetics. And today, we’ll examine three ways in which branding can help your small business.
1. Branding distinguishes you from your competitors.
Brand aesthetics catch the eye. Brand experience drives loyalty.
Good branding is much more than just a memorable logo, it’s how you do business and differentiate yourself from competitors. Branding encompasses the characteristics and values of your organization, helping you to distinguish your offering in the marketplace with a brand identity. If your brand identity reflects your target audience’s values and needs, it will make consumers will feel connected to the brand. In fact, 64% of people say that shared values are the primary reason they have a relationship with a brand. However, if your brand identity isn’t clearly defined and expressed, don’t expect to have strong, long-lasting relationships with your customers or clients.
Because your brand educates your target audience how you’re different (and why it matters), communicating your brand identity is one of the best ways to grow your business. As the below example from Mad Men shows, you’re most likely not offering a unique product so you need to set yourself apart from competitors.
Now, in reality the example above flies in the face of modern branding practice, because it’s a rather cynical take that doesn’t differentiate the business in any real way. But by focusing on what you do differently than a crowded market, you’ll be regularly stressing how much better you are to consumers looking for an improved experience. And when customers identify with your brand message and have a good experience, they will start to promote your products and services. That’s the kind of word-of-mouth marketing that can be crucial for small businesses looking to grow.
2. Branding tells you how to price your products and services
The second, often-overlooked reason why small business branding matters is that your brand identity helps determine price. Apple, for example, is a brand that has made its brand synonymous with innovative products of the highest quality. Apple also delivers a product and service consistency that creates trustworthy relationships with customers. Both of these factors allow the brand to set high prices in order to communicate to consumers that they are receiving the best product available.
But of course, the question is what do you do if you’re not Apple? Let’s say you’re running a quick service salad bar concept restaurant that promises to make healthy eating affordable. Your pricing should follow suit, and be set as low as you profitably can.
Set your brand pricing on a scale that ranges from affordability and accessibility (on the low end) to quality and luxury (on the high end).
3. Branding helps you make internal decisions
The third and final reason why branding matters for small businesses is that the brand identity you create will help your company make internal decisions. Your brand conveys both an identity and a purpose, and by doing so it tells your managers and staff how to act in various situations. For example, if your brand focuses on customer service and you have an employee providing a poor customer experience, you’ll know instantly that that employee is not aligned with your brand and will be able to take corrective steps. If you’re facing a strategic decision about where to invest in resources, a quick check of your brand identity will tell you what areas cannot be touched because they could compromise your ability to deliver on your brand promise.
In many ways, it’s actually easier for small businesses to have good branding because they aren’t trying to convey a message and mode of operation across thousands of employees. So go ahead, get out there and try a brand on for size. And if you’re curious about exactly how to build a brand identity, why not contact Young Marketing Consulting?