A brand is a business’ unique identity. It seems straightforward, but the details can get a little complex. A brand is more than just a logo, though a simple, immediately recognizable symbols does help. It’s also more than an advertising slogan, though a catchy phrase will stick in peoples’ minds.
Branding is at once psychological and material, a unique set of properties that can easily sum up a product or service which is typically in someway identical to or continuous with the business that creates it. That product may be distinguished from the products of competing companies through a catchy name, logo, or slogan and typically also by some unique function or set of qualities.
Examples of Successful Brands
Kleenex is an example of a brand that is distinguished solely by its name. When the Kimberly-Clark company (a rare example of a perfectly branded company) first developed Kleenex, they came up with a punchy, two-syllable name that vaguely implies sanitary health and aggressively advertised it until the name became synonymous with the product.
Kleenex is actually a kind of tissue, but people still ask, “Can you pass me a Kleenex?” as if the brand and product were the same. People still pay almost twice as much for Kleenex as they do for generic tissues, even though they are indistinguishable commodities.
Other brands may be distinguished by some useful function. The 3M company is famous for this, at least among branding mavens. Most people don’t recognize the company, but they recognize its products. Post-it notes are still indispensable to the supposedly paperless modern office.
Easy to stick and take off, their friendly little reminders are a breezy little convenience in an inconvenient world. Likewise with their self-dispensing Scotch tape. Attempts to knock off these products have been largely unsuccessful, because their brand names have become synonymous with their functions.
Finally, some brands simply do things that others in the same industry do not. Apple computers built a reputation for simplicity and user-friendliness in the 1980s. McDonald’s is fast, affordable and fun. Disney is wholesome, family-friendly entertainment. Toyotas are sturdy and fuel efficient, while BMWs are sporty and luxurious.
Tips for Developing Your Brand
Finding a market segment
Now that we’re clear on what it is, the question becomes, how do you actually go about branding your business? The first step is to identify a customer base. Sometimes this is a demographic. Are you appealing to 18-35 year-olds? Or maybe young urbanites? Not always, though.
Often, market segments are defined by utility, by a problem solved, an efficiency maximized or a convenience achieved. The 3M inventions mentioned above are one example, or the wheels that an inspired mind first stuck on the bottom of luggage in the 1970s, or Word and Excel documents.
Developing the brand persona
This is how you step into that market segment. You decide who you are, what you do, and how you present yourself. You’ve created a unique product line to fill the market segment. Or a not-so-unique one, it all depends. Now you select a series of logos, names, slogans and other symbols to sum it all up succinctly. Decide if you’re more “like a good neighbour,” or want to give customers “your way right away.”
Engage the Customer
It’s the digital age, so keep your website bold, beautiful and user-friendly. Advertise on Facebook, on Twitter, and anywhere else you can think of that your market will look. Whatever look you’ve chosen for your brand should be reflected in all your advertising, online and off. Beyond all this, you’ll want to provide your customers with exceptional experiences and service. Treat them right, listen to their concerns, and accommodate them as much as you can.
All of these things are just for starters. There’s much more you can do to distinguish and publicize your brand. But remember, your branding strategy is fundamentally about your identity as a company, about who you are and what you stand for. Your brand is not advertising chicanery, it’s the truth of who your company is.