A brand is a unique name, term, symbol, design, or any characteristic that clearly identifies one product or service as distinctly different from those of others. In business, branding is a crucial part of building and maintaining long-term customer relationships. For example, an auto dealer cannot call his own car “vation” and call his competitors’ cars “hellfire.” Neither can he claim, falsely and deceptively, that his “product” is the best in the industry.
The branding process begins with establishing a set of “trademark” rights, or exclusive rights, to a brand. This right includes the right to use the name, signs, slogans and materials to promote the brand. Once a company establishes its own unique brand identity, it must work hard to extend its brand name into the customer’s mind. Customer recognition requires consistent and ongoing communication about the benefits and advantages of products and services offered by the brand.
Customers must be repeatedly informed of the benefits of purchasing a product from your company, at a specific price. Branding provides the necessary substance for these communications. In fact, branding is the first step toward creating and developing value propositions. What is the value proposition? The answer varies significantly from customer to customer.
A brand awareness campaign is the fundamental activity in developing value propositions. As such, branding is much more than “shuffling the same old stuff.” Branding incorporates an integrated process of defining an ideal customer profile, which involves defining characteristics that make up this profile, understanding where they fall on a personality dimension, understanding what makes them tick, identifying activities, processes and products that are critical to fulfilling this profile, and then crafting communications that will speak directly to this consumer profile. There is considerable debate between those who believe that branding is all about marketing and those who think of branding as a means of generating brand awareness. The former view is referred to as “the brand consciousness concept,” while the latter maintains that branding is not only about perception but also has a psychological element as well.
The concept of branding provides a framework for establishing a core philosophy and brand identity, while also allowing flexibility and a free rein to create programs and campaigns that reflect this philosophy. This allows small businesses to become more nimble in their marketing. Small businesses are much more nimble than their larger competitors because they can respond more quickly to customer demands and in turn, see greater customer satisfaction. Large companies have a difficult time with this aspect of marketing because they do not have the luxury of being flexible. The result is that they often do not take the right steps in response to shifts in consumer opinion. This can seriously limit their ability to build loyalty from customers.
The first thing a small business should consider when it comes to brand marketing is what its personality is. Are they a risk-taker or a conservative company? Is there room for creativity? How does marketing fit into this personality? Once a firm has answers to these questions, then it is far easier to develop a unique brand that will give it a distinct advantage over its competitors.