How can you make your business stand out? That’s a question all businesses, not just small businesses, ask at some point. A strong brand is one way to achieve this.
Branding, as Inkee Press, the Graphic Designer for the Baby View, puts it, can be thought of as “your ‘shop window’: you may have the best products in the market, but if they are not presented well, it could bring down value of how people perceive them. Your branding needs to represent the quality and standard of your work and the uniqueness of your products. It needs to be attractive, professional and in some way enlighten people as to your businesses heartbeat.” Branding is thus an important element of marketing your business, and we can all think of large, easily identifiable brands of successful companies, yet branding and what that means seems to be a not very well understood area.
Here’s some thoughts on why having a strong brand is important for your small business.
It can differentiate your products from similar products. A brand essentially allows you to put your stamp on your products to clearly designate them. For example, imagine two mixtures of baby food on the shelf: yours plus another business, perhaps based across the ditch. Yours can be distinguished by putting a label on the jar, which could include your logo, your colours, your key information such as “organic” or “kiwi made”, and so on. This visual appearance, if designed to be more appealing than your competitors, can make your product standout and make a customer more likely to choose it. It’s your “shop window” through which to display your products nicely. Importantly, a brand can even differentiate your product when there aren’t necessarily any other ways to differentiate it. For example, imagine two baby food mixtures may source their ingredients from the same grower, use basically the same methods of cooking, and so on – yet some way is needed to make yours stand-out from the other similar one and so a strong brand can do just that. This can be especially applicable in industries or product categories where it’s no longer feasible or possible to improve on the product itself by adding new technology or features to it, and so a brand is what can be used to set yours apart.
Leading on from the above, the narrow way to define a brand is that it incorporates your logo, colours, trademarks and other symbols that distinguish your product or services from others. Ie, the visible styling of your product. However, we can expand the concept of a brand more broadly to incorporate not only your symbols but also certain attributes, values, feelings and other ideas that can be associated with your product to distinguish it from others. This broader idea is probably one of the greatest strengths of a brand, yet one of the least discussed or understood features.
A brand essentially allows you to link values and feelings which aren’t necessarily a part of your product onto your product. Doing this, a choice of car becomes a fashion statement, or a choice of beverage becomes a personality indicator. To illustrate, in Wellington a friend of mine would often walk across town to a certain café while passing 10 other, equally as good in terms of quality, cafes. This café had a brand built around the idea of sustainable ingredients and supporting its producers, and these values, rather than the physical taste or quality of the coffee, attracted him so much that he would go out of his way to purchase from this café over others. Through the use of consistent marketing messages along with consistent use of logos, colours and etc, you can strengthen your brand to go beyond just the physical, visual styling to also embody certain values or attributes – and use these as selling points.
A strong brand created in this way can then lead onto your customers feeling a certain way when they consume your product. For example, feeling ready for action when they drink your energy drink, or feeling attractive when they use your deodorant. Your energy drink or deodorant may actually be comparable in ingredients and other physical features to similar energy drinks or deodorants from competitors, but the difference could be that yours captures a way of feeling which the others don’t. People are willing to go out of their way to purchase a brand they like or which invokes desired feelings, over other products whose brands don’t do the same thing – for example my friend and his café. A brand is more than a “shop window” but can also be a “shop atmosphere and experience” packed into a product.
Furthermore, a strong brand can also tell your story. As a small business, a story such as the history of your business or the innovation process through which you came up with the idea of your product can be an important element to promote, as larger competitors may not have the same options of originating their products in the same way. For example, most people have heard the TradeMe story of Sam Morgan not being able to easily buy a heater for his cold flat and so he went about creating a way to do that, which of course then became a successful business. Stories of everyday people, not executives in comfortable offices, solving problems can be valuable for a small business to incorporate. Through a strong brand your story can be associated with your product, in the same way that values and feelings can be, so that when people see your product in the shop they don’t just see a physical item in front of them but they also see an image of the people and the story behind how that item came to be there for them. If used well, this can be a good selling point.
In an environment today where technology or manufacturing processes of your product can often be easily copied by competition, a way to attach something valuable and intangible which can’t be easily quantified and hence can’t be easily copied is highly important for your business’s marketing. In fact, this intangible brand can be protected by law through intellectual property law. Because a strong brand is hard to copy, a brand can be a strong means of competitive advantage over competitors to allow you small business to stand out.
In summary, a strong brand is important because:
1. It sets your product apart
2. It can associate important values, feelings and stories with your product
3. It can’t be easily copied by your competitors
What does your current branding say about your business?
Author Bio: Max Bell is the Father of two young children, a small business owners, and a student studying a Bachelor of Business Studies at Massey University. He also writes online at obstaclemethod.movementunleashed.com.
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