Complete Guide to Branding Strategies
This article explores the world of branding and branding strategies, pre-branding measures, the stages of the branding process, as well as some of the most popular branding strategies that you can choose from for your business.
INTRODUCTION INTO BRANDING
Your brand is more than a mere representation of your business’s name, logo, or catchphrase; it is the entire experience that your consumers and potential consumers have with your business. Your brand strategy, therefore, is a representation of what your business stands, an oath that you take, and the sort of business character you portray. As much as branding may include your business’s name, logo, and color scheme, these are simply creative components of your whole brand.
Your brand represents you every day in the market through:
- Images conveyed by your business
- The messages contained in your campaigns and websites
- Your Employee-Consumer interaction
- Consumer opinion of your business
Branding is a necessity for any products or services sold in a large consumer market. It is also crucial in business to business environments since it helps your business stand out in the crowd. Brand strategy is what makes you relevant in the market. It is what makes your business as a force to reckon with in the market.
Take a moment to think about some very successful brands, for example, Nike, Starbucks or Apple. You probably know what these brands represent. Now proceed to imagine that your business is in competition with these organizations. If you are going to capture a sizeable market share, you will have to start by implementing a strong brand strategy or you are likely to be invisible in the face of such fierce completion.
In your business’s field, the competition may not be too fierce, but if you put any two organizations side by side, the organization that represents something of high value will always outperform its competition in terms of closing and retaining consumers. Similarly, successful branding creates brand equity, which is the amount consumers are willing to part with for the mere fact that it is your particular brand; brand equity is what builds your business’s value over time.
When it comes to branding, if you employ a winning strategy that is perfectly suited for your business, you will undoubtedly excel in your endeavor to grow your consumer base. However, this section of the article will discuss the measures to be taken prior to implementing that branding strategy. The following measures are essential for you to be able to successfully implement a branding strategy for your business.
Understand what a Brand Means
The very first step is understanding what your brand stands for as well as what you want your brand to represent.
Simply note down all characteristics that describe your brand on one side of a sheet and how you would like your brand to be perceived on the other. Once this list has been complied, fine-tune it and ensure that you are in full command of your brand so as to reach your consumers, and more importantly, potential consumers.
The characteristics that describe your brand should be the differentiating factor between your business and that of your competitors. These characteristics should not only comprise of the products and services that your business provides, but also what your business is known for. These characteristics should also assist you in identifying how you can positively move the consumers into favoring your products and services over those of your competition.
For this purpose do the following:
- Understand your business’s niche and how you are unique form competitors
- Know your target audience intimately
- Understand how your product or service satisfies your consumers’ and potential consumers’ needs
Convert Employees into Brand Ambassadors
Your employees are a representation of your business and your brand as a whole; they are the first real impression potential consumers have of your organization. For this reason, ensure all your employees fully grasp what the business’s brand stands and that they remain true to the brand in the performance of their duties.
More often than not, you will find that owners and managers are aware of what a brand represents but the people who actually come into contact with consumers do not understand the brands intent; isn’t that ironic? Yes. It is extremely important that everyone is reading form the same playbook and understands how to represent what your brand stands for; this is especially so for those interacting with your consumers and potential consumers.
To convert your employees into your number one brand ambassadors, you should:
- Express what your brand represents in a simple digestible manner
- Train your employees on how to properly represent that brand
- Have systems that ensure employees always keep the essence of your brand at heart
STAGES OF YOU BRANDING PROCESS
Most people assume that branding is a mysterious and complicated process, but in reality branding should be quite simple. Branding is a straightforward process of fine-tuning your focus:
- Who are you?
- What makes you unique?
- What value do you bring the consumer?
This simple definition does not necessarily mean it will be a piece of cake to conduct your own brand strategy process. There are steps and exercises that will contribute to your success in that endeavor.
However, the stages to take in implementing your brand strategy may be easier than you imagine as you can see below:
- Discovery: Tells you who you are as a business and who you want to become.
- Clarification and Articulation: Eloquently and concisely presenting your business’s character and values.
- Differentiation and Presentation: Presenting to the world your uniqueness and value.
- Creative Stage: Bringing out your distinguished identity and creative aspects.
- Application: Showing up to the world.
Every branding process, as I am sure you are aware by now, includes discovery. Discovery in this context means the process of better understanding who you are as a business, what you represent, and what you want to represent, even though you thought you were already aware. What we think of ourselves in business in most cases is very different from what the consumers think of us. Ultimately, it is the consumers that matter. The consumers will define your brand in the end; you just have to help in shaping their perception of your brand.
In addition to consumer research, this stage involves brand auditing and the examination of your business’s culture, history, competitor environment, mission, and vision. At this stage a business plan or a customer satisfaction survey will give you insight into the direction you want your business to take and in what areas you want to effect change.
Clarification and Articulation
This is where the information you have gathered in the process of discovery is processed into a strategy that will propel you to where you want to be. It is where aspects such as the business’s values and corporate personality are defined and articulated into words and slogans.
Ensure that these words and slogans are exhaustively refined to give them the greatest power of representation possible of your business.
Differentiation and Presentation
This stage in the branding process is pivotal to your new brand in the eyes of the consumers. This is where the consumer looks at your business in comparison to the competition. In this stage, you present to the world in detail what your unique value is; an account of the unique benefit you provide. You present to the consumer what sets you apart from the crowd. This presentation is often done through a series of strategic statements, which will become your guide in business decision-making henceforth.
This is going to be the most interesting stage of your branding process. The creative stage will include the designing of the business’s logo, packaging, primary slogan, color schemes, advertisement videos, voice clips, among other creative activities. This stage is the stage in which you express your business’s personality and style.
It is not a surprise that you will see most business’s attempting to skip all the stages and get straight to the creative stage. However, without going through the first three stages, such an approach will, in all probability, only end up bringing out the aesthetic value of your brand. But with the discovery, articulation, and differentiation done; a combination of what your business stands for and a creative aspect can be that much more powerful and strategic.
Logos and packaging are just a tip of the iceberg. Underneath your business’s logo and good packaging should be a deeper meaning of your business’s values. Backed by the first three stages of the branding process, the creative stage solidifies a cohesive brand personality for your business. Everything at this stage works towards a common goal. It is not uncommon for businesses at this stage to realize that in order to stay true to the brand values realized in previous stages, there is a need for fine-tuning or even a total overhaul of some of their products and services. So do not be shocked if you come to the same discovery; don’t panic, it’s all part of the process of implementing your brand strategy successfully.
This is the stage that inspired the initiation of the process; this is the actual launch of your brand. Some of the obvious aspects are inclusive of designing of websites, enhancing social media interaction and awareness, creation of business cards, and so forth.
However some of the most essential determinants of the successful launch of your brand are things like employee conduct and the actual consumer experience. These are factors that will not be necessarily affected by the creative stage (logos and color schemes), but significantly affected by the initial stages where the articulation of your business’s values, character, and competitive edge took place.
This is not to disregard the creative stage; the creative stage is equally important for promoting the aesthetic value and attractiveness of your brand to consumers as well as encouraging word of mouth and social media awareness of the brand.
These stages are all critical in building your final brand. Sadly, most businesses will focus most of their efforts on the last two stages giving very little priority to the stages that are the true lifeline of any brand strategy. Where great strategy and articulation inspires creativity, and where you present value that resonates with your consumers and potential consumers, your brand begins to take deep root in the market over any competitors.
TYPES OF BRANDING STRATEGIES
Branding strategies are a tool used to establish your product or service in the market and cement your brand. Once successfully established your brand is able to grow and mature even in a saturated market. Making a smart branding decision for your business is important because your business may have to live with the effects of that decision for a long time. Suitability of branding strategies defers from business to business.
The following are some of the commonly used branding strategies you can consider for your business.
Word of Mouth
This may be the best branding strategy for any organization. There is nothing more empowering for your business brand than getting consumers to tell other consumer about your product or service. Some studies have proven that word of mouth can be much more powerful than conventional advertising.
Today word of mouth can be used as a branding strategy through the use of wide spread awareness among consumers and potential consumers on social media platforms. Making your brand a household name in such platforms where recommendations from friends or followers are everything, can popularize your brand in no time.
Successfully implementing this strategy demands the following:
- Target Influencers: Speaking to leaders and influential persons about your brand. For example, journalists, bloggers, trendsetters, or even public figures.
- Build a Social Media Community: This is the fastest way to dispense information and make people aware of your brand. Information in social media spreads like wild fire.
- Be a Leader: Do not just depend on influencers, take charge of your business’s brand; figure out why your business is unique and tell people.
- Honesty: For your brand’s awareness to last the consumers must trust your brand. For word of mouth to be successful as your business’s branding strategy, you have to be a worthy topic of discussion.
Some organizations these days have adopted an alternative approach to conventional branding strategies. No-brand branding involves making your brand conspicuous by not branding it.
While it may sound pointless and quite possibly counterproductive, the results can be quite positive.
For example, ‘Yellow Cap’ is a company form Venezuela that became a popular brand by simply manufacturing yellow caps and nothing more. By forgoing branding or flashiness, your business can save money that would have been spent in other branding strategies. Your products and services, on the other hand, will appeal to the segment of the market that wants high quality products without necessarily being concerned by the brand name.
The attitude branding strategy is used to create an emotional connection with your audience or consumers. This connection does not have to be necessarily linked with the product or service you are offering as a business and may sometimes be completely irrelevant. This strategy focuses on a certain feeling, lifestyle, or identity.
Nike, for example, uses this kind of strategy. As a company that produces shoes just like any other shoe company, Nike differentiates itself in the market by using the trademark tick logo. The logo has come to be a representation of health, agility, as well as an independent lifestyle emphasized in the slogan, ‘Just do it.’
Other brands that have adopted this branding strategy are Coca Cola and Apple. By adopting this branding strategy your brand will be contributing to your consumers’ identity. For example, by wearing Converse sneakers, a person does not just make a fashion statement but an identity/personality statement.
Brand extension is where an already established brand name is used as an instrument to boost the popularity and brand awareness of a new or revised product.
This branding strategy is especially popular in the fashion, furniture, and the hotel industries.
In most cases, the product is never much different from how it was previously presented in the market except for the fact that it now has a new and popular brand name. However, note the risk in using this branding strategy for your business is the risk of diluting your own brand’s identity from its own market segment or niche.
Therefore, before implementing this strategy you should consider whether you are ready to water down the character of a brand you worked so hard to grow.
Learn some interesting brand extensions that failed.
Another popular brand strategy is the multi brand strategy. This branding strategy will especially work for you if your business is in a saturated market. This strategy works by releasing two or more brands of the same product making them seem like they are in competition in order to take up a larger share of the market.
The rationale behind this strategy is that if you have five out of ten brands in the market, you will capture a larger market share than if you only had one brand.
Therefore, if your business is at a level where you can afford to launch more than one branding campaign, launching several brands may lead to an overall increase in your business’s revenue. This strategy will also increase your cumulative/overall brand awareness; despite the fact it is split amongst several brands.
TO SUM UP
Branding is your business’s identity in the market. The question we should all ask ourselves is whether our business’s brands say what we want them to. Your business’s image is all based on the message you send out to the market through branding. What message are you sending out to the world? A negative impression of your business might detour potential consumers, just as a positive impression will encourage potential consumers to try your product or service. How you brand your business’s products or services is an integral part of that business’s success.
However, simply choosing a suitable branding strategy for your business is not enough to guarantee your product’s success. If you skip the initial stages of clarification, articulation, and differentiation of your business’s values and character, the whole branding process might end up being fruitless and disappointing to you. In addition to this, branding is not simply about sending an image out to the world; successful branding also demands that your employees act as branding ambassadors for the business. A successful branding initiative will be determined by first answering the following questions:
What are the values of my business? What does my business stand for? What do I want my business and brand to represent? How does my business offer value to my consumers? How am I a unique force in my field of business?
If you thought branding and branding strategies were not worth investing in, or that they did not matter, you were deeply mistaken. Clients and consumers will judge your business based on the brand image that you portray, therefore, invest in your business’s branding.
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