You don't have to be a World Player to make "branding" your secret weapon. While big companies pay massive salaries to their Brand Managers to pilot messages to target audiences, small businesses can use the same techniques with even more powerful results.
The basics are the same, whether you're marketing chewing gum, snow tires, or the local diner. And here's the secret: the closer you are to your customers, the more impact branding has. Big Pharmaceutical companies for instance have little connection to actual customers and this is a constant struggle for them. Add to that other branding no-no's and you have an obstacle course to get through. So if you're a small business - get ready to build a brand that is loaded with personal power.
What is Branding? Branding helps answer the question: "Why should I do business with you?"
From the moment a customer holds your business card, walks into your store, looks at your web site or holds your product, he or she begins to form an opinion about your brand and its value. Is it realiable? Is it effective? Is it up to date? Is it innovative? Is it better than others? Is it worth the price?
In a world where customers have less and less time to consider options, branding helps them make a decision that often occurs in a split second. Consequently, branding is not about aesthetics. It's about effectively communicating your value and difference to create preference. And it is means telling the truth in the most interesting and memorable way possible.
What Branding is NOT! There is a misconception that branding is a fancy word for manipulation. In fact, there are many that consider Advertising and Marketing in general a form of "Manipulation." Let's say --for argument-- this is true. If marketing is about "manipulation", "exaggeration" or "disguise," then doesn't it make sense that Marketing and Advertising (and Branding) would be the surest ways to "kill" a lousy product? Of course.
Go try it. Develop a cheap, lousy product and advertise the heck out of it. I assure you, the death will be quick, short and financially painful. So, with that fallacy put to rest, let's state the facts about branding: Branding can 1. underline credibility 2. evoke quality 3. create emotional appeal 4. establish identity (who you are, what you do etc.) 5. differentiate products and services 6. simplify communications 7. generate marketshare.
The Promise. A clear and compelling brand promise consistently communicated to all points of touch is the principle benefit of branding. However, another benefit can be its effect on an organization. A branding program forces a company's leaders to spend time thinking about strategic issues: the company's vision, goals, values and commitment to customers and employees. A corporate branding program allows strategic conflicts and differences of opinion to be revealed, discussed and reconciled. Thus it can help refocus and unify an organization. It can act like a rallying flag.