Think of the most desirable things you would buy if you could. Chances are a good percentage (if not all) will be heavy-weight hitters in the brand world: shoes, mobile devices, cars, clothes, yachts, trainers.
Why do we aspire to own them? Is it because of the quality of the leather in the shoe? The composite material used on the heel? Is it the gel they use in finishing the luxury yacht hull? Will their policy on community relations sway us?
Not a chance.
Quite simply they are fabulous and everybody else out there (generalising) desires them too. They are perceived quality choices and are achingly gorgeous – you want to be part of the dream they offer. Show me a kid who doesn't idolise Roger Federer and imagine him/herself in the same gear, strutting their stuff with equal panache. There is a lot of that kid still inside us. All of us.
Why is that?
The answer is quite straight-forward: it isn't about the product, a part of it is of course – though most of it isn't. It is about how good being part of that collective brand experience makes you feel. It is
The world is full of non-branded items – made in the same factories using the same materials (generalising) but do we consider them as an option? Not if we have a choice.
You see, a powerful, sexy brand is a symbol of something more tangible than the sum of its parts. It's a little pat on the back for all your hard work getting to the point where you can own something of perceived value.
In all sectors, companies want to be the leaders not followers. If you are not a brand you are invisible. To be a brand is to have an identity. It's like walking down the street without a face or a name. Who would recognise you? Who would know who you are?
So a brand = identity. Therefore, instant recognition.
I'll throw some names at you and I bet you can picture each one's logo (one of the most important brand-building blocks), probably a strapline, possibly a product:
- Mercedes Benz
Yes? Of course, we all can. These big names are printed on the collective subconscious. They get into our heads and our hearts. And that is their aim – the point of them spending more £ than their competitors to get to that point. You see, their ultimate goal is to have their name pop into our brain first (before the competition) at the instant we consider a purchase or service. Because of this we are likely to stick with them without considering the opposition – we confuse it with gut-instinct. It's all very clever.
But visual recognition and identity isn't the full story.
A brand is also a set of values. An indicator of an ethos. A standard of quality, and above all, a reputation. And this perhaps is the most important aspect of branding.
Let's go back to the trainers for a moment. We anticipate that the trainers put out by a branded company will be of a standard we expect. Justifying the price is a whole different discussion, but we know that a certain amount of research, design and product quality will be built into our beautiful new purchase (they have to, Mr Federer wouldn't use them otherwise, right?). However, can we say the same about the non-branded items? Has anyone enough faith in them to put their name to them? No, they don't.
So a brand is also a statement that it is prepared to stand by what it does and have enough faith in it's products to have it's name on it.
Why then is it important for a small business to become a brand?
Like the big brands, your aim as a small business is to be THE desired choice. What you sell or what you do doesn't matter, what does matter is that you want your product to be the one that consumers want, more than the competition. You want consumers to come to you because of your reputation and what your brand stands for. They need confidence that you are not a 'fly-by-night' outfit, here today, gone tomorrow.
The way you get this across and how they perceive and react emotionally to that message is the importance of branding. This applies to the smallest company as much as it does the biggest.
Everything you put out as customer-facing material – from business cards, avatars, logo's, press-releases, advertising, packaging, website, etc, should be based on a consistent message and set of values. Confusion is the enemy here. Everything should be designed and created to fit together to form a consistent, cohesive whole.
When a prospective customer thinks of your brand it should immediately conjure what your brand stands for. This is their emotive connection.
It won't happen overnight. It takes commitment and patience, as well as a strong desire to maintain the level of message. Brands with strong identities are the most likely to endure.
Written by Chris Hammond of Ha! Creative.
Find them on Facebook here and follow on Twitter @ChrisHammond_ha