I'm going to go a little Dora the Explorer here and ask you a question you can chose to either respond to - or just stare blankly at. How would you define ... 'brand'? And I know the search bar is right there, but don't Google it. What does branding mean to you? If you're struggling, and you're just stringing buzzwords together because that's how everyone in Marketing communicates - I've got you covered. Not because I'm a branding expert - but because I've been in the same position as you and know what it means to be stumped on a topic you should definitely have a better grasp on than just "Oh, that's like our logo, right?"
To give you the full rundown, strap in for quite the branding bootcamp. In this article, we're going to look at what exactly branding is, why it is important and how you can build and maintain your brand on a budget. Lets start by learning wtf actually is branding? However, if you're just wanting our budget friendly tips and tricks click here to bypass, don't worry, I won't be offended!
What is Branding?
If you're thinking "actually Vanessa, I've got a marketing degree - I think I'd know what branding means" - those of us granted with that oh so important piece of paper are actually guilty of misunderstanding as much as anyone else, so let's get on the same page.
Essentially, a brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies a business from others ... you get the picture. Within the business world, it has come to signify the emotional “gut feeling” reaction a company can elicit from its customers. While Apple's distinctive symbol logo of its trademark fruit, or McDonald's famous golden arches and iconic red and yellow colour scheme are the brand visuals you recall, branding encompasses a lot more than just colours and logos.
Your brand is the set of perceptions people have about your company. The goal is to communicate your promise, set expectations and differentiate yourself from your competitors. Branding is the set of actions you take to cultivate that brand, the strategy to build a strong brand.
Why is Branding Important?
New businesses are popping up left, right and centre, all trying to make a name for themselves. Therefore, creating a strong brand is more important than ever when trying seperate yourself from the crowd. Not only that, but building your brand is part of developing your company's voice, identity, value and awareness among consumers; a journey of self-discovery for your business. Here are a few more reasons on why building a strong brand identity is a no-brainer!
Credibility and Trust
Aside from making your company stick out, a strong brand identity gives some authority in the marketplace. Especially when starting out, kicking off with a strong and consistent brand will build a good foundation for relationships with your customers. Be it a restaurant or tech company, maintaining stable messaging in all aspects including branding helps reinforce your brand promise, making it easier to remember and remain loyal to.
Let's face it, as much as we don't want to admit it, most judge a book by its cover. Therefore, as branding is one of the first things customers come into contact with, it's crucial it makes a good impression. Impressions can come from big details like your website and socials to the smaller things like how your employee's are dressed. While definitely superficial, all points of contact has potential to communicate your brand and should be considered when branding.
Your Company's Mission
If you've followed along so far you'd already know branding is about creating an identity. So, a brand should represent what your company stands for, aka; communicate their mission statement. Through projecting the purpose of your company through your branding you can communicate your company's why which will for sure win you some brownie points with consumers.
Generating New Customers and Delighting Existing Ones
Last but not least, a strong brand can both attract new customers and provide a sense of belonging for returning ones. If your message is clearly communicated in your branding, people who agree with what's on offer will be like bees to honey. And once these people become returning customers, that same brand identity that enticed them will provide them with a reason to stay. As put by HubSpot;
"A good product generates customers, but a good brand generates advocates."
How Can You Brand Your Business on a Budget?
At this point, I'd like to think you've got the basics down on what branding means and what the process involves. While it may all seem pretty extensive and therefore expensive, there's heaps of budget-friendly ways you can brand your business without manically milking the cash cow. Keep reading to learn how to build on a budget!
1. Get a persona to get some perspective
If you've read one of our other blogs you know we harp on about buyer personas a fair bit, and guess what - I'm not stopping now. Knowing your audience is key to creating marketing messages relevant to them, and the best method to understand your customers. Through analysing their pain points, challenges and how your business can solve their problems, you can identify what message your target audience wants to hear from your branding. For some more detailed guidance on developing your buyer personas, check out this blog, or this one, or even this one.
2. Give your brand a voice
Once you're done and dusted with your buyer personas, its time to mould your brand. Creating a brand identity involves asking yourself what makes your brand? One significant segment of this is your brands voice. This includes the tone you use in any copy or public communication and vibe of content in general.
Just like when developing your personas, establishing your brand's voice means that you're answering questions about the personality traits and little bits that make up the business. In every aspect of content creation from emails to blog posts, these answers should be referred. Whether making decisions on the language choices or font, stick to a consistent identity.
3. Map out your consumers and their socials
With a clear picture in mind of who your customers are, it should be super easy for you to figure out which touch points are most appropriate for them. For a little refresher, a touch point is essentially "a message or way a brand reaches out to their target market providing engagement as it allows the brand to be seen by the prospective customer in a favourable way". The easiest place to double down on is socials as it is super easy to spy on your competitors. Identifying where your direct competition is posting and how frequent this is happening can provide useful info. Similarly, investigating how your target audience interacts with socials will identify where you should target your efforts. Our blog titled " Which Social Media Platform Your Business Should Focus On (Quiz)" is a great place to start if you're still looking for a social platform to initiate your investigation.
Generally the rule of thumb is to spread yourself between platforms but aim your main focus to those most used by your target audience. If you diversify your methods, you've got a greater chance in securing new leads and make those connections with as many people as possible. Another thing to note is that once you've established your presence its important you maintain it. This can be done by planning and scheduling content like you would with any marketing calendar.
4. Get on making some content
Blogging is an inbound marketing tool which aims to attract customers through useful and relevant info. We definitely know it works because you're here, reading this blog we wrote specifically for this reason. It's also why a lot of marketers see it as a great tactic to use to turn website browsers from strangers to customers. Through creating content that matches what your personas are searching for, you can establish yourself as an expert in the field. The reason why blogging links well with branding as it is something that can really display the tone and voice of your brand. So take advantage of the opportunity by using language choices and little details that showcase what your business is all about.
Similarly, webinars and masterclasses are other great alternatives which provide helpful content to those seeking it. Using these tools, you can spread the word about the talents of a company, provide data that supports credibility, and promote your company values like delighting customers and giving helpful, educational content to your audience.
5. Customer service is a priority.
While it's hard to see the direct correlation between good customer service and branding, they are definitely connected. Company's with good customer service are more likely able to keep their customer's satisfied. And when it comes to third-party review websites, these satisfied customers are more likely to leave positive reviews, which can effect people's perception of your company - impacting your brands identity. This 'earned media' is super valuable as 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
Co-branding is a lot like looking for someone bigger to give you a piggy back, in that it allows you to utilise another businesses' larger reach to connect with a wider audience you may not have access to at the moment. It's important to remember that the company you choose to have this relationship with should align with your business values and make sense to your audience. Some things to ask yourself when looking for a co-brand:
- Will your partner’s audience be interested in your brand? Is this audience difficult for you to reach without this partnership?
- Will your audience trust your co-brand? That’s crucial to getting them to listen to you, so make sure your partner reaches the audience in a way that instills confidence.
- Do you have something to offer your co-brand? The experience should be a win-win-win: For you, your co-brand, and the consumer.
So there you have it, a few tips into how to build your brand on a budget. While it may not cost much, time will be your greatest expenditure but the results will make it all worth it. Throughout the whole process keep your audience in mind when thinking of creative ways to keep them engaged. And have fun with it - after all, this is a creative process and while every experiment may not work, you can always learn to improve!