Having a brand can differentiate your business from your competitors and drive customer loyalty. And branding isn't just for multi-nationals with huge budgets: small and medium firms can create an effective brand by examining how the business works, what it means to its customers and acting on the results. This guide covers: • W hat makes a brand. • The business benefits of creating a brand. • How to create and maintain a brand.
What is a brand?
Brands can be defined in two ways. Firstly, a brand can be an identification or a mark that differentiates one business from another (through a name or a logo, for example). Secondly, a brand symbolises how people think about your business.
Building a brand helps customers in their decision-making, creating a perceived knowledge of what they are going to buy — before they buy it. Brands are based on three related criteria.
Confidence in a business, product or service doing exactly what the customer already believes it will do. For example, a 24-hour convenience store brand can be based on customers' confidence that it will be open, whatever the time of day or night. The emotional response of the customer to purchasing a product or service. For example, a clothing retailer can create a brand based around making its customers feel good about what they wear, how they look, how good they feel about buying clothes from that shop and what it says about them to their peers. A brand builds a unique personality for a business, and therefore attracts a defined type of customer. Most importantly, branding is based on consistently rewarding the confidence and delivering the expected emotional response. For example, a domestic cleaning company can build its brand successfully if customers' homes are always thoroughly cleaned, the owners believe that they are using the best cleaning company and feel good about returning to their newly cleaned homes. Your brand can cover your business as a whole or separate products and services.
Do I need a brand?
Every business has already got a brand, even if it doesn't treat it as one. Your customers (and potential customers) already have a perception of what your business means to them. Building a brand just means communicating your message to them more effectively so they immediately associate your business with their requirements. Brands can help increase turnover by encouraging customer loyalty and are particularly useful if you are in a fast-moving sector. If your business's environment changes rapidly, a brand provides reassurance to customers
and encourages their loyalty.
If you operate in a crowded marketplace a brand can help you stand out. For example, there are many kinds of adhesive tape, but there is only one Sellotape.
If you have no other points of difference and when customers are confronted with a wide choice of comparable suppliers, they will always choose the brand they feel will suit them best. Your suitability for a customer is portrayed through your brand. Moreover, if you want to add value to your business a successful brand can make businesses more attractive to potential buyers or franchisees.
Before you develop your brand identity, you have to assess your business, how it operates and the messages that you want to — and are able to — deliver consistently to your customers. You must be realistic right from the start. There are five key areas to consider.
1. W ork out your business, product or service's core competencies. These are what you achieve for your customer, not necessarily what you do. For example, a good wine shop's core competence is selling wine that its customers enjoy — not just selling wine.
2. Assess who your existing and potential customers are and find out what they like and what they don't. For example, if they are driven by competitive pricing, there is little point in you presenting yourself as a premium-price…