By Hannah Sookias, The Write Solution

What is a brand?

Let’s start with a little experiment. What happens when you read the following words?
• Diet Coke
• iPod
• Cadbury
• Asda

Did you feel the refreshing bubbles on your tongue? Or imagine yourself listening to music wherever you go? Were you longing for a bar of chocolate? Could you see the ‘rollback’ symbol meaning cheaper prices?

Don’t worry if you thought differently to me. Branding is how your company, product or service is perceived. It evokes emotions and knowledge of what it is you have to offer and what your customers can expect from you.

It is the first step in the relationship with a potential client. It’s what starts the ‘I’ll talk to them’ or ‘I’m not going there’ decision process. If you have late deliveries, inaccurate orders and a rude receptionist, your brand will be known for those traits.

Strong brands work hard so everyone perceives them in a particular way with the aim of being THE place to get that product or service.

Deciding how you want to be seen

Branding expert, Martin Griffiths from Burhthebook shares this advice with our clients:

“Take time away from your business to review what you offer at the moment in terms of products and services.”

“Understand your customer needs — what do your customers actually need and why do they buy? They have both emotional and rational values — in this instance, emotional is more important as this is what makes potential customers buy into your brand.”

“Then, think about how you would like to be seen by customers and competitors. Is it very different to now?”

“Only start work on building your brand when you have decided what you want to be known for and where you are coming from.”

“This core proposition then drives the logos, slogans and advertising messages. It determines the look, feel and words used for your website, marketing materials, PR stories and advertising.”

Building your brand

Today, we go to the specialists we know and trust — such as music from iTunes and DIY products from B&Q. We consider Bosch and Miele items for white goods because they have the reputation for being reliable.

In the same way, you can build your brand. Crucially, everything needs to be giving the same message.

For example, if you are promoting an environmentally-friendly product or service, ensure that you are communicating in ways that support this: digitally where possible, using recycled paper and materials where not. Promote eco-friendly stories about your carbon neutral transport or the novel ways you recycle, reduce and reuse.

When you want to be seen as a low-cost option, make sure customers feel they are getting a good deal – budget airlines have learnt to their cost that consumers feel cheated when their ‘bargain’ suddenly becomes expensive with baggage charges and taxes.

To be perceived at the high-end, price accordingly and ensure that you exceed your customers’ expectations. Help them feel they are getting something exclusive and use your marketing to reassure them that they have made the right choice.

Make sure everyone is on board

Ensure you and your employees are clear on your objectives and know how you want your brand to be perceived. Think through the impact of all your marketing activities and ensure that anything used enhances rather than weakens your brand’s image.

Finally, use a ‘think twice, speak once’ approach to avoid costly mistakes, especially on social media sites such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. As Gerald Ratner famously discovered, even an off-hand remark can have an effect – his ‘pieces of tat’ comment ruined his jewellery company’s brand and ultimately lead to its downfall.

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