By: Johana M. Caba, M.A.
As a small business, you might think that you already have a brand. And, although that might be true, you cannot base your branding on having a logo, some marketing, some advertising, and customers. Branding and a business’ brand identity are much more than that. Whereas branding is about having a product or service that is distinguishable from other products and services in that category or industry, brand identity consists of the visible elements of the brand like colors, logo, fonts, images, etc. It is the process of creating content and disseminating that content with the brand name, its qualities, personality, identifiable elements, and distinctiveness.
According to MarTech, a brand strategy is “built on a platform of differentiation, where a company can use its value proposition to create competitive advantages and satisfy customer needs”. Good branding can increase sales, it increases the value of a company, it can provide employees with direction and motivation, and it can make it easier to attract new customers.
We all know that strong branding improves recognition. Think of your favorite brand. For example, we all know Coke from the distinctive red cans and glass bottles, cursive logo, and taste. That’s because Coke is considered a central brand in the soft drinks industry. Central brands are top-of-mind for consumers and they tend to serve as reference points for comparison.
According to a Harvard Business Review article on branding, “striking the right balance between centrality and distinctiveness is critical, because a company’s choices influence not just how the brand will be perceived, but how much of it will be sold and at what price - and, ultimately, how profitable it will be.”
Branding is important for many reasons, and as a small business owner, you should consider taking a step back and determining if you have a brand strategy. Like I said before, a logo and some marketing are not the same thing as a brand strategy. The most important goal of your strategy is brand awareness. We want a solid, established, clear, and consistent brand across platforms and channels because we want to raise brand awareness within our target audience.
On average, it only takes 7 seconds for individuals to form an impression of a brand, and it takes 5-7 impressions to begin recognizing the company logo. And like with everything else in life, first impressions matter. They are vital to developing a loyal customer base. How is brand loyalty formed? One way is by having shared values with your target audience because this helps to increase relatability and foster stronger relationships. How does a brand become more memorable in the minds of consumers? Think of color. Colors help improve the recognition of a brand in consumers’ minds by 80% because color is one of the first things our brains perceive.
So, how can your small business develop a brand strategy to increase recognition and raise awareness about your business?
If we think from a marketing perspective first, think of these questions:
You can continue the process by thinking about the following questions:
These questions will help you get your thoughts down before you begin crafting your strategy.
What is a brand strategy?
Now, let’s take a step back for a moment. Let’s think about your product or service. In the world we live in today, competition is in every single niche. So, if your product or service does not resonate with your target audience, then you will not succeed. This is why you need to make sure that your product or service is the right fit for your market, it is solving the problem of your target audience, and your value proposition resonates with them. Value proposition is intended to make your product or service attractive to your target audience. That’s why I keep stating that your brand strategy is not just your logo, some advertising, and some marketing. Why? Because good branding is not just visual, it also helps your business raise awareness and attract customers so that you can hit your organizational and revenue goals.
A brand strategy can be defined as a long-term plan that documents specific ideas and concepts to help keep your branding consistent, memorable, and distinct throughout your marketing communications platforms. This plan will cover your purpose, vision, mission, beliefs, core values, attitudes, target audience, value proposition, and positioning. And, it will guide your marketing communications decisions to ensure that you remain consistent, memorable, and distinct.
How to create a brand strategy?
First thing is first, you need to research and understand your customer. You can do this by analyzing the data that you might already have on your website analytics or your social media insights. You can also do this by researching your competitors. Your brand strategy will depend on your ideal customer, so it is always a good idea to define your ideal customer and create personas to guide you. I have an entire section on ideal customer personas and the customer journey on my free guide.
Let’s go over how to create your brand strategy:
But, how do you implement the strategy?
The key takeaways for your small business are that you need a brand strategy to guide your marketing communications, you need to understand what your brand stands for and what story you are telling, and you need to define your branding and brand identity to remain clear, consistent, and memorable. An important point about your brand strategy is that it will serve as a guide for you, that way your marketing communications work without waste. Meaning, that you are not spending money without a clear objective, purpose, or story. In order to be the most efficient, and get the most for your money, you need to make sure that your message remains clear and consistent throughout all of your platforms.
Disclaimer: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, Adobe Affiliate Program, and in the Canva Affiliate Program, these are affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com, Canva.com and affiliated sites.