If the past five years have taught us anything, it is that branding is more than just a web presence. A brand is a relationship between customers and a business…between customers and a product.
And it’s not a simple relationship. It’s actually pretty complex with lots of moving parts. Here are ten that you must understand and employ when you are creating a brand.
When it comes to creating a great brand, it all starts with the name. Businesses with killer names typically achieve one of these five elements:
- Solution-oriented – A great name will clue you into what the product can do for you. If you look at the metric tool Social Mention you know it probably measures the spread of your content across the social web.
- Keywords – Like the above, a great name also ties in keywords to help brand name recall. For example, it’s pretty clear that Evernote is a note storage service.
- Timelessness – This is a hard one. Basically, you need to try and create a name that isn’t going to go out of fashion but be relevant 5, 10 or even 20 years from now. Microsoft and Apple are both timeless names.
- Easy to understand – Create a name that is easy to understand and pronounce. And avoid translation problems. Kagome is a Japanese tomato-based drink. That name, unfortunately translates “I shit myself” in Portuguese.
- Symbolic – If you think about a name like Apple, it seems pretty simple at first blush. But behind it is the mythic story of Adam and Eve eating the apple from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Steve Jobs seemed to be saying knowledge is a good thing.
From a physical product like a box of chocolates to software app like DropBox or business cards to websites, when it comes to design you have to consider so many variables like size or resolution. Get this texture right, however, and you can create a mood that’s appropriate and appeals to the user…increasing sales.
Look at these two websites, for example, and you get a sense of the mood that’s created by each. This is Elan Snowboards:
And Corking Design:
These designs send out an emotional message that resonates with your customers. It also says something about who you are, like these business cards do:
Texture is important when it comes to branding and should be thought of from a strategic level when you are creating your brand. It can add an appealing quality to your brand that allows it to stand out.
Choosing the right color for your brand is critical. It can impact things like reader time on a webpage to productivity levels of workers in a room. It can even impact customer loyalty.
For the brick-and-mortar companies this is especially important since they are trying to raise sales online. To boost sales companies need to create ecommerce experiences that are similar to what they would find in the store. This is where color can be very helpful.
Best Buy keeps its color scheme and maintains the feel and look of buying at their store:
You get the same experience from Target as well:
Maintaining this consistency can actually help loyal customers who’ve never been to the website before actually feel comfortable enough to buy from their estore. Trust would drop if it wasn’t that consistency with the color.
Why is the shape and size of your font matter? Well, if you think about it, everything about your brand…every little detail…says something about who you are. This is critical.
Compare K-mart’s mash up of Gill Sans, Gotham, Helvetica and News Gothic:
One looks like it was done with care and precision while the other one looks like it was churned out of MS Word.
The typography you use and its arrangement is just as important as color, name and texture when it comes to creating a brand that increases sales and grows customer loyalty.
When it comes to experience, Wet Seal can’t be beat. They know their target audience cold and use social media to help them create a better experience whether in the store or out of it.
The social presence, from Facebook to MySpace, is thick with famous people wearing all of their styles. They even have a runway program that’s virtual called iRunway. It allows teenagers to create styles and then share them with the Android, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch community. This has made visiting the store or shopping online almost fun, bringing them back again and again.
This is perhaps the toughest one for a small business to manage since it is so expensive to maintain market presence. Think of the amount of money a company like Geico has to spend to keep running their caveman or lizard commercials?
Of course, the air time alone is so expensive, but there are ways to get around the high production costs involved in creating and sustaining your brand presence.
Old Spice spent two days creating over 160 60-second videos for YouTube. In total those videos have over 120 million impressions and 160,000 plus subscriber. To get those kinds of eyeballs on TV would easily cost you in the millions.
The point behind presence is recall. If you have a great brand but nobody knows about it…or can’t remember you…then you will lose. Since business world is so stiff and every brand is so similar it’s often the brand that can get in front of the world and stay there that will win.
And by the way, a strong brand presence isn’t just about resonating with your customers…it’s also about resonating with your employees. When you have a strong brand presence there’s a momentum built in the company that everyone gets behind.
Tied into your presence is top-of-mind awareness. Do your customers know what you sell and where to get it? The higher your brand’s awareness, the better your sales results will be.
There are five stages to brand awareness.
- Most Aware – Customers know you, your brand and your product…including the features and benefits. Think of Time or Life magazine…everybody knows what those brands stand for. Why? It’s because of their color, texture, typography, reputation and presence are all consistent.
- Product-Aware – Your customers have a passing sense of what products you offer. This is your neutral Apple fan…someone who is not convinced your products are a fit for him.
- Solution-Aware – Customers understand that they have a problem…but do not know that your particular company provides a product to solve that problem.
- Problem-Aware – In this case your target customer knows that he has a problem and needs to solve it…but doesn’t know if there is a product out there that can do it. This is what made DropBox such a success…it fulfilled a need lots of people had, but nothing existed to satisfy that need.
- Completely Unaware – At this stage your customer doesn’t know he has a problem or that there is a solution to it.
Naturally the further down your customer is on that list, the harder the work you have cut out for yourself. Those brands that are in the top level got there from relentless effort…and stayed there because of relentless effort. Don’t be afraid to work hard, experiment and make mistakes, because when you create a brand that is at the level of “most aware,” you will make more money and keep many more customers.
Your reputation is what the public thinks of the character of your brand. Like many other components of building a brand that increase sales and loyalty, this takes time to build and not easy to change once you’ve got it set.
- Specific – When deciding what your brand stands for, which will drive the reputation, you should create a clear, concise and attainable brand promise for your customers. Being precise will help you differentiate from your consumers, and being attainable will help you deliver on that promise, because if you can’t deliver on it, your reputation will suffer.
- Authoritative – You should be bold and full of conviction when it comes to your brand promise. Flaunt it and put your leadership and confidence on display. People will be attracted to it.
- Consistency – A sure road to ruining your reputation is to be inconsistent. This includes your brand message. Don’t change it because you’re bored with it. In fact, by the time you are tired of your message, your customers are just getting used to it.
- Honesty – Your business will be rewarded when you are open and honest. Admit mistakes when you make them and delivering on your promises will go a long way.
- Relentless – Never stop trying to promote your brand promise. Repeat it over and over until people are flooded with the message and everywhere they look they keep running into you and your brand and your brand promise.
One of the most important…if not the most important…component to building a brand that can increase sales and lock in customer loyalty is the issue of position. Your brand must differentiate clearly between you and your competitors. Here’s how you establish that:
- Brand Attributes – this is essentially everything that you deliver to customers, whether it’s features or benefits. Determine what these are as you are building your minimum viable product.
- Consumer Expectations – What does the customer think he will get from your brand? This is harder for startups who’ve not established any expectations. And it’s best you manage your reputation early and often. Never let consumer expectations get out of your control.
- Competitor attributes – The way your brand is positioned is also influenced by the features and benefits your competitors offer their customers. This is why competitor intelligence is so important.
It’s critical you figure out your position in relation to the current market. If what you discover isn’t good news, take the time to create a plan to get your brand to the position you want it.
The final piece to the brand puzzle is pricing. This is such an element of value because most people will think a product that is priced high is of better quality than a product that is priced low. That’s called price sensitivity…and it impacts people in different situations.
For example, if you want to buy a new car and decide that you only want to spend $22,000 to $25,000, any price in that range will not bother you. The moment the price goes above that range, however, and you will flinch. The secret is to figuring out a price that will make you money without scaring your customers away.
So how do you create a brand that makes people believe there is real value in your product…because the more value you pour into the product…the less price sensitive people will be?
- You must make it clear why your brand/product is different than the competitors.
- You must communicate that quality is not the same from product to product…or even from category to category.
- You must use price as a signal to quality. It’s like the difference between the price of an iPad versus the price of a Kindle Fire. You feel every bit of the lower price when you use the Fire.
- Confusion about the established price of a product or service will also cause people to be less sensitive to price. This is largely out of your control, however.
- People are also less price sensitive when there is a significant cost to switch brands…whether that cost is in time, risk or money.
- You can price your product within that range that they find acceptable. This is where research comes in handy.
- You enter a new market and people will be less sensitive to price.
- Your customer doesn’t view price as a significant issue because they are wealthy or your price is small relative to their total spending budget.
- Adding value in customer service experience or discounts makes people feel less concerned about the price.
Everything I just shared about branding may seem overwhelming. Don’t let it do that, because branding is a very complex discipline that takes hundreds of hours of thought and planning and years of experience and experimenting. But the investment in doing it right will make you a leader in your market. It will make your sales grow. And it will make your customers very loyal.
Hopefully this article will give you a template to get started on building your own brand, whether it’s for a company, a product or you. And hopefully I can tell you that if I did it, you can do it, too!
When it comes to building a brand that increases sales and grows customer loyalty, what other elements do you think are important?
More from Neil Patel on GeekWire: Seven signs that you might just be an entrepreneur… Eleven things every entrepreneur should know about innovation… 17 things I wish I’d known when starting my first business…
[Brand image via Bigstock]