In many circles, branding is confused with other activities like advertising, marketing, or even logo design. All of these can be part of a branding effort, but your brand is the total experience that someone has when engaging with your product or service. It includes the spoken and unspoken message someone gets when they have an interaction or transaction with your company.
“At times, trying to describe branding is like trying to describe what water tastes like,” says Michael Dill, managing partner of Norwalk, Connecticut-based Match Marketing Group. Dill says that, at the heart of branding is the connection the customer has with your company. Here are five questions to ask to help you build a lasting brand.
1. What is our benefit?
Dill says the first thing you need to figure out is what you do better than anyone else. Why do customers choose your business? Defining a simple, clear benefit is at the heart of branding, he says. “Whether your business is a doughnut shop or Neiman Marcus, the tenets of building a strong and great brand are the same: What are we doing that is captivating to the consumer and that they can’t get anywhere else?” he says. Once you establish your key strengths, you can distill the key themes for your brand, he says.
2. Who are our customers?
“It’s important from a branding perspective that you’re taking a look at the types of customers that are out there so you can understand how the solution you’re providing best meets their needs,” says Rodger Roeser, founder and president of Cincinnati, Ohio marketing firm The Eisen Group. Develop a clear profile of your best customers, and think about which messages are going to resonate with them. Your brand should reflect their values and “make sense” to them when they’re looking for products and services
3. Where do we fall in the marketplace?
Your brand should also reflect your values and market positioning, Dill says. Is your company the luxury provider of products and services or the one that provides good service and quality at an affordable price? Determine where you fall among the competitive landscape, and also consider your company’s values and priorities.
“I recently saw the name of a dentist’s office called Gentle Dentistry. That’s the kind of simple, brilliant branding that is effective. It communicates the message and values to the target audience,” he says.
4. Do our customers see us the way we want to be seen?
Roeser says this is a trickier part of the equation and requires some legwork. Get out and talk with your customers. Find out why they buy from you. If there’s a disconnect between how you see yourself and how your customers see you, then you can work on changing perceptions. But you can’t change what you don’t know.
5. How can we best communicate who we are?
Customers and prospects learn about your brand from your advertising, logo, and tagline—but also from every other element of how they interact with your company, down to the way your employees greet customers, Roeser says. Look at all the ways your company interacts with customers, and make sure that each point reflects your brand and the messages you wish to impart.
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