Especially in the current market, where new businesses are cropping up every day, in every niche and every location, branding is everything. Your company’s brand is the fastest, most symbolic way a customer can relate to your company and differentiate it from any others like it.
In fact, brands are so powerful that they generate loyalty from customers who use and trust the them, bringing repeat business from old customers and attracting new business by being so popular and successful.
But in recent years, the word brand has been reduced in the minds of many entrepreneurs and business owners to be synonymous with a logo. This is a gross misapplication of the word, and also does a huge disservice to both the company that understands the notion of brand in this way as well as the customers who buy their products.
A brand is not a logo. A brand is not an expensive ad campaign. A brand is not a flashy website.
A company’s brand is more closely related to its reputation, and is intimately involved with the perceptions and expectations customers have of a company, its service, its products, and most importantly, the value it adds to their lives.
Consider it this way: without a customer to see it, a logo is meaningless. An ad won’t bring you business if you don’t have any customers.
Even worse, this misconception and misunderstanding of the idea of a brand is a very expensive one. Companies will spend sometimes millions of ill-spent dollars on ad campaigns and marketing that would have been better spent on building a loyal customer base by generating customer leads.
Many companies believe there is a distinction between brand building and lead generation, often preferring the former over the latter and pursuing branding building as an end. The truth is that lead generation is brand building.
When you deliver excellent service, an outstanding product, and memorable value to a customer, they will begin to formulate their own idea of what your company is about (your brand) and will spread the good word to their friends, family, co-workers, etc.
That is the essence of brand building.
A clever logo, humorous ad, or sleek website will impress your customers, but only in a superficial way. What will make a more lasting, more powerful impression on them, however, is a positive, excellent experience with your company.
There are several ways that a customer can walk away with that kind of experience, but the principle that elicits that feeling from them is always the same: your company in some way greatly exceeded their expectations.
Maybe your product far surpassed their expectations; maybe one of your representatives provided the customer with extraordinary service; maybe you delivered the product to them far ahead of scheduled, and packaged it in a unique, charming, and elegant way.
Most likely it was a memorable experience for the customer because you provided value in a surprising and impressive way by:
- Creating new value, either up-front or on the back-end.
- Emphasizing value at one (or more) specific points in the transaction, such as customer service, delivery, design, packing, business philosophy, etc.
- Consistently adding value at multiple points, especially in light of your price.
Instead of spending too much on an ad campaign that will for the most part fall on deaf ears, so to speak, you might consider restructuring your organization and rethinking your marketing strategies such that they reflect the above three key value points.
- Where can we be adding more value?
- What areas are weak?
- What parts of our transaction are the strongest?
- How can we make the most powerful impression on a customer?
- What are the fundamental perceptions and expectations our customers have of us?
Questions like these will help steer you toward a dynamic process that continually amazes new and old customers alike.
The answers to these questions should provide a rough, rudimentary understanding of your brand identity, and should also direct you to lead generation strategies that would be most effective given your goals. Adopt these strategies.
Again, don’t get caught up in trying to find an image or logo that perfectly communicates the philosophy of your company and attracts customers by virtue of its design. You will find that using social media channels and other kinds of lead generation will much more effectively build a customer base that is willing to keep coming back, and excited to grow your business by word of mouth.
The fact that most companies change their logos should be revealing; if a logo could completely encapsulate a company’s image, it would never change. But they do change. And the change is in response to customers’ perceptions and expectations, not the other way around.
Be unique and provide value, and your reputation will speak for itself. Customers will want to talk about your products and will inexpensively grow your business, effectively doing your marketing for you, in a way that is much more convincing than any ad ever could be.