The word “branding” gets thrown around a lot. While it’s great that people know what the word is and sense that it’s important to building a business, it’s still loaded with ambiguity for many. The term itself, as well as a slew of other business jargon, comes across as especially vague for business owners and entrepreneurs who either don’t have formal training (in the areas of branding or marketing) or minimal amounts of it—and rightly so.
Consider the woodworker who specializes in crafting beautifully-designed, locally-sourced home furnishings; the kinds of pieces which lend an air of elegance to family meals, as people sit down together around reclaimed hardwood dinner tables for the holidays. How can he or she be expected to possess expertise in that chosen trade and be a master at building the business through ongoing branding efforts? The same holds true for the independent scientist who spends months or years researching and developing a unique skincare product that’s actually proven to reverse the signs of aging. Beakers and branding seem like an odd combination, don’t they?
Odds are you’re a specialist, too. Perhaps you’re a writer whose artistry reveals itself in compelling stories about community leaders who’ve overcome adversity to get where they are today. Maybe you’re a chef and restaurant owner who frequently hears that yours is “the best pasta sauce” in the entire city. Whether or not that’s you—or you’re the person behind the newest app everyone’s raving about—I can’t imagine you launched your business in hopes of dedicating a good chunk of your working hours to tasks which involve marketing and branding. It’s unrealistic.
When we’re good at something, as you no doubt are, it makes sense to turn that passion and talent into a revenue-generating stream of income you can call your own. Yet, without some level of business and branding know-how, all of the amazing products or services you offer wind up taking up space in your basement (as unsold merchandise) or your mind (as untapped solutions). Your expertise goes largely unnoticed, never touching the outside world the way you intended.
I’ve seen what true branding can do for a businesses, having spent more than a decade building some the world’s most recognizable brands: Coca-Cola®, Campbell Soup Company®, V8 Juice® and Dove Soap® to name a few. These brands, while they’ll never be perfect, extend beyond the names and logos which appear at eye level on your nearby supermarket shelf in the form of product packaging. What they have in common is their ability to create followers, fans, connections and advocates—by being ruthless in their efforts to protect and build, you guessed it, their brands!
The companies behind these brands excel in the areas of product development, quality control, innovation and process management. While that accounts for a part of their success, they also understand the importance of branding and staying true to their brands across everything they do. Working with these brands, I quickly learned that a commitment to brand protection is the common thread which separates great brands from all the rest.
Once I made the decision to leave being an employee behind and instead start a business to help multiple small to large companies like yours truly grow, by using the power of branding, I quickly realized three things. First, a lot of businesses think of branding as having only to do with their logos. Second, the majority of small to mid-sized and even large companies are not integrating their brands into everything they do. Third, the word branding means different things to different people. Even clients who understand the term have difficulty focusing on the task of staying true to their brand across everything they do, which is why they hire me.
So, stop a minute and ask what branding means to you. For many people, branding means “design work.” Think logos, colors or a flyer which advertise a special offer during the holiday season. For others, the term is interchangeable with “advertising” and all the various ways there are to push your product in the market. These days it’s difficult to keep from making a quick mental leap to “social media,” as well, since that’s where we believe most of today’s advertising takes place. For others still, branding is just another bit of business jargon which doesn’t carry a lot of weight: “It doesn’t have anything to do with driving sales to my doorstep.”
.....Or, does it?
A strong brand does, in fact, drive sales and bring customers knocking at your real or virtual door. Your logo plays a role in that, sure, but your brand encompasses so much more! For you to have a brand that lasts, all of your brand-building elements need to be firing simultaneously.
That is what real branding is all about.