A brand defines a business. More than just attention to colours and logos, branding entails the message put across to consumers. Put simply, it is how consumers perceive your business. By this definition, branding also refers to your brand value, culture and promise.
For a small business this can sound rather intimidating, but not until you recognise the value of branding.
Small business should think like big businesses
Establishing a brand is like building a business – it can take years. Like big businesses, small businesses need to invest in branding to build long-term relationships with consumers. The result is brand loyalty towards your products or services. Think Mac users.
Mac users connect intuitively to the Apple branding – of course it helps that Apple offers great products. Brand associations derived from strong brand identities can influence consumers’ purchasing decisions for many years to come.
A strong brand identity is an asset that leads to brand differentiation. When your competitors wage a price war, you can afford to steer clear of price cuts. Loyal consumers would not turn to your competitors over petty discounts as a result. With correct positioning of your brand, you can even command higher prices for your products or services. As such, branding efforts reap results measurable in terms of dollars and cents over time.
As mentioned earlier, Apple carries many great products. But if you recall, Apple’s big break, the iPod, was a music player featuring a hierarchical user interface first conceived and patented by local company Creative Technology. Even though Creative Technology was already selling its equivalent Zen music players, Apple’s iPod won the hearts of consumers with strong packaging and branding. The popularised use of iPod even became a social culture. So does branding matter?
Branding has changed for small businesses
Against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, there appears to be more worrying issues than branding. While increasing productivity and lowering operational costs rank high on the agenda, setting aside resources for branding does not. But this notion has to change to achieve business sustainability.
For a long time, conventional brand-building strategies favour businesses equipped with large branding budgets. But the business landscape has since changed. When you take your business online now, you pit yourself alongside bigger brands. It is a cost effective approach that instantly levels the playing field. Doing so avails your business to one of the best ways to engage a bigger market and establish more touch points in your business’ branding journey. Even politicians have to endorse social media.
In fact, small businesses sometimes have an advantage over big businesses. Owing to its scale, small businesses can respond to consumers faster and in more personalised ways. Through social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, small businesses can similarly create authentic and strong brand propositions that engage and create deeper connections with consumers.
Begin your branding journey
Through branding, you want to send out positive brand messages that appeal to present and potential consumers. This commands clarity and commitment. It requires everyone in the business to understand and embrace the brand message.
More importantly, your brand message must be consistent. It must be uniform across marketing collaterals, website, product packaging and customer service contact. The last thing you want is disjointed or fragmented messages that dilute your brand’s value or promise to consumers. For a start, you must be your business’ biggest brand ambassador.