Building a brand is one of the most important things to do as an SME.
According to Seth Godin, “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another”.
You can’t survive in the market place without branding your business as well as the products or services you provide. This vital to building a brand. So, what does this mean to you as an entrepreneur and business owner?
Let’s start with definitions. According to American Marketing Association, a brand is ‘a name, term, symbol, or design, or a combination of these, intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or a group of sellers and to differentiate them from competitors.’ I like to call this a traditional definition. Is there a more contemporary way of defining it? I’ll say yes, there is.
A brand is a promise made to the consumers or your audiences to deliver certain tangible and intangible values each time they make contact with you either to buy or consume your product.
Your logo, identity, tagline, etc are elements that help to convey the message of your brand. In the words of Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, ‘Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room’.A brand is not just a logo, identity, tagline, website, etc. It is what sticks into customers’ minds that is associated with a product/service or business, whether or not they are actually deciding to buy from the business. Remember the concept of window shopping? This is why we often describe a customer as anyone who makes contact with your brand whether or not they actually make a purchase. So, even the person that enquires about your business, products, or services is a customer, howbeit a potential one.
So, as far as I am concerned, I see building a brand as the art of aligning what you want people to think about your company with what people actually think about it. It is how you live out the promise you make to your audience at every point of interaction you have with them.
Branding in simple words would be ‘the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol, or design that identifies and differentiates one product from similar products.’
Defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming, and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the following questions:
- What is your company’s mission – your reason for being?
- What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
- What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
- What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?
To gather the information that would answer these questions, you will need to do some research to help you understand the needs, habits, and desires of your current and prospective customers. This is very important because you cannot afford to rely on what you think that they think. You’ve got to know what they are thinking. There is no better way to find out than to ask them. You can get help here if you do not have capacity within your business.
Once you have defined your brand by answering the questions above, the next important question would be, ‘how would I reach my audience with a message that truly connects them with my brand?’ Better put, ‘how do I get the word out?’
From experience, the following are very basic but useful ways to get your message out there even as an entrepreneur or SME. Some will cost you, however, you must understand that everything you do as a business without spreading the word amounts to you ‘winking in the dark’. You know what you are doing but no one else does. Come to terms with the fact that these costs are extremely necessary if you want to truly be in business.
So, what are the three simple ways to build your brand?
1. Develop a simple brand strategy.
Something that would provide a plan for you to develop a coherent brand that can then be used consistently. This will guide you in the following elements of brand building:
- Design a logo – a good logo and place it everywhere possible. This would function as your first advertising material.
- Develop a simple value-based brand message i.e. write down your brand messaging, by this, I mean the most important message(s) you want to communicate about your brand. This message or messages must be rooted in the truth of your brand, its attributes and benefits, and everyone working with you must be aware of these and be able to explain to anyone at any time.
- Integrate your brand. Branding extends to every aspect of your business. How you answer your phones, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your email signature, basically every detail about you and your business.
- Create a “voice” for your company that reflects your brand. This voice should be applied to all written communication and incorporated in the visual imagery of all materials, on and off Is your brand friendly? Be conversational. Is it ritzy? Be more formal.
- Develop a tagline. Write a memorable, meaningful, and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand. For us at CPPL, we ‘create value through consumer insights’. This means that we pay attention to consumer insights and our work will always start with understanding what the consumer says before anything else.
2. Be True to your brand.
- Customers won’t return to you or refer you if you do not believe in and deliver on your brand promise.
- Decide how to communicate your brand message. What platforms do you want to use to communicate? This is very important. You must identify where your customers are and meet them there. This has to be done in the most effective and efficient way.
3. Be consistent.
This is probably the most important of them all. Excellent execution is crucial. You must ensure consistent use of your brand elements and the overall behavior of your brand in the market. If you have a good logo, great brand voice, and tagline but they are not consistently applied, you send mixed messages across and it would not be to your benefit. It is important that the experience with your brand is excellent and consistent. If you can’t be consistent, your attempts at establishing a brand will fail.
Once you’ve defined your brand properly in a brand strategy document or plan, either by yourself or with the help of a professional / consultant, you are well on the way to building a brand for your business.
In conclusion, consumers no longer buy products or services. They buy experience and the brand embodies the experience – the interaction with your brand at every touchpoint.
Ikechukwu Kalu is a value creation consultant and currently works as a Lead Consultant at Customer Passion Point Limited. He has decent work experience spanning manufacturing, telecommunications, and financial services. He is an Adjunct Lecturer at the Pan Atlantic University, teaches brand strategy and communication as well as Experiential and Alternative Marketing at postgraduate level. He is also a Resource Person at Lagos Business School. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing of London and a member of the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria.