(as seen on Brandingmag)
People tend to have a distant or confusing relationship with the concepts of branding and brand identity. It’s understandable, as not everyone is well-versed on the topic and the descriptions about what it is vary significantly. But the truth is that the process of building a brand – and a proper one, for that matter – is an essential part of establishing and running a business successfully. The main challenge for experts on this matter is not to convince their prospects of this, but of something even more fundamental: that a brand shouldn’t be seen and approached as part of a business. From a certain perspective, it is the business itself.
An outdated idea that tends to become a stumbling block in the process, is that branding and marketing are unethical forms of manipulation. As any tool, they can be used for both good or immoral purposes, and when applied with ill-intention can certainly be harmful. But they can also be the means through which an authentic business can better understand and satisfy their customer’s needs and desires.
Let’s start by making some of the basics notions clear. A brand is a person’s idea of an organization, product, or service. It is an intangible concept made of a visual identity, name, personality, customer experience, online presence, and any other trait that gives a company (or product) its unique identity. It is created through a process known as branding or brand building. Most people outside of the industry mix up these terms or relate to the notion of branding as only one of its components, as we will see below.
A brand is not a logo
A statement that has become popular as more and more specialists realize the extent of this damaging belief. That this happens is understandable, given that the most easily identifiable traits of any brand are its visual aspects: the color palette, the typographies, and – of course – the logo. But those are only the tip of a massive iceberg made of key messages and concepts that sustain those design elements. Once this is deeply understood, it becomes more clear why branding should be approached strategically, and why it has to be done by professionals with the right skill set.
A strong brand is a powerful bridge between an organization and its customers. It is both an image and an emotion that arise when they think about the company, the product, or the need that they satisfy. No matter how small a role a business plays in a consumer’s life, if it is well branded, there are far more chances for it to linger in their memory and create positive feelings that will come up opportunely (at purchase time!)
The power of loyalty
It can cost five times more to convert a new customer than to retain an existing one. This means that many companies could boost their profits significantly by maintaining a small percentage of their clientele. Customer loyalty is an overlooked pot of gold, and it is one of the main consequences of efficient branding. When a person connects emotionally with a company, they stop seeing it as a simple service provider and start perceiving it as a valuable experience or asset in their lives. Through the right message, design, and vibe, a company will start earning its customer’s trust. And if the organization is able to follow through and deliver a satisfying, high-quality product and/or service experience, it´ll have ticked all the boxes needed to win their loyalty.
Companies that rely on providing low prices tend to attract customers who prioritize paying less above quality. Usually, this type of person makes decisions based on costs and, as a consequence, are unfaithful clients. In relation to loyal-customer retention, pursuing this segment tends to be a waste of energy and resources for those who build their offering around quality and expertise.
Good branding is, in itself, an endless source of free advertising. As a consequence of its natural appeal, a powerful identity becomes a source of self-promotion for the company or product it represents. The words used, the packaging, the sales journey, the design style, the way the service is delivered – it should all be strategically planned and curated to match their client’s preferences and needs. If this experience hits the right note, they will feel satisfied and compelled to perform one of the most powerful actions a customer can take: organic sharing. Whether through social media platforms or word of mouth, they’ll express their contentment and encourage others to have the same experience. The real marketers, those who will truly position a business, are always the consumers.
Uniqueness and pride
To a certain extent, people take quality for granted. They always expect to feel satisfied with the value of the item they purchase, or they wouldn’t buy it. So they tend to expect something beyond good quality. In most cases, that is uniqueness. “What can this company/product give me that no other can?” Unless there’s a clear differentiator at the core of the business model, a strategic branding process is how to find this distinctive aspect behind a business and its offering.
Identifying that factor has an effect beyond attracting the right type of customer: creating a stronger connection between an owner and his business. The sense of confidence and pride that comes out of offering something unique and appealing, is hard to beat. It is a feeling that inspires productivity, which tends to have a direct impact on sales and revenue generation.
Brand building is business building
For all the reasons stated above, this process we’ve been talking about is the most efficient path to gain VIP customers: brand-lovers. The dream clients of any company, and the secret behind a truly successful and wholesome business.
The simplest answer to the question “What can brand identity give me that I didn’t have before?” is “a tool for sustained growth”. Most organizations within most industries won’t go far before the need for an attractive brand arises, and those who figure this out too late tend to pay the consequences. The emotional connection that a business can create with its prospects through this asset can’t be acquired any other way, at least not as easily.
If more people understood this, they would think of branding as a necessary investment, just as important as their website. More than an added value, a powerful brand identity is a requirement for evolution.