As a profession and as a function, selling is slowly sinking like the Titanic. Today most products and services are bought, not sold. And branding greatly facilitates this process – Al & Laura Ries
This quote was written in 1998, and what a prediction it was! Branding shares a similar philosophy to inbound marketing in the sense that you're buying a product or service that is trustworthy.
If the buyer decision-making process is changing, how do you position yourself as an attractive prospect? By creating a desirable brand!
Your brand is the voice, the image and the personality of your organisation. Think of your favourite brand. How does it make you feel? Important? Happy? Warm?
It pre-sells your product to your customers, if they buy into your brand then they'll buy your product.
Nothing happens until somebody brands something.
What is a Brand?
A brand is a word, that's all. A noun. A thing. Marketing folk have all sorts of definitions for brands; sub-brands, megabrands or named brands. These terms mean nothing to everyone else.
There are many different types of brand but all have the same function, and that’s to sell by providing something meaningful to their customers.
It’s a simple but special word. Take the Adidas city range trainers. Dublin is the name of the Irish capital and the name of a trainer. Obviously, the city came first! But Adidas realise the positive association people have with places and name their trainers after them.
How do motivational speakers sell themselves? Their name. Your name is a brand, there's an image in someone's mind when they think of you. I hope you're a high-value brand!
It's true that we don't care about everything we buy. For example, you may like drinking tap water. Someone else might love the taste of glacially superior Evian.
Tap water's popular because it's free, and a basic human right. Evian commoditised water, making it desirable and chargeable.
What is Branding?
Brands are stories that have twists, meaning, are entertaining and feature powerful characters. What cereal did you eat when you were young? Frosties? Coco Pops? I bet you stretched on your tiptoes trying to knock that Tony the Tiger toy out of the box a few times.
Who's Tony the Tiger? He's the story's hero. He's the guy that tells everyone they're gggreat! He's a powerful character. There are 1000's of examples of brand characters and stories.
Create your brand as though it's the only product on the market worth buying. Appeal to the reader of your story, make the character resonate with them.
Quick Brainstorm: The question you should ask yourself when building a brand is, how is my brand different? Map out your brand's story and where your heading in the future.
How is Your Brand Positioned?
The simplest way for you to determine your brand identity position is to create your company’s SWOT analysis. SWOT is an acronym with the following meaning:
- Strengths – What’s your company’s competitive advantage?
- Weaknesses – What are your company’s disadvantages in the market?
- Opportunities – What opportunities can your company can benefit from?
- Threats – What are the potential risks or obstructions?
Developing your corporate and brand identity is a process and you need to follow a framework. In order to ensure it's successful, you need to go through these steps:
The Laws of Branding
1. The Law of Expansion
It's hard to make people like you, we're all so different. So you have to appeal to people in different ways. This can be a curse.
Compromising your true personality can cause confusion, and can lead others to think you're a people pleaser. When developing your brand, it's wise to remember the phrase 'you can't please everyone'.
Let's say you sell windows. Everyone needs windows, right? This is true. But how many people want to buy them? You might want to if you're a homeowner and haven't replaced them in 20 years.
But you wouldn't want them if you're a short-term renter who's looking to move in the next 6-12 months.
Think of who your customers are when expanding. You could isolate them or target the wrong market.
2. The Law of Contraction
Have you ever been to a cafe or a pub, removed the menu from the stand and found a 4-page essay?
Steaks, burgers, pizzas, light bites, you spend half an hour looking at the menu!
I'm not saying that these establishments don't make money, people do like choice. But you're more likely to be noticed if you are known for something.
Narrow your focus. Think about what you're good at. Do you think Colonel Sanders ever thought about putting sausage sandwiches on his menu? No. He knew his chicken recipe was the best and he persevered.
He built the company’s reputation by contracting the business and dominating that market. Do you know anywhere else that makes better fried chicken?
Remember: Think about what companies did before they were successful. Dominos used to sell submarine sandwiches, they don't anymore! they contracted a menu and served their speciality.
3. The Law of Publicity
Whilst advertising is required to keep big businesses chugging along, it's not how small businesses build an identity.
Throw thousands at pay-per-click advertising and you'll be wondering why people aren't buying your products.
Quite simply, they won't understand it. the best brands are made because they tell a story or answer a problem nobody has an answer to.
Look at Google, they answer every question we don't have an answer for! Although Google wasn't the first search engine created, it's the most successful.
In a world where we're hit with hundreds of commercial messages every day, you have to stand out.
What people say about you is a lot more powerful than what you say about yourself, so you need to impress. Focus on what makes your brand the best, not catchy slogans and flowery adverts.
Key point: build your brand with PR, maintain it with advertising. Social media is a great tactic for brand building, especially when you have a social media plan.
4. The Law of Advertising
Advertising is like a sports coach, they aren't going to win the game for you. But they'll back you up when you need it and encourage you from the sidelines.
You can't maintain a business on publicity, the buzz dies down and you have to advertise to stay healthy.
Argos wasn't built with big-budget TV ad. It got its name from its speedy service and huge catalogue read by every wide-eyed consumer in the UK.
But they have to maintain that image, and they do that through big-budget TV ads (and other forms of advertising).
You'd need groundbreaking publicity and a humongous advertising budget to overthrow a brand leader.
Brand leaders don't advertise that they're brand leaders. People deny the fact they go for the leader, so it's counter-productive. Plus, everyone knows the better product will win.
Remember: Advertising is a powerful tool, but only with an established brand. Don't build your company on fancy adverts and meaningless fluff, maintain it.
5. The Law of the Word
How often have you 'hoovered' the house? Have you ever 'photoshopped' an image?
What you should be saying is vacuuming or image editing, but these brands replace the proper phrase as a general term.
If you can make your brand a word, you're on the right track. In fact, the brand names are easier to say that the actual term.
Many brands are confused. They want to grow so they try to associate too many different words with their brand. They expand their products and lose their focus.
Ask an Aldi shopper what they think of the store. I guarantee they'll say cheap. Sure, there are other words that describe Aldi, but everyone is motivated to save money and that's what Aldi stands for.
They've taken 7.3% of the UK grocery market and it continues to grow every year.
Key point: Never underestimate the importance of a well-perceived brand identity. In a highly competitive online marketplace, you should have a strong brand identity and stand out for the right reasons.
Laws based on The Immutable Laws of Branding by Al and Laura Ries.
Editor's note: This post has been revamped and updated for 2018. At Red-Fern, we love keeping our content accurate, it ensures our articles are relevant and fresh!