In the times of the Wild West, snake oil was sold as a fix-all elixir that people would flock to buy. And in the business world, branding has often taken on similar promises.
Many businesses believe that waving a magic ‘branding’ wand over their company will result in instant success, consumer loyalty, and higher prices that people won’t blink twice at. While branding is an extremely powerful tool, there are many lies that are too quickly believed. This article is going to dive into 4 common lies about branding that you must avoid.
Before we can dismantle those lies, we need to establish some terms. The word ‘brand’ is thrown around quite a bit, and it’s meaning might seem elusive. A great synopsis of what a brand is would be ‘the feeling or promise people associate with your company (or product.)’
For quick reference, think of some of the most popular companies. People go buy Apple products because they believe that Apple regularly produces innovative, high-quality products. Innovation and high-quality is Apple’s ‘brand.’ Dunkin’ promises coffee and donuts on the go, i.e. convenience and speediness. There’s a reason America Runs On Dunkin’, because in a fast-paced life, you need fast-delivered coffee. Nike offers empowerment, (Just Do It,) in the form of high-end athletic-wear.
Branding isn’t just reserved for these big, global brands. Consumers make buying choices based primarily on feeling, so it’s important for even small businesses to make sure that they are tapping into the right feelings to attract the right consumers. If you are ready to take control of your brand, watch out for these common lies about branding!
1. Branding can be successful overnight.
A brand is not a tangible thing, but as described above, it lives within the minds of consumers. Therefore every business has a brand, because consumers will always associate some feeling or promise with the companies they encounter. Sometimes it’s as simple as ‘this company will deliver what I expect.’ Sometimes it’s a positive, such as ‘this company will put in extra effort to solve my problem.’ Quite often for businesses that don’t pay attention to their brand, it can be negative, such as ‘this company will be hard to contact and get service from.’ To cement a feeling or promise in the minds of your consumers, you need to give your brand time. While one bad experience can solidify a negative experience immediately, consumers usually need a few positive encounters to come to expect a high-level experience.
If you expect to have a positive brand overnight, you will quickly be disappointed. But if you want to reap the benefits of an effective brand, the time it takes to build it will be well worth the wait.
2. Branding can be left alone and still be effective.
A brand is an ever-evolving entity. If you look at any ‘namebrand’ company, you will see that they never stop solidifying a specific feeling or promise in the minds of their audience. Consider Walmart. What do we expect from them? Everyday items at low prices is what people go there for, and it’s what all their marketing is centered around. It would be off-brand for Walmart to suddenly start selling high-end, luxurious products, or to remove useful products from their shelves.
When you stop reinforcing your brand, it can slip away from you and can get off-target. Small businesses tend to neglect their brand because they believe that it will take care of itself once they set it on the right path. But if you want to have a strong brand that works FOR your business, you need to establish a strategy and constantly put in the effort to reinforce your brand with your audience.
3. A brand can appeal to everyone.
It can be tempting to try and reach every person or every group. Small businesses are often eager to get anyone in the door that they try to build a brand that speaks to all consumers. But all that does is result in a lot of work for very little return. A brand cannot appeal to all people. If you are promising high-quality, luxury items, you won’t be able to reach the people that care about affordability. If you promise low-cost merchandise, that might not appeal to people who care about sustainability. If you promise innovative, trendy services, you might have a hard time reaching people who care about longevity and years of experience.
The most effective brand will be the one that is built with a target audience in mind. First determine what feeling or promise you want people to associate with your business. Then determine which people you want to reach with that feeling or promise. The large, successful brands spend money, time, and effort carving out their target audience and ideal customer. They paint a very clear picture of WHO they want frequenting their business. This is certainly not to say you should be turning away people who don’t fall into your ideal picture, but you need to have a target to aim at, otherwise you’ll be wasting effort aiming at nothing.
4. Building a brand is easy.
This is the most commonly believed lie about branding. Good brands aren’t built overnight, nor are they built with ease. It takes time, resources, and effort to build an effective brand. Too many small businesses think they can slap their logo on a product, call it a ‘brand,’ and then people will flock to buy it. That is never the case. Good branding is a very powerful tool that can bring great value to your business, but it comes at a price. If you aren’t willing to invest in your brand, then you will be left with a brand that you don’t control and that could quite possibly be working against your business.
How does your brand shape up?
Maybe you’ve never given any thought to your brand, or maybe you only work on it whenever it feels like it’s gotten out of hand. No matter where your brand stands today, it’s always the right time to evaluate its health and effectiveness and analyze where it can be improved! If you don’t know where to start, here’s some great ways to get a bead on where your brand is:
Ask your current customers what they think of your brand.
You’ve already got their business, so something about what you’re doing is working for them. Reach out to a few of your customers and ask them for a few descriptive words about your business and their interaction with it. If you get back positive responses, you know your brand is in the right direction and you have some descriptive words that can help you narrow down your brand position. If you get back some negative reviews, you’ll have a good starting point on areas to improve.
Compare your business with immediate competitors.
Competition is healthy and insightful! An effective brand will set your business above your direct competitors and be a compelling reason why your target audience chooses you over them. So compare what you’re doing with your competitors, and see what is working for them and not working for you. Do consumers have a clearer understanding of what they offer? Do the other businesses treat their customers better? Is one company more active on social media and better and building customer relationships then you are? List out the good and the bad for both you and your top competitors and see if there are areas that you are falling behind in. This will give you a good sense of the health of your brand and can be the start of a strategy to build a better brand.
Hire a brand strategist for an audit.
An outside perspective is always helpful, especially from someone who understands branding and can bring expertise and experience. Small businesses don’t often have the funds for a full marketing team like bigger businesses do, but you can still get a leg up by hiring a brand strategist to evaluate your brand and propose solutions to where your brand is lacking. Sometimes all a company needs is a little light shone on an area of weakness, sometimes a company needs a full top-to-bottom rebrand. But no matter where you fall, you can find great effectiveness in bringing on a brand expert to set you on the right path. And once you are in the right direction, with some time and effort, you will soon reap the benefits of having a thriving brand!
By Madison Carr
Carr is a devout believer in the power of effective designs. As a graphic designer and consultant, she works closely with clients to deliver creative solutions that elevate their business. She offers brand development and design, as well as print and web design. Her work and services can be seen at Creative Chameleon Studio.