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What Is Branding?
We’ve all heard the slogans that stick in our heads from popular fast food restaurants, in fact we even sing along! Think of “You Deserve a Break Today™," and you’re off to McDonald's. If you want to “Have It Your Way™," it’s Burger King you’ll be visiting. When an advertising slogan becomes something you sing in your car, makes you hungry, or makes you visit a certain company to buy their product, the company who makes the product has succeeded in branding.
As a car dealer with a company name that didn’t shout, “I sell Chryslers," our ad rep came up with a song that was corny and sung by a woman I didn’t know. Over and over again on the radio I would hear, “Scheid Motor Company…We Make the Difference in Buying a Chrysler."
At first, I thought trying to brand my company this way wouldn’t work, however, when I heard people humming my slogan in grocery stores, I knew I had a hit. The hard part of branding is finding a way to brand that is different from your competitor.
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Make Your Branding Uniquely You
To make branding work for your small business, you must be different than the other guy. If you have a dry cleaning business and there are two others in your area, what can you do to brand your company to make it stand out and get customers in the door? If you own a car wash, why is your car wash better? If you own an ice cream shop, is your ice cream really better than the competitor down the street? The answers to these questions will help you brand your business in a unique way.
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Start With Some Research
Before you think of how you want to brand your business, make a list of what makes you unique:
- Product or Service – Do you offer something the other guy doesn’t? Why is it different?
- Advertising – How do similar businesses advertise in your area? What are they doing that you aren’t?
- Customer Need – Do customers need your product or service? Most likely they do, but you have to grab their attention and keep it.
- Location – Is your business more accessible than other similar businesses? Is it close to a business you could join with to do a dual branding campaign? For example, if you have a dry cleaning business, is there an alterations business near where the both of you could combine promotion and branding efforts?
- Business Name – Does your business name say what you do? If it doesn’t, how will you let potential customers know what you sell?
- Slogan – Do you have a slogan? If not, think about your business from top to bottom and create some slogans. You can play around with the ones you like and try them out on friends or relatives. Enlist the help of your radio and newspaper ad reps. You do pay them to offer you a service so pick their brain!
- Value – Do your customers feel they are receiving a good price for your product or service? If not, you aren’t branding the value of what you sell.
- Recognition – When someone thinks of buying a product or service that you sell, do they think of your business? If not, branding is the key.
- Logo - Does your logo stand out? Do people recognize it? If you're not good at designing a logo, make an investment and hire a professional.
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Tips On Branding
Some marketing experts will tell you that no matter how good your product or service is, that isn’t enough. They will also point out that if people don’t know who you are or recognize your logo, the largest ad campaign in the world won’t help. So how can you brand your business? Start with these tips:
Think Like a Consumer – When you go out to buy something, what makes one product stand out more than another? What is the company doing to catch your attention? If you’re looking for a mouthwatering ice cream cake do you go directly to the largest ice cream chain because they display their ice cream cakes on television constantly? That’s branding.
Think About Value – Just because you tell people your product or service is the better value, how can they be sure? Make what you sell valuable to customers by getting them to recognize your product first and skip the other guy. This will require some marketing and promotion in addition to other branding tools.
Make a Difference – Your product or service must be different from your competitors. Even if your product is exactly the same, find a way to make yours unique and clever. If you and a business owner down the street sell the same kind of tires, throw in an alignment for free.
Stick With Your Brand – Nothing confuses consumers more if you hop all over the place in your advertising campaigns. Don’t change your logo either. Find one that works and stick with it. Only keep employees who are committed to promoting your brand with great customer service.
Rely on Customer Input – If you hear customers saying they like something you’re doing, ask them why and build on that input.
Evolve When It’s Time – You may be stuck with a slow-moving brand. If this happens, start at the beginning again and reconnect with your customers. Find out how you lost trust and value.
Make It Seem Like a Secret – You want people to buy from you and you want repeat as well as new customers. If you offer individual customers something and make them feel it’s only for them, they will talk and soon others will want the same thing. Only do this if you are prepared to entice your customers in exactly the same way. Make them feel you are doing something special just for them.
How important is branding? Think about it the next time you buy a car, eat out, or go to the grocery store. When you visit your favorite places, think like a consumer and write down what drove you there in the first place.