Branding is a bit of a nebulous concept, not easy to understand when you’re a newly-minted entrepreneur burdened with responsibilities. You may be tempted to push it down the priority list, leaving it for later, but that would be a mistake – branding is important, even indispensable. It’s something you should lead with, not leave as an afterthought. Without a branding strategy, you risk your business being perceived as careless or plain unprofessional.
Fortunately, The Social Sharks team is here to help. We offer an easy-to-understand explanation of branding below, covering why it’s important and offering some DIY branding suggestions.
There is no universal definition of branding
The definition of branding has changed and evolved over time. Previously, according to Brandingmag, branding was giving your products a visual identity – think logos, pictures, taglines, and packaging. Now, branding is seen as creating, managing, and shaping the perceptions your customers hold about your business as a whole.
Understanding branding (and brand)
We’ll break branding down for you further – starting with the fact that brand and branding are two distinct (but related) concepts. Your brand is your core identity or everything that makes your business tick and makes it unique. This includes not only your products and USP, but also how you operate, how you treat your customers, and the values guiding your business. No two brands are alike, even if they operate in the same niche: Think Pepsi and Coca-Cola.
Branding, in this context, is the act of packaging your unique core identity so it can be communicated through sensory means – like pictures, graphics, sounds, and even smell and taste. The primary goal of branding is to distinguish you from your competitors and make you memorable. To give you an analogy, it’s putting a name to a face – it makes it easier to remember.
The key takeaway here is you already have a brand. With branding, you define it. With a branding strategy, you can enhance and refine it.
How is branding related to marketing and digital marketing?
Branding is a part of marketing and they both need each other, says Branding Compass. Where branding is internally defining who you are, marketing is externally generating interest in your products and services. Marketing requires branding to make you stick in the minds of everyone you engage with for your digital strategy.
What are the key areas of the business that branding touches?
Branding involves intangibles like customer perception and emotional connections. Your customers will experience your brand at every touchpoint, whether they do business with you offline or online. Your brand comes through via sensory elements – such as your logo, colors, and slogans – and through the behavior of your employees.
Essentially, your brand will influence customers' perception of your business. As such, it can be beneficial in various ways. Some examples:
Building trust: By branding your business, you come across as professional and credible. It shows you are serious about doing business, which makes you more trustworthy to customers.
Offering a frame of reference: Your brand allows your customers to understand what you do and what you stand for. It creates an emotional connection with them.
Indicating quality: Your brand is an indicator of quality – it shows your products or services are good enough to carry an identifier.
What core deliverables does an expensive branding agency offer?
A branding agency will help you create, maintain, and improve your brand, says the Branding Journal. Branding is a process that involves market research, creating assets for your brand (like logos), implementation, and refinement. Every agency has its specialty area, such as brand positioning or re-branding. Below is a list of services a typical branding agency offers:
Assets design – like logos, graphics, letterheads
Copywriting (for taglines and such)
Brand strategy and management
How can business owners DIY these deliverables?
You can DIY most of these deliverables. In fact, some experts recommend that you handle the basics yourself instead of hiring someone because it’s so expensive. Some of the deliverables (see example list above) you should be able to DIY are basic logo design, basic copywriting, brand naming, research, and basic packaging.
For example, you can DIY the logo design using software to save money, instead of using an agency’s professional graphic designer. A good logo maker app will allow you to create an appealing logo through templates. You just have to pick a style and icon, add in text, and finally adjust fonts and colors. It’s easy and intuitive.
You can hire someone down the road, once you have a solid foundation and need more traction from your branding efforts.
Branding is critical because it allows customers to remember you. It gives customer loyalty an anchoring point and helps customers to form lasting emotional connections with your business.
With a well-implemented strategy, you can expect an increase in both lead generation and customer retention rates.
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