You’ve got a great product or service.
You’ve worked hard on it, invested all your time and energy in making it awesome.
It’s your baby.
It’s something that people are going to love.
The problem is that they don’t know you, they don’t know your product.
And unless you’re a true innovator, there are bound to be products available which are very similar to yours. Of course, your competitors will have built their reputations over many years and will be well established.
How can you get anyone to take notice of you?
Well, the answer is branding. Branding is more than just a logo, a slogan, or design scheme. It’s more than that. Branding is about offering not just a product, but an experience.
If you want to build an audience, you need to engage them. Offering them an experience is the way to do this. If you get this right, you’ll gain loyal customers who will want to buy from you again and again, then rush tell their friends all about how awesome you are.
What is branding
Branding is something more than just the features of your product. It’s something more intangible, but also more powerful. Branding is what you make people feel.
Think Apple. Apple sell personal computers. But what do people feel when they think of Apple? Cool, sophisticated, innovative, creative.
Think BMW. BMW sell cars. But what do people feel when they think of BMW? Luxurious, classy, high-performance, pleasurable.
Why branding matters
Every time you pick up a branded can of soda in preference to the store brand, that’s branding at work.
Scientists conducted a study where subjects brains were monitored whist they were given Coke and Pepsi. When they were not told what brand they were drinking, their brain activity showed a preference for Pepsi. Now when they were told what brand they were drinking, they brain activity showed a preference for Coke.
The subjects had such a strong brand loyalty to Coke that it actually overrode what their taste buds were telling them.
How branding can work for you
Now you might not be selling soda. You might be selling consultancy services, or hand-crafted artwork.
Whatever your industry, you’re communicating with your audience. You’re communicating to build engagement and win trust. You’re communicating to form a relationship that will lead to a sale.
Branding is about conveying your core values with every communication. Your branding should be present in everything you say or do.
It needs to be intentional.
You need a strategy.
5 Key elements of an effective brand strategy
If you want your brand to make a lasting impression on your audience, you need to incorporate the following 5 elements in your brand strategy:
1. Know your audience
How well do you know your audience? I mean really know them. Many people think they know their audience, and run their business on the basis of these assumptions. If this is you, put your assumptions aside. Roll your sleeves up and get ready to do some serious research.
Study your audience on social media, conduct online surveys, go out and talk to them. Learn as much as you can about them. Are they single or married? What jobs do they do? Did they go to college? What are their hobbies? What are they passionate about? What are they afraid of?
Once you get to know your audience inside out, you’ll know how to connect with them. You’ll know how to make them take notice, how to make them excited, how to win their trust.
Now you can fine tune your brand strategy to speak to them. Use the language they use. Evoke the values they hold dear. Reference the TV shows and bands they love. You want them to nod their head in recognition when they read your blog and social media posts. You what to show them that you just “get it.”
Side Note: To go into more detail on how to do this, we just wrote a post about how you can conduct in-depth market research of your customers (for free) using tools such as Quora and Twitter.
2. Make a clear promise
Just understanding your audience is not enough. You need to make a commitment to them. You need to make them a promise. Your promise is the rock on which your brand is built. It’s what makes you more than someone offering a product. It encapsulates a set of values, a belief system, a desire to improve the lives of your audience.
You can make your promise explicit by stating it in plain English. You can make your promise implicit in the way you do what you do. Better still, do both.
Tony Hsieh built online shoes and clothing retailer Zappos on a reputation for exemplary customer service. He’s fond of telling a story where one of his clients wanted a pizza after a late night out. Tony suggested the guy called Zappos customer service for help. Zappos took the call, and despite being a fashion retailer, they were happy to find 3 local pizza parlors and make the order for the client.
3. Have a unique proposition
Now if you have a product or service that no one else is offering, congratulations. You’ve got this covered. Move on to the next section.
But chances are, you don’t. And that’s ok. Most of us are in the same boat.
Now even if you’re surrounded by a sea of competitors selling a similar product, you can find something different about what you’re offering.
I didn’t say it’s easy. You can start with your product. Is there any feature, however small, that you have that the others don’t?
How about the way you offer your product? Is there something about your service that stands out?
Dominos Pizza started out as a humble local pizza joint. Their pizza was not so different to the thousands of other pizza joints in the US. But the founder Tom Monaghan made a promise. To deliver your pizza in 30 minutes – or it’s free. On the basis of this promise, Dominos become one of the fastest growing franchises in history.
4. Appeal to the emotions
Emotions play a very powerful part in decision making. From the teenage child to the hardened CEO, we’re all swayed by our emotions. Even though we often think we’re not.
Copywriting legend Joseph Sugarman put it like this: “We buy on emotion and justify with logic.”
Branding is all about appealing to the emotions. Instead of presenting your audience with a set of features, you’re offering them an experience. You’re promising them that you’ll make them more exciting, more influential, more successful. You’re offering them not just your product but the brand associations that go with it.
Imagine you’re shopping for a pair of jeans. You need jeans because you want to clothe your legs. Now you could do this with a supermarket brand costing $20. But maybe you’ll choose a designer brand costing $200.
Why would you want to do that?
The designer brand has invested heavily in its branding. It’s very name evokes feelings of prestige, desirability, coolness. So you could be prepared to pay a premium for this. But you probably won’t want to admit how much you’re swayed by this. Instead, you might say that you bought the designer jeans because of the “superior stitching” or the “premium fabric” or some such.
5. Be consistent
Branding is something that builds slowly over time. As you gain exposure, you start to imprint your brand in the minds of your audience. If you do it right, your name will be the first that pops up whenever they’re thinking about your industry.
The key to building your brand over time is consistency. Consistency conveys that you’re true to your vision, you have integrity, you can be trusted. People won’t be thinking, “I wonder what this guy can do for me?” They just know.
Consistency means that all aspects of your branding are aligned. If your social media posts are bursting with enthusiasm and passion but your customer service representatives are dull and indifferent, that’s going to send a mixed signal to your audience. As a result, your audience will get confused and will feel that there’s something “off” about your brand.
If you do it right, you’ll be giving your audience a seamless experience through every medium of communication. Through every interaction, your audience will get to know you better, they’ll get to trust you, to feel aligned with you. So whenever they’re ready to buy, you’re their obvious and natural choice.
Creating your own brand identity
Now I’ve shown you how branding can work for your business, you might be thinking about how to create your own brand identity.
Branding agencies typically charge tens of thousands of dollars to help you create and develop your brand. We’re talking big dollars here.
Luckily for you, I’ve created a simple guide that will get you started on your brand journey. And it’s completely free.
So here it is: How to Create Your Brand Identity in 6 Easy Steps
Author: Clement Lim
Clement Lim is an experienced freelance copywriter and content strategist based in London, UK. He helps businesses around the world with their digital marketing strategies. Read more of his work at limwriter.com, or connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.