The Power of Branding
A brilliant marketing strategy and plan only goes so far. The power of a brand ultimately has a main impact on expanding the business. The stronger the brand, the bigger the company can become. Corporate branding is the number one differentiator with the competition and can provide a significant competitive advantage.
The Marketing Strategy and Plan
This is where most businesses start, the marketing plan. They do the market research, product/service development, competitive analysis, write copy, design work, and even down to office décor. However, a brilliant marketing plan, no matter how strong, or how much money is put into advertising, it does not outweigh what building a powerful brand can do for the business.
What Cattle Ranchers Can Teach Us About Branding
In the early days of cattle ranching, open grazing of multiple herds from different ranchers was common. At the end of the grazing season, ranchers would need to round up their cattle. In order to do so, they had branded their cattle with a mark or pattern (similar to a logo) that let everyone know who the cattle belonged to. This way, cattle that looked similar to each other, were simply differentiated by their unique brand.
Just like the rancher looking for his/her cattle, consumers are searching for the right product or service. They do this by sifting through the thousands of messages they see a day. Just as the ranchers found a way to differentiate their cattle from their neighbors, businesses need to differentiate their product/service from their competitors in a similar way. Branding is the key to creating the idea that your product/service is unique.
How Does Branding Work?
This will sound simple, but it does take time, effort and a bit of creativity. Basically, you brand the product/service by providing it a name and focusing all the advertising and promotion on creating a distinct image attached to the name. Ultimately, the brand includes a set of values, virtues, qualities and attributes that the product and company represent. Over time, this continues to make your product unique and adds to the value in perception of the buyer.
Repeating the same message tied to imagery that represents this values and virtues, etc. is key. Think of the car brand BMW and you might picture one of their television commercials with the “Ultimate Driving Machine” message. That is their branding. And while their car and the way it is engineered, the way it looks, the way it drives is unique, it is not the only luxury car on the market.
The product/service does not have to be unique, but branding will give the perception it is unique. If you think about the bottled water industry, Évian is one of the leaders who has consumers willing to pay more for filtered water than they do for milk, soda or beer. This is a wonderful example of the power of branding even with a simple basic commodity.
Building Your Brand
Often, companies, particularly when they are just starting out ignore or avoid spending money on branding or marketing. The question is not if you can afford to market and brand your business, or can you afford not to? At the same time, spending more than you can possibly afford to compete against the leader of your industry is not advisable either. Be somewhere in the middle. The most important aspect is to build a brand that matches the product and the company.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What image do you want to create to propel your products to the front of the line in the eyes of a potential buyer?
- Is your product design congruent with this image?
- What about your pricing model?
- Does your packaging suggest the image you want to create for the brand?
- Does your sales and customer support people project an image consistent with your brand?
- How about your advertising plans? What expectations do they create in the mind of a person seeing or hearing the ad?
- Do the location and décor of the place you conduct business match your desired brand image?
- Is your marketing plan’s central focus to present a compelling reason to buy your product rather than your competitions?
Ultimately, building a powerful brand, one that people recognize and want to buy, will give you a competitive advantage and expand your business.