Branding is more than a logo and design
Is a brand a combination of logo, colours and design? Is it the experience your customer has with your business? Is it the reason you exist as a business?
Or is it the position you occupy in the minds of your customers to make them more predisposed to choosing you?
Strategy Director of Perth’s The Brand Agency Hannah Muirhead says the answer is all of the above.
“It’s actually quite complex – a tangled web within people’s minds,” she says.
“At the Brand Agency, we define ‘brand’ as the sum of all interactions that an organisation has with its stakeholders – which can include staff or communities as well as customers.”
“When you think about brand, it’s important to think about your audience – because brands live in the minds of your customers.”
Interactions with the brand can include product or service quality, availability, price, customer support and even down to the quality of promotional tools, such as the company website and its advertising campaigns.
Consumers’ perceptions of a brand can also be actively shaped by the organisation through reputation-building and awareness campaigns.
An organisation can project the image it has created onto its customers through such channels as electronic and print advertising, event sponsorship, content marketing and social media.
It’s interesting to point out that marketing gurus Peter Field and Les Binet make a distinction between brand building and sales activation. They say brand building “creates mental brand equity, influences future sales, has a broad reach, is long term and uses emotional priming”.
Sales activation, on the other hand, “exploits mental brand equity, generates sales now, is tightly targeted, short term and includes persuasive messages”.
Bad customer experiences – both large and small – can be judged as being symptomatic of the way a business operates and can impact the way a brand is perceived.
The quality of your product or service play a particularly big part in the reputation of your brand. Companies, such as Apple, have built their brands largely on innovative design.
Other companies have leveraged their brand on bad customer experiences with their competitors. For example, Aussie Loans has positioned itself as the white knight for people looking for alternatives to the big banks. The tagline – “At Aussie, we’ll save you” – clearly says it all.
Developing a positive customer experience can also be effectively managed by ensuring your staff are well trained in customer relations, brand messaging and have well-rounded knowledge of your products and business.
A positive customer experience on your website is also particularly important. Web users should be able to easily find and comprehend information and execute actions.
Any online frustrations with your website can quickly result in customers looking elsewhere online for other suppliers.
Consistence and persistence
Consistency in the brand look can also be key to creating a positive image in the consumer’s mind. All your branding collateral – including your website, in-store décor, signage, staff uniforms, business cards, brochures, advertising, invoices – should have the same branding look and feel.
Ensuring brand is persistent as well as consistent is crucial, according to Martin Purcell, Chief Marketing Officer for Perth-based marketing, branding and technology provider Roobix.
“A lot of people don’t understand the old adage that ‘repetition builds reputation’,” he says. “More impressions make the brand stick.”
Approaches to branding
Over the past few years, there’s been two major views of the way branding works. One is the thinking by Byron Sharp, Professor of Marketing Science and his team at University of South Australia, who believe distinctiveness is the most important thing to make brands grow.
“That distinctiveness comes from making a product recognisable as a certain brand through such things as colour, symbols, the tag line and the spokesperson,” says Muirhead.
“If those assets are really distinctive compared to something else, then people will remember them, and consequently, they’ll be more likely to buy them.”
On the flip side is the idea that brands are all about purpose. This thinking has come out of books written by Jim Stengel (Grow) and Simon Sinek (Start with Why).
“They’re saying your brand needs to actually represent your purpose beyond just making money,” says Muirhead.
“They say if you can offer customers a higher-order purpose calling that they can latch on and get behind, they will be more likely to give you their money and attention.”
“However, put it to the test. You can ask customers, ‘Do you want a brand that has a little bit of ethics and morals and is trying to change the world?’ And they reply, ‘Yeah, of course!’ Some brands then ask: ‘Are you prepared to pay more for that?’
“I think both these schools of thought are neither right nor wrong – they’re both half right. The truth is, brands need to have a bit of meaning because without meaning brands are just commodities.
“But they also need to have these distinctive assets – but not at the expense of differentiation or a bit of meaning. But that said, people don’t need their brands to be changing the world and solving global hunger.
“That’s really important for some brands, particularly not-for-profits. But not every brand needs to take that angle.”