Is branding really that important?
The other day, I was presenting a marketing strategy workshop to a group of e-commerce entrepreneurs. Branding was one of the many aspects we covered. Towards the end, someone jumped up and said: “But I’m a start-up at the beginning of my journey. Surely having a brand at this stage is not that important?!”
Branding can sometimes feel a bit elusive - like something that you can’t quite put your finger on.
But think about it: what do all the biggest companies in the world have in common? From Apple to Coca-Cola, Louis Vuitton, Google etc., they all have their own distinctive brand and people around the world clearly know what these companies stand for and why they would choose their products or services.
No matter what industry you’re in, no matter what stage you’re at or what you’re selling, your customers need to understand who you are, what you stand for and why they should choose you over competitors - before they’ll decide to hire you or buy your product.
And this is where branding comes in.
Put yourself in your potential customers’ shoes: before you get a chance to give your sales pitch or demo your product, what is the first thing they will usually experience of your company? Your brand. First impressions are important, so it’s important that you feel that that first experience really represents your company and everything you want to be known for.
Clearly, your brand is more than just a logo. It is woven into every visual, every text, every experience and every interaction with your company. A solid brand thus gives you the opportunity to not just make a great first impression, but to create a lasting relationship with your customer.
To build a strong brand, you need to be consistent, intentional and strategic - always. Thereby, no matter what language, no matter what country, your company, product or service will be recognizable across time and space and your existing or potential customers will know why they should choose you time and time again.
If you already have a brand, how can you assess whether it’s strong enough?
Before we get into that, let’s go through the elements that make up a brand in more detail:
Visual Identity: What people see when they encounter your company; your look and feel. This can include your logo, fonts, colours, imagery, packaging, collateral and physical appearance, online, in print or in the physical world.
Voice: How you speak to your customers. The way you write, the way your employees address customers on the phone, in person or online, and the general tone you take in your communications.
Value Proposition: The core components of your business that define you and set you apart, giving you a competitive edge and appeal with customers. This can range from how you deliver your product to your price point, your values, mission etc.
Now that you have an overview of what a brand entails, you can use the worksheet below to evaluate the strength of your brand.
In the ‘response’ column, try to answer each question as immediately as possible, writing down what comes to mind first. In the ‘evaluation’ column, rate each response on a scale from one to five, one being a weakness and five being a strength.
Once you’ve worked through the entire sheet, read over your responses. You should have a good idea of what strengths you can use to your advantage, and where you could begin improving your brand.