People sure do throw around the term “brand” a lot these days. They often use it interchangeably to describe a business’s logo, or the business itself. But branding is so much more than either of these things.
Your small business’ brand is made up of a lot of different elements that the public comes to associate closely with your company. These brand elements can include things like your name, your logo, your slogan, your company colors (Tiffany’s aqua blue), a certain sound (think NBC’s chimes), a tone of voice (LivingSocial’s signature snark), or even a smell (walk by a Subway restaurant and you know it). Branding is the process through which you make decisions about your brand elements and take steps to link them to your business in your audience’s mind.
A brand is something very subjective. Since it is a set of associations — not something tangible like a logo — your brand can mean different things to different people based on their own backgrounds, and their experiences with your business. This makes it all the more important to manage your brand with care, from your initial decisions to your ongoing image in the marketplace.
So what makes a strong brand? Each year, the global branding consultancy Interbrand creates a list of top brands based on their own algorithm. When evaluating these brands, they use the following criteria to measure their strength:
- Recognition (How familiar the public is with a business and its brand elements)
- Emotion (The extent to which the public has a connection with your brand)
- Adaptability (How well your brand elements can be applied in new situations)
- Management (The care with which the brand and its image are managed over time)
Many of these criteria take time to mature, and you won’t be able to control them right away. One that you can set yourself up to succeed with is uniqueness. When you’re first starting to think about the brand you want to establish for your business, it’s crucial to think about what makes your business stand out from your competitors who might offer a very similar product or service. This exercise is called finding your Unique Selling Proposition or USP. Taking the time to determine this can mean long-term success for your brand.
A good example of a brand with a well-defined USP is Toms shoes. They make comfortable shoes that are fairly fashionable at a mid-level price point. Well, that set describes a lot of shoe companies. Toms sets itself apart by establishing a philanthropy angle. For each pair of shoes a customer buys, Toms gives one to a child in need. They reflect this with their actions, some of their commercials, on social media, and with the slogan, “One for one.” This not only gives people a way to decide that they want the Toms shoe instead of the other shoe they tried on, it also helps people create an emotional connection to the brand that is completely separate from their actual product.
Want to set yourself up for success? Start by deciding on your own USP and stay tuned to the Webs blog throughout the month of June for more tips on branding your small business!