Branding is a critical component of any business. It doesn’t just make things look nice--steady growth and customer retention are nearly impossible without it. Cohesive branding that truly reflects your company’s identity will take your business to the next level and solve many issues that you probably deal with every day. Let’s learn some more about what branding is, and why it matters for your company.
What is Branding?
Branding can be a fairly confusing term, and there is a lot of misinformation surrounding it. Branding is the visual identity of your company. It determines the impression your customers have of you, which means it determines the feelings and emotional ties that a consumer forms with your company. This may sound silly, but research shows that emotional responses to brands and advertisements are a huge factor in determining consumer behavior (more about emotions and branding below).
So how do you make the most of your brand? All elements of your visual branding should be consistent, and carried across all of your marketing touch-points. Elements of a brand include but are not limited to: your company name, tagline, logo, color palette, typography and fonts, photos and graphics, website, social media, packaging, and print collateral.
Why Branding is Important?
Now you know what branding is, and how it influences consumer behavior. Let’s break down a few other ways branding can affect your business.
Branding Gives You Direction
In any phase of business, but especially at the beginning, you’ll be faced with tough decisions. You want to make the best decisions for your company, so how do you ensure all of your choices are fully aligned with your mission and goals? You may think that branding is just about making you look good, but a clear and focused branding strategy can also tell you what your company needs to thrive, and lay the foundation for who you are as a business. This is because a carefully curated brand strategy helps you stay focused on your mission and values. Once you have clearly defined your brand, it becomes easy develop marketing strategies that will save you time and money in the long run.
Think about a choice a close friend made. Maybe you said to yourself, “Of course they did that. It’s totally in character.” Chances are, your friends have defined personalities that play into their every decision and action. The same should be true of companies and their brands. In other words, your brand is your company’s personality.
So when you’re developing a branding strategy, think of your company as a person and create a rich personality for them. This can be achieved by defining the values and mission of your company. Once you truly know the personality of your brand, it will be easy to make decisions that are totally “on brand” and “in character.” Knowing the traits of your brand will easily guide you through the day-to-day decisions of running your business, and ensure that your company stays true to itself.
Ready to find out your brand’s personality? Check out the exercise in our previous blog post to help you define your values and mission.
Stand Out from Your Competition
Chances are, you have more than a few competitors. In order to be successful, you need to be able to stand apart from the crowd. Even if your company or product is the superior choice, your customers have to be attracted to your company first. Without a stunning visual identity, you may be passed over in favor of the competition.
Think about the last time you went to buy a bottle of wine. There were 5 bottles that fit your criteria (Cabernet, under $15). How did you choose? Chances are you didn’t take the time to google each individual wine and learn about the pros and cons of each. Instead, you picked the one with the coolest bottle. This is brand differentiation in action. One of those other bottles of wine could have been the best bottle on earth, but you chose the one that looked good, and you’re not alone.
Potential customers are going to make snap judgements, so make sure that your branding is both attractive and clearly conveys who you are and what you do. Clear and beautiful branding will attract your target customers and keep them coming back.
Branding Builds Recognition
Consumers today are inundated with advertising, and you don’t want to get lost in the hubbub. Consistent and beautiful branding can help you get and stay noticed, building memorable encounters that create repeat customers and referrals.
Let’s go back to our wine bottle scenario. Let’s say you bought the wine with the pretty bottle and loved it! Your friend asks you for a wine recommendation and oops, you can’t remember the name of that wine you adored… but you do remember the amazing bottle with a rainbow lion’s head and sparkly font. So you tell your friend, and she is instantly able to pick out that bottle in the store.
That is the kind of recognition that strategic branding should strive for. Your branding should be so dialed in, unique, and consistent that your customers will recognize your company, even without the logo or name present.
Branding Creates an Emotional Connection
We all have our favorite brands that we are incredibly loyal to. This loyalty didn’t develop overnight, but over countless instances of subconscious emotional reactions. Every time we had a positive interaction with that particular brand it was logged in our brains, and resulted in a preference.
Crafting your brand visuals are important, and having a brand that looks good matters. However, you also want to create a brand that makes your target customers feel good. The best branding creates a bond between your company and your customer by triggering their emotions.
When you tie your branding to emotions, you get a three-tiered effect: Engagement, Retention, and Referral. Firstly, emotions trigger your customers to do something. They will be much more likely to engage with your company and respond to your call to action. From that point, you have already established an emotional connection with your customer and they will be motivated to continue to work with you, and only you, creating a lasting and loyal relationship. Thirdly, people who have experienced a positive emotion will be motivated to share their experience with others, creating a second layer of word of mouth marketing. Neat, right?
Branding Provides Value
Your brand is the face of your business. It’s how your customers perceive you. Your brand is constantly “interviewing” for your potential customers’ loyalty, so it needs to consistently put its strongest foot forward.
Like it or not, people make snap judgements--and you want those judgements to be positive ones. Most people judge books by their covers, and believe that if something looks amazing on the outside, it must be amazing on the inside. Use this to your advantage and make sure the first interaction your customers have with your brand is one that reinforces professionalism, credibility, and trust.
Having sloppy branding can also work against you in another way. When customers visit your website, or see print collateral, they will make judgements about your company based on how your brand looks. If your website or marketing material is sloppy and disorganized, they are more likely to feel like your company is also sloppy and disorganized. Looks matter! A consistent and attractive brand will give your customers the impression that your business is professional, high value, and trustworthy.
Don’t underestimate the power of branding to help your business grow. It’s an essential investment in your company. Branding gives your customers a great first impression of your company, differentiates it from your competition, and creates trust and customer loyalty.