Branding SME -1

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Almost every business has a name, from the smallest market trader to the largest multi-national corporation. However, not a lot of those businesses have what could be classified as a ‘brand’ or a ‘brand name’. Often times, what is prevalent are products or services that are made available, but which does not distinctively stand for something in the minds and hearts of its users.

WHAT IS BRAND?

There are many definitions of a brand, the most effective description however, is the one provided by Feldwick that states that a “brand is a collection of perceptions in the minds of the consumer/customer”. It communicates the value derivable from that brand, business or its services. Brands are born out of experience and reflects trust that is built over time. A brand is not just a logo or design.

Branding is the process of creating distinct identity and differentiator for brands. A well-known brand is generally regarded as one that is easily identifiable, either by its name, packaging, colour, logo or graphics. The various elements that combine to create the identity is referred to as the visual identity system (VIS) (e.g. Regularly used colours, typography, images or layouts) that identify the company or its products/services.

Almost every business has a name, from the smallest market trader to the largest multi-national corporation. However, not a lot of those businesses have what could be classified as a ‘brand’ or a ‘brand name’. Often times, what is prevalent are products or services that are made available, but which does not distinctively stand for something in the minds and hearts of its users.

HOW DO YOU BUILD YOUR BRAND?

Building long lasting brands take time and requires consistency. It is an on-going process that requires the commitment of business owners to see to. The following steps highlights the process of building your brand:

  1. Take Inventory: this is the time to ask yourself some questions and ascertain where you are currently on the journey to branding your business.
  • Appraise where you are now. Have you previously made any attempt to build your brand?
  • What knowledge do you have of your target market? Their demographics, their habits and behaviour.
  • What do you have to offer the customers? What is your proposition and unique selling point? What experience are you promising your customers/consumers?

2. Craft your identity & positioning: This is what your brand identity will look like and stand for to your customers.

  • Your brand name is part of the identity system and you need to ensure that the name you have chosen resonates with the value and the service that you are providing.
  • Other elements of your identity are the logo, text, font size/typography and colours. You need to ensure that all these elements reflect what you want to communicate to your end users. Your logo has to be distinct and creatively crafted in a way that it is memorable. Colours are very important and note that whatever brand colours you choose at this stage, will be what you will use over time to depict the brand.
  • Develop your brand positioning. You cannot be everything to everybody. Be focused on the role you want to play in the lives of your users and the tone and manner in which you will communicate with them.

Once you have concluded on your brand identity, please document this as a guideline. This will subsequently serve as a guide when you need to develop designs and content for advertising for your brand. You will need to stay true to your brand identity; when you deviate from your brand identity & guideline; then you are eroding your brand and diluting your equity.

3. Develop a Brand Plan: You will need to let your target market know about your brand, this is brand exposure. As such, it is important to develop a brand plan that will guide your efforts. Ideally you should develop a one year plan, however you can put a six months plan in place.

  • Your brand plan will indicate what your marketing strategy is and how you intend to bring your brand to life; that is exposing your brand to its target audience.
  • You need to develop the communication that you want to pass across to your target market. Remember that the elements of your brand identity needs to be brought to life here.
  • There are several elements of the marketing mix, of which you can determine which of them will work well for your business.

4. Choose the right tools & Channels: There are several options you can choose from depending on the level of maturity of your business, your understanding of your customers, their behaviours and habits, relevance to your target market, the type of product or service that you offer amongst other factors. It is very important to ensure that your choice of tools and the medium chosen is effective and relevant to ensure you do not waste resources without driving results. As much as possible, ensure that you exploit generating free and earned media which will help to minimize your marketing spend.

5. Appraise & Evaluate:

It is important to check for the effectiveness of your campaign and ascertain if the target market is being impacted, the perception of customers about the brand etc. as an SME, you will not have the funds to undertake an elaborate research. However you can gather feedback through various ways:

  • Your website should have a feedback form which will give an opportunity to communicate customer/client perception of you and your service.
  • Ensure that you get your clients/customers to provide you feedback after experiencing your brand. If they are satisfied – commit them to give you a testimonial that you can subsequently use.
  • You can track impact on sales too. Are your efforts being rewarded with growth in your customer base and transactions?
  • By the time you check all the parameters and ascertain  impact generated, you can decide if you want to stick with your plan or you may want to tweak it a little.

You need to understand that branding requires consistency. You cannot expect a quick fix. Companies continue to spend money on building their brands, even after 100 years and above in existence. It is a marathon and not a sprint!

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