How to create a successful brand image

From small start-up companies to international corporations, branding has become a vital part of an organisation’s business, but what exactly does it mean and what can it achieve?

It’s easy to think of branding as the clever use of a well-designed logo, but it should be so much more than this. Properly and rigorously applied, branding can play an essential role in the success or failure of any business. Get it right and your business will be well-received, enjoy an excellent image with its stakeholders and be in a strong position to exploit market opportunities. Get it wrong and you could be fighting a losing battle from the start and be faced with many years of hard work to rectify the situation.

What is a brand?
A brand is defined as the set of associations that individuals connect with a particular thing. In business terms, they are generally connected with a company, product, service or individual, but a brand can exist for almost anything; a country, an event, a charity, a city, a shopping centre and so on.

This article will discuss the use of branding in connection with a business, but many of the concepts it covers can equally be applied to any branding situation, and to any organisation or undertaking.

A brand can be the result of carefully planned and managed activities or can grow organically from individuals’ experiences of their interaction with the business. Some associations may be outside of the business’s control and can be positive or negative.

Even if there is no conscious management of the brand, a set of associations, good, bad or indifferent, will still occur as people form opinions of what the brand stands for through their dealings with it.

This is why many businesses spend so much time, effort and money in establishing a brand, maintaining awareness of it and protecting it from negative connotations.

A clearly understood brand that strongly represents the values of the business can be of enormous benefit to the business’s development and ultimate success.

What is branding?
The term ‘branding’, as one might expect, originally came from the process of branding cattle in North America, but in the commercial world it has come to mean the management of the associations in order to make a business more successful.

Absolute control of all aspects of a brand is rarely possible due to many outside influences, but design, advertising, marketing and corporate culture can all help to generate and maintain the desired associations.

A well-managed brand can play a significant part in helping a business to stand out from the competition and establishing itself as a customer’s preferred choice.

What a brand can do

Create difference
It can elevate a business, its products and services to something with a unique character and promise that creates an emotional resonance with its customers.

Add value
People are generally willing to pay more for a branded product than they are for something which is largely unbranded. And a brand can be extended through a whole range of offers too.

Connect with people
Creating a connection with people is important for all organisations and a brand can embody attributes that consumers feel drawn to.

Establishing a brand

A vital first step in consciously managing your business’s brand is being very clear about what you want your business to stand for.

The important questions you need to answer are:

  • What is the big idea behind your business?

This is what you offer, what makes you different from other businesses in your field, what your customers need, how you stand out or the gap in the market that you fill.

  • What is the vision for your business?

Why are you doing it and where are you going? This might be a big idea or something very simple.

  • What are your business’s strengths?

These are the key things that your business is particularly good at and which may differentiate you from your competition.

  • What are the values that your business believes in?

A word of caution: There are many values that any business would state. The current top ten values are: quality, openness, innovation, individual responsibility, fairness, respect for the individual, empowerment, passion, flexibility, teamwork and pride. The trick is to decide how you can stand out.

It is extremely important that your values are genuine; i.e. stating them is one thing, but proving them through your activities is another. Whilst a business might want to be known for high quality products, and its marketing communications state the same, if the products do not bear this out, the company’s brand image will not be one of quality.

  • What is the personality that you want to convey about your business?

This is how you want your business to come across. Personality traits could be ‘efficient and business-like’, ‘friendly and chatty’, or perhaps ‘humorous and irreverent’, although they would obviously have to be appropriate to the type of product or service you are selling. and to your target audiences.

So, where do you go from here?

Before you even consider appointing a brand consultant, doing some groundwork for yourself will save time and money.

Whether a start-up business, an existing business which has never considered branding before or a business wishing to increase brand awareness, or improve or change its brand image, getting clear answers on the above questions will set you on the right path.

You may have your own ideas, but it is always worth testing them. Ask your partner, friends, staff, existing customers, potential customers and others what they think. Take a look at the competition and what they are doing (right and wrong). Get inspiration from brands you aspire to (they don’t need to be in the same market as you).

If you need more detailed research, then consulting a professional will certainly help. It is surprising how few companies actually know what their brand image is, or should be. Asking for expert advice provides an objective viewpoint and it need not be expensive. It will help to confirm or dispel your thoughts and will provide you with a high degree of certainty and confidence in the path you choose to follow.

Once you know what your brand stands for, it is then time to put it into practice. The presentation and promotion of the brand needs to be considered: Develop a suitable logo or namestyle and establish a corporate identity that defines how your various communications are presented; typefaces, colours, imagery, layouts, staff dress, voice styles for videos and broadcast media, even music all have a bearing on how people perceive your brand and how successfully your brand awareness can be established and maintained.

Supporting all of this will be the way in which you conduct your business and manage the interface between the organisation and its various stakeholders (customers, staff, investors, etc.).

Make sure that your staff and representatives are aware of what the brand stands for, and properly trained to ensure that the brand image is not diluted when they are representing your company. If you’ve ever been to a great restaurant, with terrific food, but poor front of house staff, you will appreciate how vital staff training is to the overall brand experience.

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