Many experts agree that branding should start as soon as the company is formed. As prospective customers, friends and business peers ask about the venture, the words used to describe your company begin the branding process immediately. For this reason, it is critical that some serious thought be given to branding before company representatives begin making statements that will shape the company’s image.
Viable questions that must be answered for branding purposes relate to understanding who your target market is, and the benefits you want them to associate with your company brand. How a business differentiates itself from competitors must be clearly communicated. Depending on the target market, the message can be quite different. Focusing on a few memorable sound bites that summarize your company’s competitive edge is a proven way to make a memorable impression. Communicating this message to company representatives is critical to ensure that a consistent and clear business message is being marketed.
Here in Ireland there are a number of companies who offer branding services to start-up businesses including Forza Direct Marketing who are based in Cork. What do you need to know about branding and what is different about branding for businesses?
The Importance of Branding
In a crowded marketplace companies must clearly distinguish themselves from their competitors. Companies often get only one chance to win over a prospective customer. If the company fails to make a persuasive case when the customer’s spotlight shines on them, they may never get another opportunity. Given the ease of researching competitors on the Internet, customers have no incentive to buy from a business that does not impress them immediately. Branding involves identity, the company promise and ultimately the customer experience.
Branding Versus Marketing
Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of confusing marketing with branding. While they are interrelated, marketing activities are different from branding. Branding strategy determines what the message is for the marketplace. Marketing delivers that message. First the branding strategy must be determined before the message can be delivered via different marketing vehicles.
The brand identity answers a customer’s who question, as identified by name, logo, colours and short jingles. To establish brand identity, selecting a good name is critical. Simple names that are easy to say and spell usually do better for marketing purposes. Many experts say that a name should be selected that makes it obvious about what the business sells. One mistake that cripples many start-up business enterprises is that they think once they have a name and a logo that they are ready to launch the company. The truth is that they have taken only the initial step of creating a brand by selecting a name and logo.
The promise is what the company brings to the customer that has value and is superior to what other competitors offer. Brand promises should focus on benefits to the customer, instead of features. The brand promise should be communicated clearly and in a simple and brief statement. It is common to use a sound bite phrase to differentiate a company from competitors.
As the name suggests, the brand experience is the actual customer interaction between the customer and the company. How the company delivers on the promise made to the customer contributes to the brand experience. Everything from the customer service at the time of purchase to the actual quality of the product and service is judged by the buyer and impacts the experience the customer has as a buyer.
In a competitive marketplace, start-up companies must give buyers a reason to purchase. Differentiating your business from competitors is a necessity. Then, communicating that competitive edge is a must to succeed as a new business. Start-up enterprises must be able to deliver the promise to succeed in the long-term.
Dave Dunne is a freelance writer and blogger who writes on a variety of topics including business, marketing, web development and SEO.