Welcome to the new decade!
As a growth-focused agency, branding is a conversation we have regularly with our clients. Unfortunately, we run into a lot of ambivalence concerning the relevance of branding, particularly with our small-medium businesses that we work with. After all, brands are just terms for the big companies with a lot of money to spend on marketing, right? Why should these smaller ones bother to think about branding right now?
To put it simply: these two questions are built off common misconceptions or, as we lovingly call them, myths, about brands. In light of this, I put on the Sauce Myth-Busting hat for today and will address five common myths about brands that people have been stuck believing for far too long.
This one is my favorite. It’s the biggest, baddest myth out there in the marketing world, single-handedly ruining business efforts for many years. Why? Because it’s not true and when businesses believe it, they’re cutting themselves off from their true potential. To understand why, you need to understand what a brand is. A brand is a culmination of many different parts of your company, including but not limited to who you are, your beliefs, your values, and even the emotion that your customers have when they think of you. There is no way a simple logo can capture all of that.
While a logo is a visual symbol or representation of your business, it doesn’t convey everything that is your brand identity. Think of it as more of a visual shortcut to the emotions of how someone might view your business. But if there isn’t an emotion or story behind it, then it's just another image and it won’t mean anything. Which leads to the next myth about branding to debunk.
This one is just a step further into the misconception of what a brand really is. While your logo and website are a part of your brand, they really are only just that: part of your brand. To help combat this, I’ve pulled a couple of my favorite “in a nutshell” definitions of what a brand is.
“Your Brand is ... your packaging, your product design, your front office, store experiences; the language that describes you; what you look like, smell like, sound like; what you’re not and never want to become; and the narrative that strings it all together”
- Patrick Hanlon, CEO & Founder of THINKTOPIA
(As a side note, he later summed up what “brand” is into a single word: “meaning” ← I love this!)
Here’s a more in-depth one:
“A brand is a company’s unique expression of how it behaves and interacts with consumers, a combination of everything it owns, produces and portrays, all of which are a reflection of the corporate values, culture and vision and culminate into an image perceived by consumers.”
- Deanna Jamieson, Sr. Account Director at Thornley Fallis Communications
The point here is that it really isn’t just your website or logo that makes your brand. It’s not even just your packaging or what you offer. It's everything combined and the meaning behind all of it. It's the experience of your business, which in turn evokes a certain emotion in the audience.
At Sauce Marketing, we have a strong reason for talking to our clients regularly about how vital it is to pay attention to the experience they provide. You can have a great website and even a great product, but if your audience isn’t having a great experience with your product or with your employees, then no amount of good websites or cool logos are going to change that. The bottomline in that scenario is that customers will have negative emotions when it comes to your business and they won't buy.
If you’re a business owner and stop branding at your logo and website, then you’re not paying attention to the other 85% of the experience your audience has -- what your brand is. Essentially, you’re dismissing your power to utilize all the other tools you have available to present a great brand.
So stop fussing so much over your logo and start looking at all the other pieces of the pie! Start looking at every touchpoint, including the interaction between your employees and customers. What do they sound like? Are their words and tone contradictory to what your brand is supposed to be? What about your messaging in other platforms such as social media? Are those consistent with your identity? Everything matters. Consistency matters. LucidPress did a great study and found that the average revenue increase attributed to always presenting the brand consistently is 33%.
Wrong again! Believing that brands are only for consumer products is falling into a trap very similar to the ones laid out with myths one and two. Remember that positive experience we were talking about? It definitely applies to B2B and service-based organizations. In fact, the reality that those companies don’t have a tangible consumer product that one can see, taste, or touch, makes it even more important to have a brand that communicates a cohesive image associated with high quality and credibility. If you’re selling a service, you’re selling a relationship and that is built on trust (which, funny enough, stems from consistency). This means that your brand must convey trust in the value and credibility of what you’re promising to deliver. Every facet of your business will contribute to creating, or destroying, this image. And if you don't believe me on the powerful effect this has on B2B companies then check out this fun finding: 80% of B2B buying decisions are based on a buyer’s direct or indirect customer experience, and only 20% is based on the price or the actual offering.
Back in the day, this might have been the case. In today’s world, absolutely not. For one thing, the digital media and technology of today have practically flattened the playing field and made it that much easier for small companies to build their brands exponentially. Spreading brand awareness and obtaining loyal brand ambassadors among the consumers of the world is easier than ever. Why? Because branding is not about how much money you throw at your advertising, your website, or your logo. Branding is about meaning and building an experience, at every touchpoint, that conveys an emotion of trust and value in your customers. You do that by focusing on your business. Then you spread it by using the tools available, such as digital media and technology.
For small-medium businesses (SMB’s), it's vital for you to realize that you’re no longer limited at the local level. The entire world is your marketplace because of the advancements, widespread use, and affordability of online and offline technologies. Combine that recognition with the fact that research has shown us that people prefer to buy from or associate with organizations with a credible and trustworthy brand rather than those that don’t. Sprinkle in some “can do” attitude and you’re that much closer to building your business up to be a powerful player.
On the surface, debunking this one may seem to contradict everything I’ve said before this point -- particularly about the paying attention to the experience you’re providing because that essentially is your brand. However, as we dive deeper into why this is a myth, you’ll see that it’s not a contradiction at all but rather another piece of what has been laid out.
If your brand is defined by the experience you provide, then you need to listen to the audience that is having that experience. You can deliver something unique, but if your customers don’t see it as touching then what you’ve provided isn’t great. Some people say that “Brands belong to the communities that create them.” There is truth to that in the sense that your audience are the ones who are experiencing you and your business and then spreading word of that experience. Even though your audience isn’t on your payroll, they are the other half of the team that is cultivating your identity. If you want them to be your fan club, then you need to understand them and provide what they need. In fact, Harvard Business Review did a study and found that 64% of consumers cite shared values as the primary reason they have a relationship with a brand.
As a business owner, the thought that your identity is up to the definition of the hungry masses might make you feel powerless. Don’t let it discourage you. Use this knowledge to your advantage and work with those consumers. The older brands that have been around for 100+ years have done exactly that. They have survived this long because they listen to their target audience and recognize that they will change from decade to decade.
If you’ve learned anything from this post, I hope you’ve learned at least these things from the five myths that were just busted:
Of course, there is much more that goes into brands, but these are the basic concepts that need to be understood. If you’re looking at building your brand, schedule a call and let’s talk about your growth goals!