Branding Demystified

Branding Demystified

The term “branding” is featured so much on marketing and business websites, and you probably have an idea of what you think it means – something to do with associating your company with a specific image or the visual representation of your business. When it comes to your own business or freelance work, does this definition resonate with you? Or does it seem like something that only applies to large, established businesses, and therefore not especially relevant to your fledgling enterprise? Perhaps having more of an understanding of what branding is all about will enlighten you as to why it matters, however large or small your business is.

So, what exactly is it?

If you search for branding online, you will retrieve millions of results that define what branding is. The trouble is, they will have differing explanations according to how authoritative the website is, how long ago the piece was written, and the motivation behind the article. Brands and branding have evolved from the original definition, which was a recognizable name and/or graphic associated with a specific company. People still talk in terms of “named brands” as opposed to “own label” brands, and all they mean in this context is that the former is sold by an independent business under a unique name, while the latter is produced for a store and sold under the store name.

Think of Coca Cola, a named brand, and Sam’s Choice, the Walmart own brand version. Branding then is the process of selecting the philosophies of your company, the attributes of what you are selling and the message you want to convey into a cohesive whole, and designing an image that illustrates these elements in a recognizable and effective graphical representation. Or in the simplest of terms, it’s the image you present to the public that persuades them to buy your stuff.

Why should that matter to small businesses?

All businesses are small when they start, even ones like Levi’s or Kellogg’s that we think of as having been around forever, stalking the earth like the commercial equivalent of Tyrannosaurus Rex. They all started out as the dreams of one or two people, brought to life in a single outlet and built up over time into the corporate monoliths they are now. They have succeeded because they have gotten the key elements of their businesses right, and one thing they have all achieved is the creation of a strong brand identity. They understood the importance of making their product stand out, and that is what branding is all about. To accomplish even a tiny fraction of their success, you need to start seeing with the same vision as the names behind these iconic businesses, and work on creating your own brand identity. Even the self-employed and sole traders need to find a way of standing out from all the other individuals trying to sell bicycle parts or hand-made pet collars, and the way to stand out is with effective branding.

How can you create an effective brand?

The first step is to identify all the factors that need to be represented by your brand. As mentioned above, this means writing down your company philosophy, what you sell, and why it’s so good, and why people would be crazy not to buy from you. Once you’ve condensed this down into bite-sized statements, you’ll have a clear picture of the message you are trying to convey with your branding. You can then use this information to start work on graphics and straplines. You could employ a designer to work with you on creating a logo for your business, or you can create one yourself using tools such as DIY Logo. Simplicity is generally the most effective approach, as a simple logo is more easily associated with the business that it represents and can be readily identified by consumers.

What makes branding work?

Branding is part science and part art, so there’s no way to be one hundred percent positive that your branding will work. What you can do is increase the chances that it will by making sure that what you have come up with meets certain criteria. Your branding is chiefly aimed at the target market you have identified as part of your marketing plan, and needs to be in a form that will instantly appeal to them and catch their eye. Consumers are bombarded with visual and aural messages all day long from multiple sources, and your branding needs to speak directly to the people you want to appeal to. It needs to be unique, not resembling anything else that’s out there, firstly for the very practical reason that if you copy an existing brand too closely, you could face legal proceedings, but also because you want to be identified as an original and innovative business that is worth people’s time to engage with. Your brand must also be an accurate and positive representation of the values you and your business hold, values which will strike a chord with people who share them and want to use businesses that are of like mind.

Say for example your company sells vegan cosmetics…

…then you would be targeting vegan, vegetarian and animal welfare markets as they are the consumers most likely to buy your products. You would need to make it clear in your branding that you believe wholeheartedly in the welfare of animals, the benefits of veganism, and your opposition to the use of animals in cosmetic testing and manufacture. Allying your business with a respected organization that supports related causes is a good way of demonstrating your ethical credentials. You would want to be transparent about your screening methods and quality control, so consumers could see that you have nothing to hide in your production processes. These are the philosophies you want to share, so a perfect logo would be a simple outline of a swan’s head and the line “Beauty Without Cruelty.” This sums up the company and the products in a succinct and stylish way, telling the consumer exactly what the company is about and instantly resonating with anyone who cares about animal welfare.

In case you didn’t already know, Beauty Without Cruelty is a real company that has been selling animal-friendly cosmetics for years. You can’t use their logo, but you can follow their example in creating an eye-catching and effective brand for your business.

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