By: Kirk Theriot
Although this article is about branding, we won’t be exploring the complexity of brand research, logo design, brand persona, or positioning. Instead, this article will define what a brand really is — it may not be what you think. More specifically, this article will identify the importance of branding and the benefits when executed properly.
What is branding?
If you search for a definition of branding, you might come across this one— “Branding is a way of identifying a business. It is how consumers recognize a business or organization…” and goes on to describe a logo or mark that should be used consistently on marketing materials and uniforms. Although this is technically accurate, it only deals with the surface and not the true meaning of a brand. True branding incorporates the company’s mission, vision, and values—the company’s DNA. Living these values, a true brand is a promise you make to consumers when you do business with them.
Here’s an example: You are a trustworthy person. We know this because your friends, family, and colleagues tell us so. They tell us that when you’ve said that you were going to do something, you’ve always followed through. In fact, you’ve made and kept all of your promises and because of this, you created and reinforced your personal brand reputation as someone that people could count on — so your personal brand is that you are trustworthy.
The example above is how companies should think about their company branding. Brand logos and brand names should be memorable not because of their trendy graphics, marketing, and media. Instead, brand logos and brand names should be visual cues that trigger positive emotions toward the brand promise that is strengthened through consistent and positive consumer experiences.
How to develop a strong brand
Now just like every person is different, every company is unique and its brand should be personalized for each organization’s value system. Deciding what’s most important about your company is crucial to understanding the foundation of a strong brand. Fundamental elements of a brand promise should include:
Your brand must be authentic. Think of the values as the DNA of the brand. Since a brand is a promise, your brand must clearly define what the promise is and how it relates to the core values of your company.
Your brand promise must be significant to your audience. The perception of your brand promise must deliver something unique or better than the competition.
Your brand promise should be consistent across every touch-point. Consistency builds trust and brand loyalty.
Total commitment to your brand promise. Everyone in your organization must live the brand promise in every phase of business—attitude, communications, experience, and delivery of goods and services.
Why are brands so important?
Whether you’re selling a nationally-known product or a regional or local product or service, strong brands are equally important to the success of your organization. Brands are both a strategic and financial asset. Strong brands set your company apart from your competitors. They increase customer loyalty which drives up the value of your company. Continued investments lead to continued strength and value. There are many other values to strong brands, but we’re outlining key benefits that relate to industrial and manufacturing companies.
The first group of benefits relate to the public face and reputation of strong brands.
Win more bids and gain market share with a stronger brand.
A stronger brand allows you to set higher prices for your products and services. People associate higher quality with strong brands and may pay more for a well-branded product or service based on brand experience, reputation, and association with other well-branded companies, even when two products are practically identical. Why? Because strong brands keep their promise and people like to associate with people and brands they know and trust. Brand trust and brand loyalty are key metrics in assessing and evaluating brand performance and equity.
Retain loyal customers.
Business owners and business development experts know that it is easier and costs less to retain a customer than gain a new one. Although all customer relationships need continued nourishment, the fact is that loyal customers require far less marketing efforts and dollars. Loyal customers possess a great deal of trust in the people and within the companies they choose to do business with. This trust is not to be taken lightly — it must be earned and nurtured throughout the relationship. When brand equity is high, loyal customers become brand advocates and can actually help build new business through brand testimonials, recommendations, and referrals.
Create long-term brand awareness and recognition.
Through years of studies and research, we have a clear understanding of the profound effects of advertising. However, creating sustained brand awareness and recognition is the process of continuous and, more importantly, consistent communications that must strategically express the brand promise. Many marketing dollars have been wasted on misguided and ineffective marketing efforts. Effective communications and marketing messages that carefully express the true company values and brand promise will gain brand awareness and recognition and strengthen the brand with consumer trust and loyalty.
Extending Brand Services
Grow business by launching new products and services.
With an established brand and reputation, it is easier to grow your business by offering new products and services. When consumers see a trusted brand on a new concept, they instantly associate the brand promise to that new product or service. Borrowing from earned value, strong brands can capitalize on the strength of a well-established brand to build market share with far less marketing efforts.
The overall strength of most organizations is human capital. Simply put, companies will not build a strong brand without a strong workforce. This is perhaps one of the most overlooked and misunderstood fact of all branding concepts. We’ll link the importance of branding with healthy workforces.
Branding Attracts Talent
Recruit the best talent.
Strong brands help companies recruit and retain the most talented, passionate, and loyal employees. When handled strategically, attracting and managing talent is based on the organization’s value system. This enables employees to understand and participate in the overall direction of the company where every employee feels as if they are part of something bigger than their current project or position. Giving employees opportunities for personal and professional growth helps to create employee engagement, loyalty, and a fulfilled workforce that understands and lives the brand promise every day.
Branding Creates Strong Workforces
Eliminate high employee turnovers.
It is well-known that high employee turnovers cost the industrial and manufacturing market millions of dollars every year. What isn’t known, however, is the connection to (or lack of) branding. Studies show that companies with great brands have lower employee turnovers. Why? Most people are motivated by purpose and desire to make a connection to something good that is bigger than themselves. The science of human motivation shows that people genuinely want to have a lasting impact on their work—they just don’t know how. As part of your brand promise, employers must incorporate brand development into personnel on-boarding and training. Businesses who incorporate purpose-driven branding strategies create a more engaged, motivated, and happy workforce.
Develop employee branding advocates to strengthen your brand.
All companies have unique work cultures. Those who get it right have curated cultures of purpose-driven and rewarded workplaces that are happy to say good things about their purpose. Every single employee is either an advocate that helps build and broadcast your brand promise or someone who tears it down with negativism and toxic attitudes. The process of developing employee advocates and branding ambassadors starts with strategic and consistent internal communications and brand awareness. Your employees, distributors, and associates play a crucial role in delivering the promise. They create and distribute products and services that deliver the brand promise. Brand ambassadors help to continuously strengthen the brand. Maintaining this effort requires continuous and, most importantly, consistent communications to the biggest group of people who have the power to strengthen your brand.