Brower: Brand and branding can confuse most astute business people
March 13, 2018
Most people starting a business struggle with the concept of how to brand their new venture. People expanding businesses frequently question if their brand is the right brand.
Entire books have been written about branding, many of them creating more confusion about something that is really quite simple. And yet, in branding's brazen simplicity comes something that is strikingly complex. Hence the books.
For starters, a brand is a business's or product's identity that makes them stand out in humanity's consciousness. Consider this definition by the American Marketing Association: A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.
So a brand is an identity. Yet to be effective, it needs to be a unique identity. And, well, it should be memorable and, yes, particularly well-suited to the item or company to which it is attached, and it should have broad appeal so as to drive sales while at the same time creating customer loyalty through a unique approach . . . and so on, and so on.
So, really, a brand is a complex thing. And yet to be effective, it must be simple, appropriate and honest.
Honest? For me, this is the most important part about branding. When people decide they want to start a business they usually do so because they want to make a living doing something they like to do. And as they think about what to call this business, which is an important part of branding, they should want that brand to honestly reflect their aspirations.
A man who starts a business offering assassins for hire might honestly call his business Death Wish. A man starting a business selling children's furniture might call his business Sweet Dreams.
But there's more to it than just summing up the product or service offered. The brand can and should, if possible, reflect the guiding sensibilities of the business. If a business wants to be entirely self-sustaining through the use of recycling and green energy, then it may want to incorporate that sensibility into the business's brand. Death Wish Sustained comes to mind or Sweet Dreams Forever might work.
But then the operations, the hiring practices and the training of employees should also reflect that value of sustainability. The company could operate only using green energy and brag about that fact. The company's fleet of cars could all be electric vehicles or electric hybrid vehicles. Employees would be rewarded for conserving energy and recycling.
The important part is that the company be honest about its sustainable brand by practicing what it preaches. Secondly, the company then would have the right and obligation to brag about its commitment to its brand through the practices it follows. That's honest branding and, more and more, consumers expect that sort of approach from the businesses they patronize.
So, really, a brand is more than a name, although a name is a very important part of the brand.
Businesses can use many different ways to create, promote and foster their brands. This is done through advertising and public relations, the design of a product and its packaging, experiences with the product, its price and with whom the product or business might be associated. And then comes the visual identification with the brand, which is achieved through subtle things like typeface, logo, color and general design criteria for the product and its promotion.
And then there's the magical side of a brand. That happens when the honest name or identity of a business organically merges with its promotion and visual identity to create a sensation in the market that causes people to like the product or company enough to want to buy. Not many textbooks can tell how to make that happen.
But honest thought about branding and business identity right from the start can go a long way to making that happen, with or without a business textbook.
Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He provides free and confidential business management coaching for anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached at 970-531-0632 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.