Branding is not just your logo. It encompasses all the visual elements you use within your company such as your website, your marketing materials, adverts you place and any other tools you use.
Branding can be the ambience of your business, including how you and your employees conduct themselves. Branding can filter through everything you and your company do (or don’t do!).
It’s essential, especially in the crowded and fiercely competitive marketplaces we find ourselves operating in. Customers are savvier than ever. If your company looks a little ragged around the edges, you may find that they pass you by, preferring the ‘look and feel’ of your competitors instead. Stop this exodus and start gaining customers back.
But, a note of caution, – before starting the branding exercise make sure it is not ‘half-hearted’ and ill thought out. As the saying goes, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Use authoritative sources for research and where to start.
So before you start, take our 7 step guided journey to what should be included in your branding… and some hints on how to get started.
This can take a few days of brainstorming among your top people so don’t be surprised it if takes a while. What you are looking for is a tagline that will inspire an emotional response in your customers. What is it that you want your customers to remember about you?
You need to identify your customers, as well as who your competitive crowd is. What are you competitors doing and how can you be different? However, you do need to be realistic – there will be similarities between businesses operating in the same sector – hence you need to make sure you keep the positives but show your consumers how you stand out.
When you come across a company that has this as part of their branding, it looks effortless. But this is a marathon, not a sprint. You want your employees to act appropriately with customers; you want them to be approachable yet professional. This starts for some businesses with their uniform or dress code, but it is more than this. Once you have decided on how you want your employees to ‘look’ in terms of their professionalism and ‘attitude’, you need to bear this in mind when hiring. Research has shown that one bad experience with one of your employees can drive away hundreds if not thousands of pounds of business.
Once you have started on the branding journey you will reach a point where you need to let it marinate and develop. Your branding will flourish – with time and patience… and a lot of what constitutes the 5th step…
In all honesty this is where branding tends to slip or simply end; once you have made those all important decisions about how your logo looks, what your tagline conveys to customers and all the other marketing bits and bobs, you need to apply them consistently across the board – from email signatures to the branding in your office. Everything.
If you feel yourself faltering or unsure how to take your branding to the next level, then you need the input of an expert in marketing and branding. It might be that the professional takes you back to step 1, examining in detail what you opted for some parts of your branding etc. but having a strong brand is essential if you are serious about expanding in your market.
Your brand is not just your business, the logo or the letterhead. It is about the people that essentially make your business; from the chap who delivers your products to customers, to the people on the shop floor. They are all part of it and, in essence, they carry it. Invest in people to do the basic, core functions of your business – and train them to do it well!
There is no doubt that cobbling something together over the weekend is not going to do your branding exercise any favours. There may be certain aspects that you simply need help or input from professionals and design concepts is one of them. If you want a website that not only works well but looks great, you need a designer… poorly designed branding can look disjointed and off-putting.
James Birch is the sales and marketing manager at Colour Graphics. He is an expert in quality printed marketing materials
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