Wednesday, August 07, 2013

What is Branding... and Why is it Important?

If you pay attention to business news, you’ll undoubtedly hear about brands and branding on a regular basis – especially in regards to "building a brand," "the value of a brand," or even "damage to a brand." Usually, though, these kinds of ideas are being applied to a major corporation, so it might seem fair to assume that branding is something that only the biggest organizations have to worry about.

The reality, however, is that every business and individual should be aware of what branding is, and how it works, because it can be such a powerful concept.

Although there are a lot of different ways that branding is defined, it really comes down to this: a brand is just the sum of the way people feel about you and the impressions you make. It includes your visual identity, with things like logos, color schemes, and marketing messages. But at same time, it also encompasses your prices, the other businesses you work with, and even your reputation for customer care and service.

When you put all of these together, you have an idea of how people think about you, or at least how you're trying to get them to think about you. That might be important to huge companies with massive advertising budgets, but it can be even more important to small businesses, or even individuals, who need to make an impression on the people around them in their local market or community.

To get a bit deeper into the reasons that branding matters, consider a few of the great things that happen when you have strong branding efforts in place:

Great brands tell a long story in a fraction of a second. Stop and think about your favorite businesses or products, and then think about the logos or advertising jingles you associate with them. If you love something like Starbucks, Cadbury's Chocolate, or Coca-Cola (as many people do), then you already understand how just seeing the right graphic can make you hungry or thirsty, and create an instant unconscious impression in your mind. That's the power of a strong brand.

People like to work with brands they know and trust. Lots of research has gone into the reasons why customers prefer established brands, but the results basically come down to trust. When the company has built a brand that becomes associated with a certain type of product or service, it's easier for you to choose them because you know what to expect when you make that choice. In other words, people like to feel comfortable and unthreatened, and working with established brands allows them to do that.

Strong branding helps you gain recommendations. When someone is looking for a product or service recommendation, they often turn to a friend, colleague, or family member first. Branding heavily influences those recommendations, since a person is far more likely to recall a strong brand off the top of their head instead of a weaker one. That applies to big companies and products, of course, but also to the people in their lives – personal branding is incredibly important for referrals and other suggestions.

Branding helps your marketing, but it also does a lot more. Although a lot of the discussion about branding focuses on marketing, and finding new customers, the reality is that a great brand helps you in a lot of different ways. For instance, your branding efforts could help you secure a new loan, create relationships with vendors, generate interest from colleagues, or even create employment and partnership opportunities for your team. Each of these is possible because good branding builds trust and familiarity, which paves the way for stronger business relationships.

Whether you're thinking about the apartment business, or even just your own personal career, paying attention to your brand is a good idea. You might not have a huge, multi-million-dollar corporate budget to work with, but your credibility, your reputation, and the impressions you make on your customers and colleagues are every bit as important to your success as they would be to the biggest company.