A powerful brand is essential for success in today’s competitive landscape, helping to foster loyalty and attract new customers. It also influences the goodwill value in acquisitions.
Building a strong brand requires careful strategy which begins with the intangible – factors such as a company’s purpose and values. This essence then trickles down into the more concrete elements such as messaging and visual identity.
This article reviews the essential steps in building a brand from the ground up and communicating its identity to consumers.
The Importance of Having a Strong Brand
Having a powerful brand provides many benefits no matter the industry, product, or service in-question and brand development should be foundational aspect of any marketing strategy.
Branding affects purchase decisions considerably; one survey indicated the following:
- 59% of consumers prefer to buy from brands that are familiar to them.
- 21% bought a new product because it was from a brand they like.
- Brands that inspire high emotional intensity receive three times as many word of mouth referrals compared to those invoking a lower intensity of emotion.
- 59% of consumers decide whether a brand becomes their favourite after the first purchase/when service begins.
These figures illustrate the importance of making a powerful first impression and the role that customer service has to play in brand identity.
Authenticity is another important factor. Customers are more likely to purchase from companies that they identify with and trust, especially customers of Gen Z and potentially, Gen Alpha. Powerful branding can also help to increase brand awareness, attract new customers, and differentiate a business from the competition, which is vital at any time but especially when marketing during a recession.
Having a strong brand is essential for both product and service-based businesses. Some argue that for service-based businesses it is even more important due to the intangible nature of their offerings. On the other hand, when product quality is of paramount importance (especially where safety is concerned i.e., businesses selling manufacturing equipment), it is vital for customers to have the assurance that they can trust the quality of the products.
Therefore, branding is important no matter the sector or value proposition; the brand identity simply needs to be communicated in a way that gives customers the confidence to do business with the company.
Branding is just as important in B2B marketing for helping companies establish authority within their industry. With many B2B buyers already having extensive knowledge about the product/service they are seeking, factors such as trustworthiness and authority are vital when making decisions.
A strong brand can have a significant impact on the price at which a business is acquired for, and this is due to goodwill. Goodwill is the portion of the acquisition price that exceeds the total net fair value of all assets and liabilities. A company’s brand name is one of several intangible assets that affect the goodwill value – others include customer and employee relations and having a strong client base. Ultimately, goodwill reduces the risk of profitability falling after the business changes ownership.
Finally, brand strategy should be the result of cross-functional collaboration. It is important to align marketing and customer service, as well as sales, UX design, and any other area that affects the brand experience and how it is communicated across all touchpoints. All perspectives are valuable and all departments need to be aligned when branding decisions are executed.
What Defines a Strong Brand?
A powerful brand is one that has a strong presence in the marketplace, resonates with consumers, is memorable, and has a distinct identity that sets it apart from its competitors. This identity must be easily identifiable.
A powerful brand is also one that has a clear message and a unique story that customers can relate to. It must evoke emotion, as mentioned, and this is especially important in the B2C space.
In addition, the public must be clear on what the company’s values are, and the company must demonstrate its commitment to those values.
Sustainability is a value that is essential in the minds of the majority of consumers these days. Worldwide, sustainability is an important factor in purchasing decisions for 60% of consumers. In addition, one third of global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products/services, and in the US, this amount is higher (42%), with customers willing to pay a premium of 37%.
Many B2B organisations focus on global reach, sustainability, and other CSR issues, but they neglect other factors that are crucial for clients such as honesty, expertise, and trustworthiness. While the former are important, it is necessary to demonstrate the latter set of values and establish oneself as an authority.
How to Develop Brand Identity
As mentioned, a strong brand identity involves the visual as well as intangible assets such as the company’s values and its expression of them; it is a way to communicate the essence of a business to its potential customers. Below, the key components to include in a brand strategy are addressed.
Positioning and Purpose
What is the ultimate reason the company exists? This is the question to ask before getting into the more concrete aspects of a brand’s positioning strategy and identity development. What is the company’s vision and what is unique about that?
When this is clearly defined, it must be expressed in a compelling way that has the potential to trigger advocacy. From there, the mission and values must be explicitly defined in order to inform the messaging later on.
Crafting a Brand Story
A brand story is the narrative that captures the essence of the brand and the overall sentiment towards it. It encompasses the company’s history, how it came to be, what it stands for and what drives it forward. It needs to inspire a positive emotional reaction and be relatable.
A brand story will always be unique – no two will ever be the same. Within the story, the company’s unique offerings and value proposition will be expressed. Also note that the brand story will affect the customer’s perception of value. It is therefore especially important for luxury brands looking to draw in an exclusive customer base to get the brand story right.
The brand voice is the way the brand’s personality is communicated. It influences the tone of voice in any marketing materials and should be used consistently across all channels.
It may be adapted to some extent for different segments, but should not deviate to the extent that it is unrecognisable. (A situation in which differentiation may be necessary is an organisation that offers both B2C and B2B services.)
A clear example of a brand voice is that of Innocent Drinks. The brand’s personality is fun and quirky and its visual identity matches that.
Design of visual and other sensory elements/touchpoints is an extension of what has been established in the prior stages. These touchpoints are the vessel through which the identity is expressed, so they must all align with one another, creating a cohesive experience; they should not be designed arbitrarily or feel disjointed.
The logo and visual identity should be distinctive and easily recognisable, creating a strong visual presence; other visual elements include typography and imagery. Additional sensory assets including sounds, haptics and other UX elements must also be considered.
Building Community to Strengthen a Brand
Creating a community is a valuable approach for strengthening consumer affinity with a brand. A classic example is Nike’s Run Club. Through their application, users can join and set up community running events which not only has the potential to create genuine offline communities, but helps users stay motivated towards their fitness goals and maintains a positive association with the brand in their minds.
The Importance of Customer Experience in Differentiating a Brand
Communicating one’s USPs is just a part of differentiating oneself from the competition. Customer service has always been a vital element of branding, but it is important now more than ever due to the vast array of choices consumers have, as well as the difficult economic circumstances.
Remain focused on customer needs, pay attention to their feedback, and use it to refine product offerings and customer experience. Build strong relationships by showing support through promotions, incentives, and world class service overall.
Focus on providing an engaging customer journey at every touchpoint and use technology to improve CX where possible. This can include creating mobile apps, developing interactive websites, and utilising automated customer service tools such as chatbots in order to provide faster service.
Examples of Successful Brands
Apple is a great example of a powerful brand that has been able to create a unique and recognisable identity. Its story is one of innovation and going against the status quo. Its distinct logo, visual identity and consistent message resonates with customers and has brought about a loyal following of users who will only use Apple products. (This is also a result of their monopolisation tactics.)
In the spirit of International Women’s Day, a brand that is successfully competing with major tech companies such as Microsoft and Adobe is Canva, co-founded by 32 year old Melanie Perkins. Since its birth in 2013, this Australian company has amassed more than 15 million monthly users in more than 190 countries.
Before even accessing its design tools, Canva’s clean and minimalistic web design expresses ease-of-use which aligns with the company’s objective of democratising design, making it accessible to everyone. Its ‘About’ page expresses it perfectly: “Canva is an online design and publishing tool with a mission to empower everyone in the world to design and publish anywhere” – even the phrasing ‘ everyone in the world’ illustrates just how accessible and useful the tool is – literally anyone can do it.
Branding is essential for attracting new customers, maximising customer retention, and for business valuation. It has a powerful impact on purchase decisions whatever the sector, and for both product and service based businesses. A strong brand is unique, easily recognisable, has a compelling brand story and evokes strong, positive emotions. It must also clearly express its values and its commitment to sticking by them.
Developing a brand identity begins with clarifying the company’s purpose and vision, which then inspires its brand story. The brand story – and any other marketing communications – embody the brand voice, which is the expression of the brand’s personality. All other design elements must be coherent with the brand voice, and branding must be used consistently across all platforms. This can be facilitated by creating brand guidelines that are distributed to all relevant parties in the organisation.
Creating communities surrounding a brand is a powerful way to increase consumer affinity. Finally, always remember the role of customer experience in branding and how it can be a key differentiator in a competitive landscape.
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