It's a term that entrepreneurs and business owners will hear more and more as their venture or business grows.
For smaller, localized businesses, branding tends to happen organically over time.
Positive word-of-mouth, a carefully built local network, high visibility in the community and a strong reputation blend to build this "thing" called brand. For these local companies, brand identity is a byproduct of delivering consistently strong service or experiences.
That's as far as it goes.
No big brand summit gets called. No agencies are brought in. And that's totally okay if branching out into new markets or service areas is not a priority.
However, if your venture has hit critical mass, or you want to penetrate new markets, the term branding takes on new meaning. In this scenario, branding needs to be strategic, deliberate and a multi-faceted process.
But where do you start?
How about by learning these branding terms that every growth-minded entrepreneur and business owner should know?
Knowing these terms will help you start to grasp the complexities of branding and enable you to direct and question any agency you partner with to execute your brand campaign.
"A brand is a customer experience represented by a collection of images and ideas; often, it refers to a symbol such as a name, logo, slogan, and design scheme. Brand recognition and other reactions are created by the accumulation of experiences with the specific product or service, both directly relating to its use, and through the influence of advertising, design, and media commentary." (Added definition) "A brand often includes an explicit logo, fonts, color schemes, symbols, sound which may be developed to represent implicit values, ideas, and even personality."
Source: SEMPO and Wikipedia via the American Marketing Association.
Commentary: As you can see, brand is difficult to define as it deals with consumer perception, which is highly subjective. You can never have absolute control of your brand, but through a strategic, unified approach you can have a higher level of influence over how the market perceives it.
A marketing concept that enables marketers to quantify levels and trends in consumer knowledge and awareness of a brand's existence. At the aggregate (brand) level, it refers to the proportion of consumers who know of the brand.
Source: The MASB Common Language Project. http://www.themasb.org/common-language-project/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brand_awareness via the American Marketing Association.
Commentary: Ask yourself how you came to be aware of Apple, Tesla, Facebook or Under Armour? You won't be able to attribute this awareness to a single inflection point but rather to a sense that "you just know", as if these businesses were always top-of-mind.
This is not the case, of course, as these companies deployed a brand strategy whose cumulative impact was to place the brand top-of-mind among consumers.
Mid-size businesses are similar to a consumer that knows a brand but does not know the source of this knowledge. A mid-size business might start to feel or see better brand awareness, but not be able to pinpoint a specific cause, as the impact of an intentional brand campaign is diffused across all company activity. Larger corporations can invest in industrial-scale consumer research, including focus groups, to track brand awareness and equity. Growing mid-size businesses don't usually have this luxury.
To fully embrace branding and the investment in it, you'll need to accept that it is highly difficult for a growing mid-size business to link brand directly with ROI in a single metric, and that in many ways, brand awareness and equity are difficult to quantify and trace back to their sources.
The branding process is crucial nontheless and a worthy investment, despite the trepidation spawned from spending money without a way to accurately gauge impact or value.
Creative messaging that presents and maintains a consistent corporate image across all media channels, including search.
Source: SEMPO via the American Marketing Assocation.
Commentary: The key takeaway here is consistency. Once your brand platform-- your logo or logos, color scheme, taglines and brand personality--is established, all communication and company materials (website, brochure, blog, etc.) must present your hard-won brand identity consistently across your enterprise.
To do so, branding and consistent brand implementation need to be an organization-wide effort from everything to how people answer the phone and deliver elevator speeches to the look, feel and content of your digital storefront or website. Consistency is everything when it comes to building a strong brand.
A product or service whose character and brand values are distinct from, but related to, its parent brand.
Commentary: If your business has grown to include multiple divisions, or if your company has acquired other businesses, the sub brand issue is likely to arise. In cases where there is a parent company with multiple products or entities associated with it, you and your partners will have to decide how much brand autonomy to give each subsidiary.
How strong should the parent brand be represented within each business line? Should the individual business lines only be loosely associated with the parent company? Which part of the business has the greatest brand awareness and equity and how might that impact the brand family?
These are highly complex questions that often require agency expertise and third-party objectivity. What the specific approach might be is difficult to say because every situation is unique. What can be stated unequivically is that for an enterprise in this situation, an intentional, strategic approach is imperative to the future success of the brand.
A written description of the position that a company wishes itself, its product or its brand to occupy in the minds of a defined target audience.
Commentary: Organizations and agencies often overlook the importance of a documented brand positioning statement. It's usually pretty clear that a branding campaign will influence design signficantly. Logos and taglines get approved, color schemes get set and even company fonts get selected.
What sometimes gets lost are the messaging and content guidelines for copywriters and customer or lead-facing staff.
The positioning statement becomes the infrastructure for your brand personality and how that personality differentiates itself within a given market.
What makes your company special? How do you express what makes your company unique? What's your company's character? Its values? Its personality? Formal, intellectual, casual, brash, philanthropic, technical?
Building consensus around what your company sounds like and what makes it special is critical to maintaining brand consistency and increasing brand equity in your market.
These are just a few key terms to start to understand if your venture or business has hit a brand crossroads.
Understanding brand language and its concepts and deliverables is a key first step.
The next important step is enlisting a brand expert that can help take your business to the next level.
We can help you. Reach out to us. We'd love to hear about your business and your brand needs.