Uncategorized with tags 29 October, 2008


Branding is the creation and development of your company’s brand: the logo, images, slogans, ideas and other information connected to your company or product. Branding is what makes your company recognizable and unique, and this site will provide valuable research points to help get you started.

1. Branding – Overview

Branding - Overview For the most effective branding, a memorable name and a ubiquitous slogan should be combined with an instantly recognizable and unique logo. A logo is the graphic or design by which your firm or product will come to be imagined by the customer. As in other elements of branding, simplicity can often be the best strategy. Your logo can be as straightforward as a simple geometric shape or, potentially, an elaborate design of a simple idea — such as a silhouette of a person or an object. In contrast to other elements of branding, your logo needn’t in itself be a clear representation of what your firm does, or what your product is. Its most important factor is being recognizable and unique.

To use another of the most famous examples from popular branding, Kentucky Fried Chicken’s logo is the ‘Colonel Sanders’ design — a smiling image of the face of the firm’s founder. In itself, this iconic branding doesn’t represent ‘chicken’, or even food of any kind. But it is remembered in association with the name of the firm, meaning that as a whole package, its branding successfully keeps the firm lodged in its customers’ memories.

Once the logo has been chosen, it should be used regularly and consistently throughout your branding strategy, in order to represent your firm or product wherever possible. You should combine the elements of your branding — firm name, slogan and logo — on each piece of correspondence you make or advertising space you buy related to your product. This means that emails, letterheads, business cards and invoices, and promotion and advertising, should bear the main elements of your branding. In doing this, your branding will be extended to the reaches of everything you and your products do, and will continue to spread the word of your growing success.

2. Analyze the Competition and Realign Your Branding

Analyze the Competition and Realign Your Branding With the basic elements of your branding strategy in place, you should begin to extend your branding across the marketplace. This is important because much of your strategy’s effectiveness lies in its consistency. To ensure this is achieved, it must be remembered that each time a potential customer or regular customer has any kind of contact with your firm, whether through visiting your company’s website online or simply in seeing a printed advertisement, he or she has what should be understood as a branding experience.

Bearing this in mind, it becomes clear why regularly fine-tuning your branding strategy to better suit the desires of your customers is absolutely crucial. This is especially true if your firm is in a particularly competitive market, up against several rival products or services which claim to do what yours does, and possibly even better, through their own branding. It is specifically your branding that will separate your product from the competitors.

To ensure your branding maintains a strong statement and to continue differentiating it from your rivals’, you will need to regularly assess the competition in your particular market. To perform what could be called a competitive analysis, you should keep track of your competitors’ branding by taking clippings of their advertisements, reviewing any PR coverage they have achieved, researching their online presence by analyzing their website, and even by trying their products or services — especially if they have introduced new products or branding strategies. Then you should decide what especially continues to make your product different — what sets it apart from the rest. It will always be this differentiation that allows you to create an image that remains in customers’ imaginations. Therefore, you should continue to be willing to realign your branding strategy to fulfill this fact.

3. Create a Slogan

Create a Slogan Once you have selected an appropriate name, logically the next stage in the branding process is to accompany this with a slogan, or statement summing up your intentions and strengths. For the most effective branding results, the slogan you select should be a short sentence which is memorable or ‘catchy’ and, again, easily remembered by customers. This will then combine with your name to strengthen the branding structures working for your product.

Slogans can be just as difficult as names to create. Saying something powerful and original in a small number of words is a tough part of the branding process. In order to generate ideas for slogans to lead your branding, you should always stay focused on the potential customer. What are they looking for in a product such as yours? What values and aspirations do they expect from a firm producing it? Why should they buy your product in particular? What do the products and slogans of your rivals represent? The slogan you choose should attempt to take into account strong answers to each of these questions.

To help understand why this stage of the branding process is so important; think about slogans prevalent in popular culture today. The phrase ‘Just do it’, representing a proactive, energetic and no-fuss attitude to life, instantly recalls the branding of Nike. When seen, either on billboards or on Nike clothing itself, the customer takes in both these represented values and the Nike name, and comes more and more to associate them as a permanent combination. This is branding at its most effective, and is what anyone or firm choosing a slogan should seek to emulate.

4. Overview

Overview The practice of branding is historic, dating back to ancient civilizations. In the relatively modern era of the ‘Wild’ West, ranchers transporting their livestock marked cows by branding. This was to mark what was theirs – preventing any confusion within cattle ownership. The result of this was a particularly memorable design, literally burned into animals’ hides via a red-hot iron forged into the personalized and distinctive marking. The ranchers were thus able to identify which stock was their own, and which of their peers owned other cows, all depending on the branding their animals did (and did not) bear.

Nowadays, ‘branding’ still involves distinctive markings, albeit ones representing products and services far more diverse than livestock. What does branding represent today? What was formerly and more literally termed simply branding in cattle-owning circles is these days described in terms such as ‘logo’ or ‘corporate identity’. But the core principles of branding: — differentiation and identity — remain.

An unnamed figure once said that: “Branding is the promise that you make to your customer.” Whichever way it is defined, branding is of utmost importance to firms producing goods and services wishing to gain an advantage over competitors. As competition within industries intensifies, maintaining a powerful brand allows a firm’s products to gain prominence, avoiding dangers like price wars that befall less distinctive products with less successful branding. Thus, a grasp of branding strategy is essential in order to establish strong products and product lines. There are several key elements to successful branding.

5. Get the Message Out

Get the Message Out Once the above elements of your branding are ready to be put into effect, you should start to think about where your branding campaign is going to be targeted — which areas do you want to reach, and what kind of people do you want to be affected by your branding? In brainstorming at this stage, you should seek to analyze every possibility open to your product, and begin to analyze the feasibility of your firm gaining a presence in these areas.

Like the selection of your branding itself generally, the selection of potential advertising locations for your branding depends heavily on the profile of your desired customer — a profile you will have gauged from the early steps of developing a branding strategy. Think about what your targeted customer does in their daily life. What do they read? Which websites do they visit? Where do they go? What films and television shows do they watch? Where do they eat and drink? Once you have a clearer picture of these things, you should start preparing advertising material and ‘message’ within your branding with which to target these areas.

Different advertising formats require different designs to be effective as part of your branding. You should analyze advertising you know to have been effective, and ask why. If you can afford it, specialists should be brought in to aid you with this stage of the branding process. Online, print, billboard and other locations can then be targeted with branding messages to your potential customers, letting them know that your product is available and persuading them that they want it.

6. Consolidate and Integrate your Messages

Consolidate and Integrate your Messages Each time a customer interacts with any part of your branding strategy, they must know what to expect. This must be an absolutely consistent message. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that your branding strategy is uniform across all marketing channels. You should begin to self-criticize your branding strategy. How consistently is the branding message being communicated? Are any of the messages being delivered through your various programs conflicting?

An obvious example is closely integrating the web and ‘real world’ elements of your branding. Clearly, your online branding strategy — from your website’s main content to soliciting email responses — must be integrated completely with your offline, ‘real world’ branding strategy. This will enable you to deliver one, clear branding message, incorporating the same related logos, slogans and general design elements across a variety of advertising formats. This unified approach to branding is vital if you are to make the most of each of the elements of your strategy.

You should always be willing to fine-tune your branding strategy. This can be done most simply via self-assessment — straightforwardly analyzing what you are doing and thinking of ways in which it could be improved and made into more effective and successful branding. Your firm’s branding and communications should in effect be audited — is there money being spent on branding which is going to waste? Could resources be more effectively allocated elsewhere? In doing this you will constantly be improving and honing your branding strategy.

7. Choose a Name for Your Firm or Product

Choose a Name for Your Firm or Product Crucial to branding is choosing of a name that is both simply memorable and is particular to your firm or product. This name should ideally be short — perhaps even restricted to three words or fewer. This is necessary because any longer-length names tend to be too difficult for customers to recall easily enough, which is obviously detrimental to your branding objectives. This stage in the branding process may require extensive research and legal screening, in order to guarantee the availability and uniqueness of your desired name.

It could also be useful to gain customer input at this stage of the branding process — for example through ‘Focus Groups’ — to gauge reactions from your potential customers as to the desirability and suitability of your chosen branding. It is also crucial at this sta ge to think about how your name will work in an online context. Unable to pick up a product, and with thousands of similar-sounding sites to choose from, online consumers have very little to go on except for trusted and familiar branding.

On the web, a difficulty for firms’ branding is that there are no physical landmarks allowing customers to remember where and in which general area they can find you. In the ‘real’ world, if a customer has a favorite food store, he or she needn’t even know the name of the store, or be particularly persuaded by its branding, in order to get themselves to it and buying its products. Provided that they know the store has its premises at the corner of Main and Fifth Ave., they’ll remember that and always be able to find it. The fact that this advantage does not exist for firms online makes their choosing a memorable name and their branding strategy generally, all the more important.

8. Analyze your Customers

Analyze your Customers It is one thing to analyze your rivals’ branding strategies and work to differentiate yours from theirs, but quite another to be sure that your realigned branding strategy will definitely be effective. Once you know what in particular separates your product from its competitors, you should then seek to discover whether placing this at the forefront of your branding strategy will continue to be popular with your potential customers, and if not, what in fact will. Your branding can then be realigned again.

Important, therefore, is to discover how well you really know and understand them and their aspirations. By thoroughly researching — through online forums, mail-out surveys, focus groups etc — and creating a clear portrait of what your customers want, you will be able to better focus your branding endeavors. Doing this will also enable you to send your branding message to the type of audience that will be most receptive to the original or unique elements of your product, again giving focus to your branding strategy.

However, in this stage of the branding process, it is important to bear in mind that you cannot please every customer in the marketplace. In fact, attempting to make you or your product ‘all things to all people’ will only result in a vague, diluted and rather weak branding. Whereas, clearly defined branding differentiation, based on what your most valuable customers desire, need and generally value the most will result in strong branding and sales.

9. Live Up to Your Branding and Begin to Innovate

Live Up to Your Branding and Begin to Innovate Delivering on the above branding strategies should bring custom and loyalty from your potential clients. But to ensure their loyalty and faith in your products, and continuing success for your branding, it must be seen to be truthful and honest. The expectations raised by the branding must be felt by consumers to have been met. Therefore, it is not advisable for a branding strategy to market a product as the ‘premier’ example in its field if it is in fact inferior to several other well-known competitors.

Provided you do live up to your branding efforts in this way, the custom it will bring should enable you to succeed competitively, even become a marketplace leader. But this in itself brings requirements as well. To perform like a leader, and to suggest this is true in your branding, means making good on your new branding promises. This essentially requires innovation, leading the way in technologies in your industry and continuing to steal a march on competitors by releasing series of leading products. Customers want to purchase from the leaders in industries, and those who can proudly boast to be so, not usually from middling firms behind the times.

More than ever before, customers consider the wider-ranging experience they enjoy with products, and take this into account before making their purchases, particularly ones of significant cost to them. Consumers now look at multiple product reviews online, read in-depth pieces of information on competing products and pay a lot of attention to testimony from consumer-peers so they may feel confident that their purchase will live up to expectations produced by branding campaigns. In conclusion, this makes matching your branding strategy with real results ever more important. The delivery of effective product becomes branding in and of itself as customers compare experiences and breed more custom and loyalty to your brand.