Branding 101

Here in the 21st century, you can't get away from branding.

Brands are everywhere. Sports events, clubs, food outlets, shopping centres, TV stations and shows, video games and computers, movies and entertainment sites, music, drinking and gambling venues... the list is endless.

All of these distractions are in fact brands, and they compete for the attention of the people we want to reach.

You could be excused for thinking that a brand is just a logo. However, it's much more than that. A brand is everything that people associate with a name and logo; everything they see, hear, read, feel and touch; their complete experience of that name. This applies to consumer products (like cars, toothpaste or clothing), pop stars, political parties and even religions and churches. No business or organisation that hopes to wins the hearts and minds of their target market or audience can afford to ignore this simple fact. If you have a name and a logo, you have a brand.

From a commercial point of view, positive brand experiences lead to more sales. From an organisational point of view, positive brand experiences lead to organisational growth. The reverse is also true. The simple fact is that unless organisations view themselves as a brand and work at creating a complete brand experience for the people they're trying to talk to, they may never hope to achieve growth and sustainability.

So how is a strong brand created?

From the outside in, rather than the other way around. By being clear about the goals for growth, understanding the needs and wants of the target market, meeting those needs, communicating them effectively, and delivering it consistently.

Let's break that down a bit.

  1. A strong brand knows where it wants to go. Without a clear direction and a strategy for getting there, we might be aiming at nothing at all.

  2. A strong brand promises benefits that the consumer needs and wants. We live in an era of choices. If you aren't offering something that is needed or wanted, why would people choose your brand? In order to know what our target market wants, we have to ask them. Once we understand what people are looking for, we can make sure we're delivering.

  3. A strong brand communicates the benefits it offers effectively. If people don't know what benefits we offer, how can they make the decision to choose us? If they can't understand the words we are using, are we actually communicating? What tone are we using when we communicate? Are we friendly, genuine and open, or are we distant, stuffy and pompous? What kind of brand would you prefer to engage with?

  4. A strong brand delivers the benefits consistently. You see, a brand is really a promise – a promise that you'll deliver the same important benefits the same way, consistently, time after time. Keeping the promise ensures that customers will remain loyal. Also, because a brand is everything that people associate with a name, you want to be careful about what you're putting out there. Consistency is key. Inconsistency leaves people feeling a bit confused. It's a bit like speaking to someone with multiple personality disorder. You might want to try and engage with them, but given the choice, you'd rather spend time with someone that you know exactly what to expect from!

So that's branding in a nutshell. If you think your brand could do with a bit of a workout, let's have a chat.

I'm Anita: strategist, designer, art director and copywriter, with over 25 years industry experience and a passion for brand development... more

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