How to Effectively Brand Your Business

There are so many companies that think they’ve branded themselves successfully because they have a logo, tag lines and company colors. However, these things do not make a successful brand; they are only part of the brand experience. A brand is built through the experiences of your customers and clients. It can only be spread through word of mouth because it has everything to do with how people perceive your company and how they feel about it. Advertising and marketing strategies only reinforce the sentiment.

There is one fundamental question that a logo or tag lines cannot answer – why? Why do you do what you do? Branding is more than getting recognized as a legitimate company. It is the expression of the soul of your company; the values and the beliefs that motivated you to build it and that continue to drive the company forward. It is the communication of the bigger picture, beyond profits.

A brand is defined and shaped by the experience that you create for your customers through the intangibles of business like customer service, social media communication and in-store interaction, the unique value proposition and the emotional selling points you inspire. Take for example large companies like Apple and McDonald’s, or a smaller one like Real California Milk. Each one evokes a unique, unmistakable feeling, image and set of expectations just by sheer mention of the name.

Understand and Appreciate

Understand your audience – who they are, how they live, what motivates them, what fears and frustrations they have and their expectations. It is the most important part of branding your business. If you do not understand the people you’re reaching out to and appreciate them, how can you reach them effectively? This knowledge will allow you to develop products or services that are specifically targeted to the things they need and the ability to offer it to them in a way that will provide real tangible and emotional value.

If you are not a startup, but an established business, it is also important to be aware of how people already feel about your company. Conduct surveys and leverage social media to get in touch with the place your company has in the lives of your customers. Research, driven by a genuine curiosity and interest in your consumer base, will go a long way toward understanding them and developing a branding strategy that will appeal to them.

Differentiate Yourself

Sometimes, understanding your audience is the easy part. It is also important to understand your business. How do you differ from your competitors? The answer to this question must go beyond features, benefits or price. It is about the values, beliefs, motivation and ideals that affect the service and mentality of your business. You must be preferentially different. The “experience” of your customers must be unique, positive, and even addictive if possible. (A fishing expedition in my younger years was never complete without a trip through the McDonald’s Drive-Thru). The message you convey about your company should resonate and encompass a distinctly positive feeling.

A great way to do this is to think of five adjectives that you want to come to mind when someone thinks about your company. Then find different ways to evoke those feelings through all of the points of contact that you offer. This includes your physical space, your website, your advertising, customer service, and your public relations.  All should foster that uniquely positive customer experience that is unmistakably you.

Take milk, for example. Or water. Most people would say that milk is milk, not much changes beside the amount of fat. However, Real California Milk has differentiated themselves from the rest of dairy farmers through market specialization and their “Happy Cows” Campaign. You know the commercials I’m talking about, right? “Great cheese comes from happy cows. Happy cows come from California.” They are reaching out to animal rights advocates and people that just love great cheese. They also target people that support small family owned and operated farms. Each of these points ties into their overall brand, which they convey through humor, and makes them irresistible.

And water? It flows over the ground. It pours out of the sky. It comes out of the tap. Companies bottle it up. How do these companies differentiate themselves when selling a tasteless beverage that is basically free? Take FIJI Water, for example. Natural artesian water. It emphasizes the remoteness, distance and isolation of the island, and therefore the distance between pollution, acid rain and industrial waste from their source of water. “That distance and isolation is part of what makes FIJI Water so much purer and richer in taste than other bottled waters.

Each company has some claim on a place where their water remains untouched by man, explaining their purification process in a preferentially distinct way – that it comes from some secret spring thousands of feet below the earth’s surface. You know the gimmicks. But it works because people are not just buying the water; they’re buying into the image – untouched, pristine, sweet, crisp, cool water from some exclusive spring, bottled solely for your refreshment. Somehow it just seems fresher than the water that comes out of the tap. FIJI makes the point that it’s even fresher than other bottled waters, making it not only pure, but exclusive – like the island itself.

Express Yourself

While politics seems to have a monopoly on the term transparency, it is also useful in business. It has resonance. People are extremely experienced with advertising, and they appreciate a company’s candid effort to explain who they are and what they’re about. Visit Real California Milk’s website. Check out their “About Us” section. It gives you the history of the industry, the mission of the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), a collection of their press releases and case studies, and the Dairy Princesses Program (awww!!).

The number one place that people go to learn about your company is the “About Us” page on your website. Take advantage of it by making it personal. Tell a short story, relaying the history of the company with little known facts and the motivations behind its creation. If you’re a small business, include pictures and bios of your employees with their contact information.

Real California Milk goes above and beyond this, devoting entire pages to “Farm Life,” where you can watch documentaries and get to know the families behind the dairy farms.  They discuss how their industry is trying to decrease their carbon footprint and the technologies they have incorporated. They also talk about how they care for their animals, explaining what truly makes them “Happy Cows.” They provide recipes and have a place where you can submit your own. For Californians, they provide local ads and coupons for their product. They provide insight into their industry and the people that help make it work. Their message evokes credibility, trust and authority. They make it seem that the things they do are done for you personally. Their message clearly says, “We care about dairy farmers, we care about our animals and we care about you.”

McDonald’s

McDonald’s is famous for the consistency of their “high-quality food and uniform methods of preparation.” Since their humble beginnings (which are described on their “Our Story” page), they have become a staple of American society with “billions and billions served,” simply because the formula never changes. From Washington to Florida, New Jersey to California, you know what you’re going to get when you walk into a McDonald’s and everyone’s “Lovin’ It.” It is what people have come to expect of the company and McDonald’s understands this – the world over. Their food is a huge part of their experience. And who could forget Ronald McDonald and his House Charities? And the Hamburgler? I loved that guy.

Maybe you have sentimental memories involving those Golden Arches, too. I know I do. Before I moved, every time I went early morning fishing with my family, we would stop and get McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches. Sausage, egg and cheese on a biscuit? Yumm.. If we would eat inside, a staple of our visit was the green plastic encased conveyor belt that moved orders over the seating area from the kitchen to the drive-thru. My brothers and I would always try and guess how many people were in the car outside and what they were going to eat, all the while playing with our Happy Meal toys. As I got older and started driving, I would get lost frequently. It was only when I found a set of Golden Arches that I stopped to figure out where I was and where I was going. It somehow seemed safer – I knew what to expect there, even if I wasn’t eating anything. Ohh…memories. That is what a brand strives for, what a successful one achieves.

Apple

It wasn’t until after the iPhone was released that I saw TV commercials for it. However, I still knew it was coming because everyone was talking about it, including the media. The amount of excitement about, and dare I say obsession over, Apple’s newest product made it so that they didn’t have to spend vast amounts of money advertising. Their brand is so strong and so integrated into people’s lives that their consumer base basically advertised the iPhone 5 for them. People will always believe “There’s an app for that,” and like one of their slogans said, their products are “Solving life’s dilemmas – one app at a time.”

When people think of Apple, they think of pristine products, great design, elegance, effortless integration, A to Z solutions and always tout the fact that “They work.” However, the newest version of Maps for the iPhone left people more than disappointed. However, Apple is committed to its brand and its customers, and so one of the first things you see on their website is this letter of apology and motivation. Rather than tell people to bug off, that the version of Maps they introduced was the best they had, they sympathized with people’s frustration, acknowledged that it didn’t meet with their customer’s expectation of the brand experience and promised that the more people used it, the better it would get because of their commitment to listening to customer feedback and incorporating it into their products.

That is what a successful brand does. It highlights a company’s values and beliefs. It includes its audience in what it does. It evokes a consumer’s sense of ownership, making them feel like they are invested in the company, that it is a part of their life they can no longer do without. When a new Apple product comes out, my future father-in-law goes to “his Apple store,” meets with “his Apple rep” – he knows a guy. The McDonald’s closest to my house becomes “my McDonald’s.” If you can tap into the hearts of your consumer base, they will reward you for it by evangelizing your brand to their friends and family, bolstering your marketing efforts without increasing the amount you spend on it.

Clearly, branding your company can play a powerful role in your business’s growth and development.  It lives in the core of who you and your company are really all about. Optimum7 is an internet marketing company that will work closely with you to understand your brand and develop the most effective online marketing strategies that will improve engagement and increase conversions. Contact us today to learn more!