The Importance of Branding Your Business
COVID-19 continues to impact brands of all sizes. However, while consumer behavior is adjusting, investment in your brand remains important in these unprecedented times.
In business, the quickest way to get overlooked in the market is to blend in. When potential customers search for a business like yours, you’ll want to make sure you aren’t outshined by your competition. The best way to stand out and succeed is to build a strong brand. But branding your business encompasses more than you might think.
For example, building a brand involves way more than just your logo. Your brand includes every aspect of your business that makes it recognizable and memorable. A clear, consistent brand helps differentiate your store or restaurant from your competition. Plus, it’s a major part of why your customers choose to try you out or come back again.
As a business owner, you need to understand why branding is important. Consider what makes a good brand. Here are some suggestions on how to get started with branding your business and what mistakes to avoid.
Why Branding Your Business is Important
If you believe branding is just for big businesses with big budgets, think again.
Whether it’s an intentional one or not, your business already has a brand. That brand is everything people associate with your company when they think of it—whether positive, neutral or negative. It’s what helps you get noticed, recognized and remembered.
Now consider that you only have seven seconds to make a first impression. Plus, the marketing “rule of 7” says it takes an average of seven impressions for someone to remember your brand, so you need your brand to be sticky. You don’t want an accidental brand, but one that helps build your business.
Ultimately, creating a strong brand and cultivating brand loyalty can help you make more money. Research has shown that 65 percent of people feel an emotional connection to brands. Of those survey respondents, 90 percent of them reported having a positive emotional connection to recognizable brands rather than a negative one.
Now, more than ever, establishing brand loyalty is important. In fact, 84 percent of adults in the U.S. are loyal to the retailers of their choice. And for most companies, 65 percent of business comes from returning customers.
Your Branding Must-Haves
A good brand clearly communicates who you are, what you stand for and what kind of customers you want to attract. It takes your market into consideration and resonates with your customers. It helps your business generate revenue.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended how and what brands typically communicate with customers. Even in this unsettled climate, brands continue to build and maintain relationships with customers, with many trying to strike the right balance between authenticity and promotion.
In one recent example of a branded approach to pandemic events, McDonald’s Brazil unveiled a social media campaign in which its iconic arches were separated. The intention was to remind customers to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by practicing social distancing. The idea was to communicate that we are “separated for a moment so that we can always be together.”
This refresh maintained the brand’s core recognizable elements, and adapted to the current health guidelines as dictated by government and health officials. Unfortunately, the stunt backfired on social media, with many feeling that it was an opportunistic move on behalf of the company. Ultimately, the modified logo and social media post were deleted from its social media platforms.
This scenario shows the many different factors that can play into brand identity. Your brand should be working for you, not against you. It’s important to have a unified brand throughout all locations and across all digital platforms. Everything—from your logo, colors and fonts to the greeting, music and atmosphere (physical and digital)—should align with what your customers have grown to love and expect.
Aim for a Brand That Stands Out
Your business benefits from having a brand that’s distinctive from similar businesses so it’s recognizable and memorable. We’re exposed to as many as 10,000 brand messages per day, so you’re competing for attention at every turn. You want your customers to be able to recognize your business in the blink of an eye.
Try to build trust and credibility with your brand. This allows your customers to expect consistent quality and experience when they visit your store or restaurant. If people don’t know you, they can’t trust you. The more consistently you show up, again and again, the better acquainted they become with your brand and the more your credibility grows.
The look, feel, and messaging of a brand sets the tone for the way you do business and how you engage with your employees and customers. Your brand helps you build a community among loyal customers. They can feel like they’re part of something bigger. An added bonus of a strong brand is that it can inspire and motivate employees as they feel connected to the company’s overall mission, vision and values. It also helps create a culture that’s attractive to top talent in your market.
The brand itself can even become an asset by building brand equity. This is the commercial value derived from your customers’ perception of the brand, apart from the products you sell.
Inspired by the power of iconic branding, even a small business brand has the potential to create strong value within a local or niche market.
Getting Started on Branding Your Business
In light of these uncertain times, you may be wondering if you should invest in branding. The answer is “yes.” Investing in branding is always worthwhile as it’ll generate a return for your business. You can’t afford to be known as one of many options; branding will help you become the go-to business for your customers when they want what you sell.
If your budget allows it, consider working with a reputable design agency that’s known for creating popular brands in your space. With this route, you’ll want an agency that understands the overall vision for your brand.
In contrast, if your budget can’t accommodate a design agency, then study strong brands and what makes them stand out. Think carefully about what you want to be known for and learn everything you can about your market and ideal customers. Strive to create an intentional brand that sets you apart. Remember, it’s not the fanciest or showiest logo, but the overall delivery of a brand, which extends beyond the visuals. Start where you are, and build your brand from there.
Many different components comprise a brand including:
- Brand Identity: Your brand identity or reputation is how you want your brand to be perceived. This is made up of brand associations that represent what your company stands for; it’s what generates emotional connections for customers.
- Brand Promise: A brand promise is the tangible benefit that differentiates you from the competition. Your brand promise should be measurable and meaningful. For example, Auntie Anne’s brand promise is “fresh-baked happiness” which is both bold and clear. Another great example of a brand promise is “consistent low prices” for grocery chain Wegmans, as it tells customers they can rely on them.
- Consistent Design: A strong brand uses clear and consistent design. This includes your logo, appropriate brand colors, imagery, fonts and other visuals used throughout signage, menus, uniforms and across all marketing platforms.
- Messaging: Your brand should have a consistent message, voice, style and tone. National chain Sweetgreen created a billion-dollar brand using a consistent voice across everything they do to showcase their fresh and sustainable food.
- Digital Branding: Not every customer walks through your front door, especially in the current coronavirus climate. For folks who order online or via third-party delivery, a brand’s online presence is their first impression. So conveying your brand successfully through websites, social media, video, apps and more is key to your success.
- Customer Experience: When branding your business, you should also think about the overall customer experience. This includes everything from how customers experience your business online to how they’re treated throughout their shopping or dining experience. Every detail matters, from the music and atmosphere, to packaging and overall user experience.
A Closer Look at Customer Experience
For Sajj Mediterranean, a quick-service restaurant headquartered in Menlo Park, California, speed is central to the customer experience. The owners credit their Revel Systems iPad point of sale (POS) for enabling them to move customers through the line quickly and maintain consistent service at each of their locations.
When Chirashi by Mr. 7 opened its fast-casual Japanese restaurant that serves customized sushi bowls—customers loved the food, but complained about long wait times after ordering. By reimagining the process and adopting Revel’s self-service kiosks, the company was able to create a better overall brand experience for the customer. Kiosks allowed them to see all the options from the start and take their time to decide what they want, while employees focus on creating a perfect bowl.
Watch for These Branding Mistakes
When it comes to branding your business, you should avoid these common, critical mistakes:
- Superficial Branding: When you fall into the trap of thinking all you need is a logo and brand colors, you’ll fall short of creating a strong brand that delivers on building trust and loyalty with your customers. Good branding requires doing your research and thinking strategically. It also requires commitment and follow-through from your team members.
- Inconsistent Branding: Throughout each location and across all platforms, branding should be consistent and instantly recognizable. This includes everything from signage to your customer experience. Inconsistent branding causes confusion, undermines credibility and ultimately weakens your brand.
- Copycat Branding: Far too often, small business owners fall in love with someone else’s brand and fail to adequately distinguish their own brand from the inspiration. If you’ve been eyeing a brand closely, this can be unintentional. While it’s okay to find inspiration, be careful not to let it go too far.
- Incorrect Branding: When you consider your location, think about your target customers. Create a brand that speaks to them, how they identify themselves and what they desire as consumers. Incorrect branding misses the mark.
- Inauthentic Branding: Create a brand that’s meaningful to your business and your customers. People connect with authenticity and a brand essence that’s driven by passion, but they’re turned off by what they perceive as phony attempts at relating to and connecting with them.
- Trendy Branding: Ideally, you want your brand to stand the test of time. Avoid brand elements that will become dated quickly. This is particularly true for the visual side of the brand, as you don’t want to have to do a complete refresh two years down the road.
Summary: Build a Brand that Stands Out
Your brand is your identity in the marketplace. Branding your business is essential; even—and perhaps especially—in the wake of a crisis. From carefully crafting the look and feel of your brand to executing a top-notch customer experience, your brand matters.