If you’re a business owner in the 21st century, you should know that branding and strategy are arguably the most important aspects of your business, regardless of your company's size. Branding & strategy create awareness, build your sales pipeline, ensure your business development efforts are on point, and keep you relevant in the marketplace.
So what is branding? By definition, it’s the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol, or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products. Branding is the perception you wish to create in order to optimize how your company looks in the eyes of the customer. Your brand expresses an indication of its quality: do you have a lifestyle brand? A luxurious, high-quality product associated with a higher-end buyer? Are you an affordable, reliable, everyday brand that is accessible to a large subset of the population? You can’t be both at once, so brand targeting and development is crucial. This is where the strategic aspect comes in: if you don’t know what’s important to your audience and demographic, you can’t anticipate their needs and you may fail at creating a brand that resonates with the perspective of the public.
Why is Branding Important?
It’s a competitive world out there, and you need to have an edge within your niche in order to stay top-of-mind to customers and buyers, retain wallet share, leverage existing relationships to create new ones, and ultimately keep internal morale high and reputation positive. All these things and more will give you a competitive advantage when it comes to operating a thriving – not just surviving – business.
Building Your Brand
Your company logo is the base of your brand. It’s what will eventually facilitate brand recognition among consumers. Think of the first widely recognized logo to pop into your head, one that you would know instantly. Whether or not you like or use that brand is irrelevant – you recognize it (and the product it represents). It’s vital for your logo to paint a picture of your company, and this is an element that you don’t want to rush. Get it right the first time, and it will become the foundation for many other branding materials down the road (such as your website, packaging, collateral materials, social media, and any other platform that communicates your brand to the public).
Branding strategy, in a nutshell, involves how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating your brand messages. Who is your buyer? Where are they likely to look for advertisements about a company that provides what you offer? Will they turn to Google, Amazon, or Pinterest? Choosing your distribution channels wisely will bring you that perfect balance of saturation that will generate the right kind of awareness. You don’t want to over-saturate the market by spending money on every paid platform possible, only to be seen by non decision-makers or people outside of your target demographic, and you don’t want to overspend on too few platforms so that your message isn’t being delivered widely and effectively.
Representing Your Brand
Your brand strategy also carries over to engagement with clients and prospects, networking, public relations opportunities, and more. There should be consistency for you and your employees any time your company is being represented. Putting thought into your company voice from the early stages of your brand development will pay dividends down the road. Think back to that buyer persona and the brand perception you wish to cultivate: Do you want to sound humorous and relatable? Will your blog take a more casual tone? Or do you want to sound like a polished expert, a credible source of something your audience can’t live without? Your tone and voice can either reinforce or contradict your brand perception, so don’t just wing it.
Consistency Is Key
Brand consistency adds value to your business. Many large companies spend a ton of time, effort, and financial resources on their branding. We associate these brands with higher quality every day, as evidenced by the common tendency to pay more for name brands. Why? Because the trust is there. For example, Coca-Cola sales trump store brand sales all day every day, because of their longevity, brand perception, and the inherent trust placed in their products by consumers. Their brand consistency is key to their staying power. Think of other industry behemoths: Apple, Google, Samsung, Sony, Nikon, Canon, Nike…these are just a few of the major names whose gargantuan success is no accident. Sure, they have great products, but each one of them is marketed very differently. Their products became known to the world through consistent branding which ultimately cemented their success.
Don’t Forget to Connect
Another hugely important facet of brand strategy is the human element. Fostering a genuine connection with your audience is one of the most worthwhile attempts you can make. Get down to the emotional level of your brand so that people can identify with it: how is your product or service supposed to make someone feel? What goals are they trying to accomplish through your brand, and what would it mean to them to achieve those goals? How is your company unique in the way that you deliver? Why would someone choose you over a competitor? People are loyal to companies they not only recognize and trust, but which make them feel comfortable, secure, and like the company in question is reliable. The user experience is everything.
Getting It On Paper
Life is a journey and so is your brand. Don’t think of the brand as the destination: brands can evolve over time, but your core values should remain intact and never change. Here are some things to think about and perhaps put down on paper in your next staff meeting if you haven’t done so already:
- Company mission statement
- What are the benefits and unique features of your products or services?
- Market research: what is the general public opinion of your brand?
- Which qualities do you most want people to associate with your company?
Whether you’re just starting out or undertaking a re-brand, once you’ve determined the qualities that will make your brand resonate with your audience in a special way, try to tackle these next seven bullet points:
- Create (or recreate) your logo
- Create (or revise) your branding message
- Integrate (market) your brand everywhere that it’s appropriate
- Conceptualize a consistent voice for your brand
- Come up with a creative, concise, and memorable tagline
- Use messaging templates to keep your branding consistent and workflow streamlined
- Don’t stray from your brand’s integrity: deliver on your brand promise every chance you get
I'm Andrew, Owner of MTI Photography, and founder of MTI Photo Booth and MTI Engraving. For more tips on business and marketing strategy in the photography industry, please purchase my book Photography: Basics, Business, and Best Practices, available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Google and other fine online retailers. You can also contact us for a hard signed copy as well.