What is Branding? Marketing Basics for Business Owners
“The art of marketing is largely the art of brand building. When something is not a brand, it will probably be viewed as a commodity.” – Philip Kotler
Whether just starting out or established, business owners find themselves in need of expanding their skill set to see their dreams come to life. In today’s fast-paced marketplace, having a great product is not enough. Savvy consumers demand transparency, clear product differentiating assets, a cohesive online/offline presence, and superior customer service. Add all of that up, and you have a successful branding strategy.
The process of building a brand is equally challenging for big businesses and entrepreneurs just starting out. Branding practices must adapt to consumer’s needs and industry trends. For example, since the introduction of social media, efforts are not limited to product image and marketing strategies, they must also maintain an open line of communication with their target audience.
Branding Basics: Identifying Your Values and Goals
The first thing you need to do is define your brand values and how you want to be perceived by your customers. This exercise will help you draw a plan and evaluate different marketing opportunities. Go beyond your needs and wants and identify any potential weaknesses you need to address. By doing this, you will not only find improvement opportunities but also anticipate customer inquiries. For small businesses and small business marketing this is especially important to define what kind of brand identity you will have.
Don’t know where to start? Gather your team and answer the following questions:
- What service/product do we provide?
- What is our company’s mission/vision?
- What makes your product/service special?
- What do you offer that sets you apart from competitors?
- What does your target audience think of your brand?
- If yours is a new brand, what will your target audience think of your brand?
- What can you do to influence their perception of your brand?
Answering these few questions will likely spark a debate or brainstorming session among your team members. That’s a good thing! It will raise much-needed questions and ideas that you can use to improve and maybe even incorporate some new marketing tips.
Keep in mind that all business strategies can and should be adapted according to performance. If, after a lot of thought and hard work, your efforts are not impacting your target audience as you wished, it’s wise to make some changes. Using different marketing efforts, business plans, or brand guidelines can create the positive changes you are looking for.
Brand Image: The Fundamental Ingredients You Need
Before we start, we want to stress that every brand is different and, thus, needs will vary. However, there are fundamental elements that they all should have:
- A logo with different sizes and versions
- Defined brand colors, which are consistent across all your efforts
- Consistent typography and image style
- A recognizable brand ‘voice’. By this, we mean a clear way of speaking to the public.
These ingredients will be key when designing – or revamping – your branding. You’ll need them when creating your online presence, print marketing, letterhead, internal and external communication strategies, ads, and any other initiative you consider necessary.
Remember that every element on the list requires an in-depth analysis and even several tests. These items will determine how your audience perceives and connects with you.
Logo: It should be simple and easily recognized as part of your brand. You’ll want your logo to adapt to any print and digital format, so less is more.
Color: It has a psychological effect on what you portray as a brand.
Typography: It sets the tone of your written communications. Your choice of fonts can completely change the meaning of your message.
Brand voice: It should be identifiable and appeal to your audience. The way your brand ‘speaks’ will make the difference when building a connection with your potential and existing clients.
How Building an Emotional Connection Will Keep You Around
As a brand, you want your existing and potential customers to see you as their top choice. The best way to do that is by building an emotional connection with them. As a matter of fact, recent Harvard Business Review data shows 64% of inquired consumers said ‘shared values’ is the number one reason to maintain a relationship with a brand.
To achieve this emotional bond, your branding efforts should not necessarily be about reaching a large audience. You should focus on the right audience and pay attention to what they consider important. Back in 2015, Cube reported that 48% of consumers said they expect brands to not only know what they want but also help them discover new products or services. Brands have been listening to this, and, as a result, consumers are witnessing a more personalized approach every day.
Use every communication channel available and listen to your audience. It’s very hard to keep up with any industry if you don’t adapt to current needs. By no means does this suggest forgetting about your core values to please an audience. What it means is to keep in sync with what your customer base likes about you and do everything in your power to keep improving.
Branding From Our Own Experience: Here’s What We’ve Learned
We have been working -and leading- the printing industry in NYC since 1999. Trust us, we’ve seen a lot! And one of the greatest things about this line of work is that we keep up with what different industries are doing in terms of brand image and print advertising.
In today’s over-competitive digital world, brands struggle to stand out, but it is their creativity and innovative spirit that pushes them through. It’s only logical that business owners turn to custom printing to create their unique identity. We’ve printed custom shape business cards, eye-catching outdoor banners, versatile hangtags, eco-friendly prints, and so much more. Every brand is working to stay on top of their game, and it is our goal to help get them there.
Remember, there are no limitations when it comes to your branding tools. Available technology and resources allow you to explore infinite promotional options that suit any budget. Use that to your advantage, and never settle for conventional when you can be extraordinary.
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