It’s easy to think of branding as the type of thing you worry about if you’re a business like Nike, Tiffany or Coca Cola but Branding has become an essential part of any business’s success.
In our online world where anyone can set a business up overnight a brand provides vital signals to customers to help them make their buying decision.
So why is branding important? Branding allows you to shape and impact the customer experience to increase perceived and actual value, drive demand and sales, create loyalty and impact overall customer satisfaction.
In short, branding doesn’t just make you stand out from the crowd, it has the power to heavily impact your businesses profitability.
You can’t afford not to actively and intentionally engage in it.
Branding: the intentional process of giving a meaning to specific company, products or services by creating and shaping a brand in consumers’ minds
What is a brand?
Before I dive into why branding is so important, let’s back up for a second. If branding is a way to shape a brand in your customer’s eyes, then we need to clarify “What is a brand?” first.
I like the way Hubspot explains it - “Coca Cola is more than a soda, Starbucks is more than a coffee. Interacting with these products provides experiences, and we buy them with that experience in mind."
A brand is an experience. It’s how your customers experience your product or service. It is how people talk, think and feel about your business. It’s your key differentiator.
A brand is not a logo or a strapline.
A brand is greater than the sum of its parts. It takes on its own energy and must be cultivated and nurtured.
Your Brand is a silent salesman who’s on duty 24/7. As such, your Brand has the ability to be your businesses’ biggest asset and you should cultivate it and protect it accordingly.
Benefits of Branding
Branding is multifaceted in its impact and offers many benefits, far beyond the initial recognition.
Without a brand you become generic and with a generic good or service, the only differentiator becomes price, location and availability. In our online world, if these are the only factors you can compete on, it will be a swift race to the bottom on price and then you must rely on being the biggest.
A brand portrays an element of professionalism that can help you stand out from the crowd. For small and digital businesses, in particular, this is invaluable because you may not have the budget to portray professionalism and trustworthiness in the way larger businesses can.
The benefits of branding include:
Creating competitive advantage
Increase customer loyalty
Improve Employee Satisfaction
Can reduce your cost per hire and employee churn (source: LinkedIn)
Branding Offers a Competitive Advantage
If you don’t believe that Branding offers a competitive advantage, speak to Pepsi. Time and again blind taste tests put Pepsi on top of Coca Cola and yet they still lag behind them for sales and popularity.
The second consumers can see the red can and familiar logo - they opt for Coke. That’s the power of a brand.
Sally Hogshead, author of Fascinate states “Different is better than better” and she’s right. People can always match features and benefits but if your differentiator is to offer a different experience, you’ll always have the edge.
Branding Builds Recognition
Brands like Tiffany understand the value of recognition. The Tiffany blue box, allowed Tiffany to turn a diamond from a commodity into a brand. Did you know that 80% of consumers cite colour as a big part of brand recognition?
Repetition builds recognition. So it follows that by the repetition of your branding across multiple channels you can build recognition, which in turn, leads to my next point - Trust.
Branding Builds Trust
Consistency and familiarity create trust and it’s the consistent experience that brands offer that helps to build trust with consumers.
Brands like John Lewis, Marks and Spencer and the BBC top the charts as the UK’s most trusted Brands. John Lewis’s ‘never knowingly undersold’ marketing strapline and promise have helped to create a consistently great customer experience that is synonymous with their brand.
If your choice as a consumer is between a known brand that presents itself consistently across all channels and an unknown entity without consistency, you’ll choose the brand all day long.
Branding Adds Value
Luxury brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Chanel understand that their brand logo can turn a $50 handbag into a $1000+ collector’s piece. These brands spend millions each year to promote and project their carefully curated brand image. They’ll even go as far as burning unsold goods to protect the scarcity of their brand and protect its value.
Brands are not just about the products that you sell either. A study by UK agency MediaCom showed that 49% of consumers are willing to pay more for a brand with positive values.
Branding Can Increase Sales
As Apple, Coke, Nike and Cadbury can attest, build a strong brand and watch your sales go through the roof.
A strong brand can drive demand for even the most homogenous of products and services. Starbucks notably built an empire valued at around $84 billion from an item that nobody had previously imagined would create a profitable empire.
Branding Can Increase Customer Loyalty
With trust and expectation comes loyalty. 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. If you can craft an incredible brand experience, your customers will keep coming back. It’s that expectation that will bring them back time and time again.
If you can build a community around your brand all the better, 37% of people surveyed said they would stick with a brand if they are part of a community, which is why Apple’s ‘Think Different’ brand strapline that inspired a generation has helped to make it one of the most successful businesses of our time.
Branding Can Improve Employee Satisfaction
The human drive for connection and belonging is powerful, because of this a strong brand can improve employee satisfaction, can reduce your cost per hire and even reduce employee churn.
Why Brand identity is important
Brand identity - the visible elements of a brand - colour, fonts, logo, imagery etc are the elements that help distinguish your brand in a customer’s mind.
Your brand identity is important because it is often these visual elements that provide triggers and clues for customers along their buying journey.
Colour and colour psychology plays a huge part in customer recognition and whether they choose to buy. In fact, according to a study by the University of Loyola, Maryland, colour can increase brand recognition by up to 80%.
Customers make subconscious judgments about a product within the first 90 seconds, with colour accounting for between 62% and 90% of that assessment.
Colour psychology is universal, and can even override cultural influence and meaning. Colour can convey hidden meaning and subliminal messaging - but choose the wrong brand colour and you could be putting customer’s off before they’ve even given you a chance.
When it comes to Fonts, they too carry hidden meaning and influence. Although far less has been written on the subject, fonts have individual personalities that can amplify your message and may also impact on your ability to understand what is being written.
I’ll often share my ‘Fonts Matter’ example when I’m talking about the importance of branding. This simple illustration shows how you can seemingly change the meaning of the text simply by changing the font.
Still don’t believe me? Check out the Type Surveys over at TypeTesting.com and see how universal type personality is.
In the mobile era, legibility and readability of fonts matter more than ever. Choose your brand fonts wisely.
So many brands rely on stock photography for their website, newsletters and social media, but if you’ve ever heard the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, you’ll understand that they’re missing a big opportunity.
Bespoke brand imagery and visual storytelling can elevate your brand and convey complex messages about the way that you work, your brand’s personality, your brand values and so much more, all without you having to say a word.
Which is why brand photography, once the reserve of multi-million-pound brands, is becoming increasingly popular, even for smaller businesses who understand the value of branded images.
Brand Logos and Icons
Many people make the mistake of thinking that your logo is your brand. Whilst this isn’t the case - your logo should be a symbol that is a recognisable reflection of your brand.
Logos and brand marks can add value to otherwise low-value items. Sally Hogshead, author of Fascinate and former Ad agency queen talks of how one focus groups assigned a $400 price tag to one pair of sunglasses and a $10 pricetag to an almost identical pair - the difference? A Chanel logo.
You can use a whole array of branding elements to help you build and maintain your brand identity. Think about how you can use these different elements to support your brand.
- Marketing tagline
- Colour palette
- Visual imagery - photos, graphics, charts & infographics
- Textures and patterns
- Marketing and promotional materials
- Business cards & letterheads
- Customer Experience
- Brand Story
- Website Design
- Content Marketing
The fact is, your branding is vitally important to your business. Everything you do (or don’t) carries a hidden message to your customers and potential customers. It’s up to you to make sure that your message your putting out is the one you want your customers to see.
Time to get your branding on track? Check out my range of brand design packages.