The Importance of Branding - How to Brand or Rebrand your Business

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Before you can even begin to create a brand for your business it's vital to understand what a "brand" is and what "branding" entails.

What is a brand? It is a set of perceptions made by a large group of people of a company, product, service, individual, organisation or even a place. These perceptions might have been created intentionally by being actively promoted through marketing and corporate identity, or they might have been unintentionally created through negative associations, for example created by poor press reviews or common bad experiences.

What is branding? It is the attempt to generate and control people's perceptions, or to lodge the name of a business, product or individual in people's minds, to help them grow or maintain their market position. Any company, organisation, product or individual can benefit from having a brand that presents itself as having whichever characteristics are appropriate to that particular business, for example reliability, high quality, trust, excitement, being cutting edge, distinctive, innovative, friendly, etc.

How do you create a brand? Total control over a brand is not possible but clever use of design, advertising and marketing can all contribute to generating positive associations in people's minds. Aspects of branding may differ across different industry sectors but the basic principles of making your values clear are always the same.

Why do you need a brand? To make you stand out from your competitors and to make your product or service more desirable than anyone else's by evoking an emotional response from consumers, who make decisions using emotions as well as practical judgements. Connecting with people is important so a brand should represent characteristics that consumers will feel attracted to. Having a brand can also add value as one emotional response from consumers is that they are generally prepared to pay more for something which is branded than for a product or service which is unbranded.

How do you brand or rebrand your company? Start by answering the following questions:

• What do you offer / what makes you different?
• What are your company values / what do you believe in?
• What is your vision for the future / what direction are you going in?
• What is your personality / the personality of your company / how do you want to come across to people?

If you can answer these questions clearly you have the basis for developing a strong brand. To do this, your brand values should be genuine and carried out consistently.

To establish your company vision you have to think about the future and where you want your company to be. This may mean challenging the market, offering an existing product in a new way, or transforming the sector you're in. A well-thought out vision can help you to put strategies in place to get to where you want to be.

Your company's vision and values can be communicated through a variety of methods and the tone, language and design you choose communicates or becomes the personality of your business. Personality can be professional, business-like, efficient or friendly, chatty, humorous but obviously should be appropriate to the product or service you're promoting.

The personality of the company does not necessarily have to have anything to do with the personalities of the people running the company but smaller companies may want to do this if the style of the company reflects the values and personality of the founder.

Personality can be shown through:
• Visual Identity (Graphic Design)
• Tone of Voice (language you use, written and spoken).
• Customer Service (what level do you provide, how your staff are trained?).
• Dialogue (can your customers interact, contribute ideas, get involved, or is your communication one way?).

Your brand values should be what you stand for but it can sometimes be difficult to communicate these subtly. This is where branding and design consultants can help you through graphic design, language used, advertising and marketing strategies.

Your brand should then inform everything you do, even across different activities within your company, for example customer service, websites, staff uniforms, answer machine messages, telephone manner, etc.

Why do you need an expert? Pulling all of this together is where an expert comes in. A design consultant can help you to define and implement your brand by using some of the branding techniques mentioned including, design, advertising, events, partnerships, staff training, etc. These activities establish the consumer's perceptions of your company, and that is your brand.

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